Automating Your Sounds
From Boring Sounds to Incredible Sounds!
A huge part of sound design and finishing your songs that is easily overlooked is automation. Having your sounds change gradually over a section of your song, or using envelopes and LFOs to have the sound morph constantly will add a ton of interest! Today’s video will cover the various ways you can add some automation to your sounds, all inside Serum! We also briefly cover how to add automation inside your DAW, and a little on how that automation can work hand in hand with Serum.
What are some ways to automate my sounds?
I’m glad you asked! Luckily, Serum makes is easy for us, and has an entire section devoted to just automation.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in Serum this should look familiar to you, and hopefully you already know how to use at least one or two of these sections a bit. Even the most experienced producer can still learn things though, so see if there’s a section here you’ve never used before!
1. Mod Wheel
Used if you have a midi keyboard. It can be mapped to any number of parameters and controlled with the wheel on your keyboard. Great for when you want to record automation manually, or just give things a more human feel.
All of the envelopes in Serum are the exact same, with one minor exception. Envelope One is also the amp for the whole synth. That means it controls the volume as well as any parameters you map to it. The other envelopes can only control the parameters assigned to them.
Again, all of the LFOs are the same here. This section really stands out to me, as it gives so much control to you. Way more than most other LFO sections in any other synth I’ve seen. Starting with the custom waveforms you can use, plus the folders of prebuilt waveforms, you just have so many great options to craft your sound! The mode section is also very interesting. See the full video for an in depth explanation of each mode.
This little section is often overlooked entirely, but can provide some really unique sounds. You can assign this to a parameter and then it’ll change depending on how hard you press the keys (or set the velocity for each note in your clips.) So if you wanted the filter cutoff to be fairly low as you gently play, but open up if you really hit the keys hard, this is the section for you.
Another really unique sounding piece of Serum. This will allow you to modulate any parameter depending on how low or high of a note you play. So if we use the filter cutoff as an example again, if you play a C1 the filter cutoff may be very low, giving it more of a sine wave tone. As you move up the keyboard though, the cutoff also rises, so when you get to say, and C7 it’s opened up quite a bit, allowing you to hear the higher notes and maybe a little of the buzz part of the sound.
These knobs can be mapped to anything in Serum, but instead of the parameter being modulated automatically, you can control it manually. Similar to the mod wheel, it lets you give your automation a human touch and can easily be mapped to a midi controller for live performances, or just to tweak several sets of parameters whenever you choose.
Now, Bring Your Sounds to Life!
Now that you have a better understanding of how Serum uses automation, you should be able to make your sounds move! A great sound that stays still is only great for a short time, it needs to move and change in order to stay great for an entire song. All of these tools are built right into Serum, allowing you to use any or all of them however you want to ensure your sounds stay great. You can also take these principles and apply them to any other synth out there, so if you don’t have or don’t use Serum, look for these sections in your synth and make them work for you!
Beginner – Open up your favorite synth, maybe it’s even Serum, and find the modulation section. It may be in multiple places, but at least find the envelopes and LFOs. Once you find those sections, see if you can find the rest of the sections listed here. Then, regardless of which plugin you’re using, make a new sound that has the envelope or amp manipulate the volume of the sound. Maybe it’s a pluck type sound you’re after, or a long, smooth pad. After you save that preset, make a new one that uses at least one LFO on a couple of parameters. When you hold down a note, or draw a long midi note, you should hear the parameters changing from the LFO.
Advanced – If you use Serum, create a patch that uses at least three of the modulation sources mention all at once. If you have a different synth, try to incorporate three different modulation sources (they may be slightly different than Serum has) at once. Now create a short loop in your DAW (8-16 bars roughly) and automate something to change over the course of your loop. In Ableton Live you can draw in automation easily and you can even control a macro to automate multiple parameters over time. Do this a few times with different parameters/macros so you get a lot of movement going on in that loop. This is great practice for when you write a full song!
Question: How many of these modulation sources were you familiar with before this video? Which one are you most excited to start using or start using differently?