Causing Effects

Miking the mixer

In the magazine article, author Dan Phillips reveals 12 offbeat ways to create signature sounds on computers. Here are seven downloadable MP3 audio examples he created to demonstrate some of those twisted techniques.

1. The Last Shall Be First

Reverb doesn't always have to go last in the effects chain. To create the distorted lead sound in this example, I ran a simple sawtooth timbre through first a reverb, and then a distortion/amp simulator. The reverb smeared the transitions between the notes, creating a more organic result.

Download "Reverb into Distortion" MP3 (220 KB) Excerpted from "More Than You Need to Feel," ©1996 Dan Phillips

(Synth lead: Roland JX-8P; reverb and amp simulation: Ensoniq DP/4)

2. Bug or Feature?

This sound comes from a strange interaction between MOTU Digital Performer, the OASYS PCI, and the Mackie HUI. (For details, see this article in the OASYS PCI FAQ.) It took a bit of time to track down the cause: the HUI was sending out the lowest possible MIDI note as a sort of active-sensing message to DP, and the note was being received -- and played -- by the OASYS PCI. The note was so low that it was more of a throbbing pulse than a pitch. Fixing it turned out to be just a matter of changing one preference setting, but before I did so, I recorded the result:

Download "Comb Accident" MP3 (416 KB)

(Comb synth: Korg OASYS PCI)

3. Just for the LFO of It

Feedback is key to LFO-driven effects such as phasers and flangers. With high amounts of feedback, you'll hear the LFO as a sound in its own right. To create this sound, I ran a drum loop (160 KB) through a tempo-controlled phaser, with feedback set almost all the way up. To create more rhythmic variation, I modulated the LFO's beat duration and stereo phase.

Download "Stereo Phaser" MP3 (208 KB)

(Tempo phaser: Korg OASYS PCI; Loop drums: Emu e6400; Loop compression: Waves Renaissance Compressor)

4. Feedback ... ack ... ack ... ack

You can make nearly any sound into an ambient wash with the addition of three ingredients: long delay lines, feedback, and patience. This sound comes from pumping the same basic drum loop through three different three-tap, 40-second delay lines and then waiting for about ten minutes.

Download "Feedback" MP3 (212 KB)

(Delays: Korg OASYS PCI; Loop drums: Emu e6400; Loop compression: Waves Renaissance Compressor)

5. Smooth Modulator

Interpolated delays allow you to change delay times smoothly, without clicks. Depending on how they're designed, they can also enable you to adjust the amount of time that it takes to glide from one delay length to another. During that slide time, you'll hear pitch artifacts -- which can be put to creative use. In this example, also based on the original drum loop, I modulate both delay time and glide time, or smoothing. The first change is relatively subtle, with a medium-length glide time, and changes the delays to a different rhythmic pattern; listen for the swoop in the right channel. The second change is extreme, with a long glide time, producing a tape-stop effect.

Download "Interpolated Delays" MP3 (220 KB)

(Delays: Korg OASYS PCI; drum loop: E-mu e6400; loop compression: Waves Renaissance Compressor)

6. Triggered Gates

For this example, I took a sustaining synth pad (208 KB), routed it through a MIDI-controlled gate, and triggered the gate with a simple 16th-note pattern. To thicken the sound, I inserted a short rhythmic delay after the gate. (It's most noticeable right after the trigger pattern's single held eighth-note.)

Download "Gated Pad" MP3 (208 KB)

(MIDI gate, tempo delay, and carrier synth: Korg OASYS PCI)

7. Darth Vocoder

Drums and vocoders make a great match. This particular sound was made by using the previously mentioned drum loop and synth pad as the modulator and carrier, respectively.

Download "Drumcoder" (208 KB)

(Vocoder and carrier synth: Korg OASYS PCI; drum loop: Emu e6400; loop compression: Waves Renaissance Compressor)

For actual music created using some of these techniques, check out Dan's Web site at

© 2001, PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc.