The 303 sound is one of the most widespread sounds in dance music. It originated in the 1980s from the famous Roland TB303 synth. Chicago Acid House and Techno artists popularized this sound. Now, it is dominant in everything from Trance to Ambient music. In the following tutorial, I will show you how to design your own 303 sound from scratch.

As an illustration, I have prepared a short sequence in our SoundBridge: DAW, which contains most of the full-mix instruments. Let us listen to it.

This is a screenshot of my mix taken before designing the 303 sound from scratch

Create a Midi Sequence With a Good Synth

As shown above, the whole mix sounds good. However, it lacks the central theme, which is the 303 sound. For this purpose, I will design the 303 sound from scratch using Vital: Synth. To begin, I’ll add a Vital instance to the new MIDI track in SoundBridge: DAW.

Following that, I’ll use the init preset and use the MIDI editor to create a more or less simple sequence for our 303 sound.

This is a screenshot of my mix and the Vital Synth used to design the 303 Sound from scratch

The first step in designing the 303 sound from scratch would then be to select an appropriate filter in Vital. An aggressive bandpass filter is what I’ll be using. Following that, I assigned envelope 1 to the filter cutoff so that the envelope could trigger it.

This is a screenshot of my mix and the Vital Interface with its envelope and filter sections settings.

~303 Sound – Filter & Envelope Settings

Use the Right Effects to Design Your 303 Sound

Since we have a good starting point, it is time to move to the Vital effect section. The first effect I am going to use is distortion. As you can see, I have chosen the Hard Clip mode to increase the drive parameter quite a bit. Following that, a bit of a reverb and delay effect will give this sound more space and depth. Finally, I used the multi-band compressor to polish the sound and accent the abovementioned effects.

This is a screenshot of my mix and Vital Interface with its effect section settings.

~303 Sound – Solo – (Processed With Effects)

Because 303 sounds are rarely static, I’ll finish it by automating the cutoff parameter in Vital. Let’s hear a fully processed 303 sound alone and then in the context of the whole mix.

This is a screenshot of my mix and cutoff automation curve applied for 303 sound.

~303 Sound – Solo (Processed+Automation)

~Full Mix – 303 Sound (Processed+Automation)

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