This is part 1, 2, 3 & 4 from his upcoming 5 part series. the articles also include free downloadable performances.
Download performances for Article 1
Download performances for Article 2
Download performances for Article 3
Download performances for Article 4
Manny's FM-Xplorations Article 1
In this article series I’m going to dive into what’s unique about the MONTAGE FM-X synthesis engine, ways to approach programming your own sounds from scratch, how to utilize the realtime control using the Assignable Knobs, SuperKnob, Scenes and Motion Sequences - as well as cover some unique tips, tricks and quirks of FM-X programming. I’m going to avoid the “FM Math” discussions that so many find a stumbling block in learning FM programming. Instead the focus will be on on tutorial examples that allow you to train your ear on “how” certain parameters change the sound, not the complexities of “why."
If you feel you’re a beginner who might be worried about diving into something as deep as FM-X and would like a more gradual introduction to FM synthesis, I recommend you read the “Manny’s Modulation Manifesto” article series on YamahaSynth.com as it covers the introductory FM basics addressed more to those with minimal FM experience applied to the simpler Reface DX FM engine.
Alrighty then! Let's talk about FM-X synthesis and what makes it different compared to the other types of FM with which you might be familiar. The biggest difference right off the bat is how many Operators there are — eight! The unique FS1r notwithstanding, Yamaha’s prior FM engines typically had four or six Operators. Having eight Operators opens up a lot more unique algorithm possibilities for the creation and control of more complex harmonic structures. In addition, each of the Operators have six additional complex waveforms available in addition to the basic sine wave Operator of the original DX7.
Although Yamaha has made FM synthesizers with additional non-sine wave Operators before, there's a significant difference with the MONTAGE and FM-X. The difference is that these waveforms are variable - meaning they can be changed in real-time. To top it all off, there is a versatile multi-mode filter and powerful Effects processing available which are also controllable in realtime. Though I will sometimes utilize the filters and Effects within the accompanying tutorial Performances for this article series, my detailed focus will be on the FM components of sound design.
The first thing is to load up the example Performances that will be referenced throughout this article series. The file "Manny FMXplore" is at bottom of this page to download and load into your MONTAGE.
Now we’re ready to first get familiar with and explore the building blocks of FM-X, the Operator Spectral Waveforms. Go to the Live Set Bank “MannyFMXplr” and load the Performance “Init Normal (FM-X)” then exit to the Home page. Go into Part Edit mode and select the Form/Freq page for Operator 1:
This initialized Performance has the waveform Spectral shape set to Sine. Let’s change the Spectral shape from Sine to All1 and initially you’ll notice there’s basically no change in the timbre. So what is going on? With FM-X, each Operator has the ability to “filter” the non-Sine Spectral Waveforms controlled by two parameters - Skirt and Resonance.
We’ll start with Skirt. The Skirt parameter is very similar to the cutoff of a low pass filter, so when the Skirt value is zero it is similar to the filter being fully “closed” so very few if any overtones are being heard. Now start increasing the Skirt value and you will begin to hear all the overtones present in the waveform, very similar to raising the cutoff frequency of a low pass filter. When set to the maximum value of 7, all the harmonics in the waveform will be heard, like the filter is fully “open.” With the All1 waveform this is a sawtooth type wave.
Now go back and select each of the different Spectral Waveform and increase/decrease the Skirt and listen to the timbre differences of each. The non-Sine Spectral Waves available are All1, All2, Odd1, Odd2, Res1 and Res2. The All1 and All2 waves are two variations of the harmonic structure of a sawtooth wave, meaning all the integer overtones are present. The Odd1 and Odd2 waves are two variations of the harmonic structure of a square wave, meaning only the odd numbers overtones are present and you have the ability to control the Skirt parameter for these waves.
The remaining Res1 and Res2 Spectral Waves have all the integer overtones present like All1 and All2, but in addition to the Skirt parameter they have the added ability to emphasize a specific overtone with the Resonance parameter. To hear this let’s start by selecting the Res1 wave. As you increase and decrease the Skirt parameter (leaving the Resonance parameter at zero) you’ll hear the timbre is somewhat similar to the All1 wave. Now, set the Skirt to zero start increasing the Resonance parameter. You’ll hear a specific overtone in the Res1 wave become greatly emphasized - beginning with the first overtone when Resonance is set to zero, all the way through the harmonic series of overtones. You may notice in the range of 0-6 it sounds similar to playing with organ drawbars. Play low notes on the keyboard to hear the full range of Resonance parameter. Now, go back and do the same changing of the Resonance values at different Skirt settings and listen to the difference in the timbral changes.
Now that you have been introduced to the “raw” Operator building blocks available, let’s have a quick review of what FM is all about. FM synthesis creates complex timbres (harmonic structures) by modulating one Operator with another (or multiple) Operators in an arrangement called an Algorithm. The resulting timbre (harmonic structure) of our sound is determined by a combination of the Frequency Ratios of the Modulator and Carrier Operators, the modulation amount (Modulator Level) and the harmonic structure of the Operator waveforms themselves. Carrier Operators - those on the “bottom” row of the Algorithm - are the ones you directly hear. Modulator Operators you can’t hear directly, but you do hear the harmonic content they create based on their interaction with the Carrier as determined by their aforementioned Level, Ratio and waveform — the Spectral, Skirt and Resonance — settings.
Another way to put it, the final resulting harmonic structure is determined by the Ratio, Spectral Waveform and Resonance settings. The brightness, or loudness, of the overtones in that harmonic structure is controlled by the Modulator Level, Skirt and Feedback.
I mentioned the famous — or infamous! — Algorithm. Algorithms specify the number and arrangement of Carrier Operators and Modulator Operators. Operators can be “stacked” (in vertical arrangement):
“Branched” (in horizontal arrangement):
Or a combination of both:
Branched Modulators are fully independent in their control of and their contribution to the final timbre of the Carrier they modulate. Stacked Modulators have shared control of, and contributions to, the final timbre of the Carrier they modulate. It’s easiest to hear what is going on with a single Modulator interacting with a single Carrier - so that’s where I’m going to start with our first tutorial example.
Select the Performance “Manny Mod Tutorial 1” from the Live Set and exit to the Home Performance page:
To easily show the basics of how the FM-X Modulators create and change the sound (timbre), I’ve set up assignable controllers programmed to the core FM-X parameters within this Performance. We can quickly hear how these parameters change the sound without having to navigate through the Edit pages. You can see the first seven Assignable Knobs directly control the Level (modulation index or amount) for each one of the seven types of Operator Spectral Waveforms. The eighth Assignable Knob controls the Modulator Frequency Ratio. In addition, the Ribbon controls the Feedback for the Sine Wave Modulator as well as the Skirt parameter for the other Modulator Waveforms. The Pitch Bend controls the Resonance parameter for the Res1 and Res1 Modulator Waves. Finally the Mod Wheel controls the Ratio of the Carrier, which has its Spectral Wave set to Sine.
When you first play the Performance, all you will hear is the plain sine wave of the Carrier. This example with the basics of the one Carrier and one Modulator sine wave FM pair. Start increasing the amount of Assignable Knob 1 to hear how the sine wave Modulator changes the sound as you increase the Modulator Level. Move it up and down a few times and listen to the changes. Play with the Ribbon to see how increasing/decreasing the Feedback of the sine wave Modulator changes the sound. Next, set Assignable Knob 1 to a value of 96 and touch and hold the Ribbon at the far right side — you should hear the classic FM sawtooth wave created by the Modulator and Carrier Ratios of 1.00 and maximum Feedback. Leave Knob 1 at 90 and we’ll now go to Assignable Knob 8 to change the Ratio of the Modulator to create a different harmonic structure. The range of this knob is set to step through Ratios 1 to 8, with Ratio 1.00 when the Knob is at a value of 0; Ratio 2.00 at a value of 16, Ratio 3.00 at a value of 32, etc. changing to the next integer Ratio every value increment of 16 until it maxes out at Ratio 8.00.
Let’s start setting the Knob value to 16 for a Ratio of 2.00. Again, touch the Ribbon at the far right. You should hear the classic FM square wave created by the Modulator Ratio of 2.00 and the Carrier Ratio of 1.00. Go back and move Knob 1 up and down and again listen to the changes in the sound as the Modulator Level changes and also remember to play with the Ribbon to hear the effect of Feedback. Continue to adjust Knob 8 to hear the harmonic structures created as the Modulator Ratio changes all the way up to 8.00 as you try different setting of Knob 1 and change the Feedback using the Ribbon.
Now that you’ve heard the classic sine wave based FM, let’s hear what happens with the additional FM-X Spectral Waves of All1, All2, Odd1, Odd2, Res1 and Res2. First turn Knob 1 all the way down. Then starting using Knob 2 and repeat the process in the previous paragraphs individually for each of the All and Odd Spectral Waveforms using Knobs 2 through 5. For these waveforms, the Ribbon controls the Skirt parameter, which you will hear sounds somewhat similar to Feedback. Both parameters offer different ways to create additional harmonic intensity or brightness in our sound and behave differently from increasing the Modulator Level. Remember to change the Ratios of each of these Modulator waves using Knob 8 as we did with the Sine example above.
Now we’ll move on to the Res1 and Res2 waveforms. Make sure all Knobs are reset to zero and raise Assignable Knob 6 for the Res1 wave to a value of 64. First, let’s slowly move the Pitch Bend wheel down and up to hear how different Resonance settings change the sound. Remember the two Res waves have all the integer harmonics (overtones) present, but with a specific overtone emphasized based on the Resonance parameter value. When the Resonance is at Zero (Pitch Bend all the way down) the first overtone is emphasized; with the Pitch Bend in the middle, the Resonance is set to 7 and the eighth overtone is emphasized. The Pitch Bend range is set to go up to a Resonance of 14.
Next, play with the Ribbon to hear how the Skirt causes brightness changes and notice the effect is less pronounced in the Res waves compared to the All and Odd shapes, especially as the Resonance value gets higher. Next, let’s change the Modulator Ratios again using Assignable Knob 8. Play around with Knob and the Pitch Bend together to hear how Ratios and Resonance interact Repeat it all for the Res2 wave on Knob 7 This may all seem tedious at first, but do take your time and listen to the changes with all the combinations. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article (and emphasized in my reface DX articles), the goal is to build your “ear experience” to be familiar with “when I change that parameter, this changes in the sound” — meaning learn “how” the sound changes with different Modulator Levels, Ratios, Spectral Waveforms and Feedback, Skirt, Resonance, etc. It’s not so important to know the math details and the “why” all the changes occur because at the end of the day it’s your ears that determine you created a sound you like.
So that said, there’s still - more!
We’ve only listened to changing the Ratio of the Modulators. Time to go back and do it all again, but now also change the Carrier Ratio by moving the Mod Wheel. As with Knob 8 for the Modulators, the Mod Wheel is setup to change the Ratio from 1.00 to 8.00 for the Carrier. Then go for it and randomly move everything around!
One way to make this a little more fun is to turn on the Arpeggiator. I’ve set up 6 Scenes with different patterns and the Arpeggiator set to Hold mode. You can trigger an Arpeggio then use both hands to tweak the Knobs, Ribbon, Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel in all sorts of combinations, showcasing what MONTAGE and FM-X is designed for — sophisticated dynamic control of your sound. Go crazy and create some haxidents!
I know all that knob twiddling may read a little bit confusing, so make sure you watch the video “Manny’s FM-Xplorations Tutorial 1” parts 1 & 2 below to see and hear the above example in detail.
Finally a “Secret Bonus”: The Assignable Switches are set up to change the Spectral Wave and Skirt of our Carrier Operator 8. With only Switch 1 active, the Spectral Wave will change from Sine to All1. With only Switch 2 active it will change to Odd1. With both Switches 1and 2 active it will change to Res1. And as before, the Ribbon controls the Skirt and Pitch Bend controls the Resonance. So play around and tweak all the Knobs, etc. with different combinations of the Switches active.
Wrapping up, we started covering the basics of the FM-X waves and core FM Operator parameters of Ratio, Spectral Wave, Skirt, Resonance, Feedback and Modulator Level. We finished with manual realtime control of these core parameters. Next time we’ll look at using Envelopes controlling Modulator Levels to shape the behavior of our sound, as well as introduce using Scenes and Motion Control to control FM-X parameters. Until next time, happy tweaking!
FM-X Tutorial Video Part I:
FM-X Tutorial Video Part II:
* Another special treat for those who want a little more technical detail on how this Performance was created: I used seven separate Modulators for the seven Spectral Waveforms, so I used Algorithm 68:
This algorithm has Operator 8 as the single Carrier and all the Modulator Operators 1 through 7 each separately modulate the Carrier in a 7 Operator branch. As I mentioned before, in a branch arrangement of Modulators their Levels individually interact with the Carrier thus I was able to have independent control of how much each of the 7 Spectral Waves alter the final sound by using the Assignable Knobs to control the Level for each Modulator. Because I ran out of Knobs controlling the Modulators, I chose to use the Mod Wheel for the control of the Carrier Ratio as you can set and leave it at a value just like a Knob. Since both the Ribbon and the Pitch Bend are always at their “50%” position unless you’re actually moving/touching them, I chose to set the default values for the Operator Skirt and Resonance to “middle” values and use bipolar modulation of them from the Ribbon and Pitch Bend respectively to achieve the range that they control those parameter values.
Manny's FM-Xplorations Article 2
In our first article, we started by covering the basics of the FM-X Waves and core FM parameters of Ratio, Spectral Wave, Skirt, Resonance, Feedback and Modulator Level. We finished with manual realtime control of these core parameters.
In this article we’ll take and introductory look at using Envelopes to shape the behavior of the sound, along with some basics of using Scenes and Motion Control to control FM-X parameters.
Go to the Live Set Bank “MannyFMXplr” and select the Performance “Manny Mod Tutorial 2 ” then exit to the “Home” Performance page:
I’ve set up this Performance to allow us to review the concepts covered in the previous article and demonstrate Envelope control of Modulator Level and basic Scene & Motion Sequence control of FM-X parameters. We’ll also introduce the interaction of Motion Sequence control with Arpeggios. You’ll see I’ve set up the Assignable Knobs so that Knobs 1- 4 control the Spectral Wave type, Ratio, Skirt and Resonance for our Modulators while knobs 5 - 8 control the same parameters for the Carrier. The SuperKnob is set up as control Knob 1, which we’ll get to later discussing Scenes.
Another important thing you need to know before we dig into this Performance is how I have set up the Assignable Switches. In addition to the Knob assignments noted above, I’ve set up this Performance to allow Assignable Switches 1 and 2 to let you switch between Parts 1 and 2 to turn off & on off the Modulator -> Carrier FM interaction and allow us to hear the isolated Modulators and Carrier waves. This is useful in allowing you to hear what the individual Operator building blocks sound like before they are combined in FM-X synthesis – as you play around with the core FM parameters you will sometimes be very surprised how drastically different the raw Modulator or Carrier waves sound compared the resulting FM-X sound.
Ok, so let’s move on. In the tutorial Performance from the first article, we heard just basic changes in sound created by different Spectral Wave Modulator types. In this tutorial Performance, I’ve added the Envelope control of Modulator Level to create some basic sound types, as the Envelopes are a very important part of sound design.
Play some notes using the “Manny Mod Tutorial 2” Performance example and you’ll hear the classic FM synth brass sound. Notice that the brightness is dynamic with velocity, as velocity is controlling the Modulator Level. In FM synthesis, more Modulator Level (known as modulation index) means the creation of more harmonics (overtones) in the sound. Thus playing at low velocity means less Modulator Level so less brightness, playing at high velocities means higher Modulator Level, so more brightness.
Another way to change the overall amount of harmonics (overtones) in the sound is the Modulator Skirt parameter, so play around with ‘Mod Skirt’ Knob 3 to hear how it alters the sound.
Next, use ‘Mod Ratio’ Knob 2 to change the frequency Ratio of the Modulator, and listen to how that drastically changes the harmonic structure of the sound. So now press Assignable Switch 1 to turn off the FM synthesis and hear just the raw Modulator wave.
Then press Assignable Switch 2 to hear just the Carrier – notice how different each can sound compared to the resulting FM sound, especially at different Modulator Ratio values. Turn off both Assignable Switches to reactivate the FM synthesis. Now play around with the corresponding Carrier controls on Knobs 5 - 8. Then again use the Switches to isolate and listen to the Modulator and Carrier, and notice how different they sound from the final FM sound.
Here are two examples that highlight those differences. First, set the Knobs 1-8, in order, to these Values--60 – 88 – 76 – 20 45 – 0 – 28 – 0:
Play some notes and you hear it’s a kind of synthy harpsichord sound. Now to hear how different the Modulator and Carrier are compared to the final FM synthesized sound, press Assignable Switch 1 to hear the Modulator, then press Switch 2 to hear the Carrier. Then do the same with these settings for the Knobs--103 – 32 – 72 – 40 – 86 – 16 – 0 – 0:
So those are some examples how different the final FM synthesized sound can be from the Operator waveform that create it.
Next, let’s have an introductory look at Scenes.
Press the Scene 2 button and you should notice that the value of Knob 1 is now half-way, a value of 64. Scenes can store settings for a whole range of Performance parameters, but we’re starting with the basics of using “presets” of the Assignable Knob values to change our sound by storing the SuperKnob position. There are three things that need to be set up to do this. First the Assignable Knob you want to ‘preset’ has to be linked to the SuperKnob on the Performance -> Motion Control -> SuperKnob page, and you can see here I’ve linked Knob 1 to the SuperKnob:
Next, you set the value you want to preset for each Scene on the Performance -> Scene -> SuperKnob page. You can see I’ve set the value for Scene 1 to zero:
If you select Scenes 2 & 3 either by using the touch screen or the Scene buttons, you will see Scene 2 has the SuperKnob value set to 64, and Scene 3 has the SuperKnob value set to 127.
Finally, you have to create a parameter control in the Part itself for the Parameters you want to controlled by the Assignable Knob. I want Knob 1 to select between three Operators with different Spectral Waves, All1, Odd1 and Res1. This is how I set the Knob control assignments:
This Curve Type, Ratio, and Unipolar mode means our All1 Wave Operators 3 & 7 play when Knob 1 is turned far left (minimum position) and fades out and turns off as the Knob is turned half-way to the right. To hear the Odd1 Wave Operators 1 and 5 play only when the Knob is in the middle position and turn off at the far left and far right positions, I set the following Curve Type, Ratio and Unipolar mode:
Finally, to have the Res1 Wave Operators 2 and 6 only play when the Knob is at the far right maximum position, I used the following Curve Type, Ratio and again Unipolar mode:
So, back to the selected Scene 2. Again, make sure all the Assignable Switch are off. Play some notes and you’ll hear a basic synth square Wave. Because of the new Knob 1 position the Spectral Wave selected for the Modulator is the Odd1 Wave, which has all the odd integer harmonics (overtones). You’ll also hear I’ve set the Level Envelope as a basic percussive synth envelope with a medium rate decay. Again, change the ‘Mod Skirt’ parameter on Knob 3 as you play notes and again hear how it controls the harmonics (overtones) of the wave. Finally, I’ve also programmed in some velocity control of Level.
Now press the Scene 3 button, and you’ll see the Knob 1 position change to the maximum, value 127, which selects the Res1 Spectral Wave for the Modulator. This time I’ve programmed a hybrid percussive/pad Envelope shape for the Modulator Level control. Play staccato notes for the short percussive attack, and hold longer notes to hear the Level get gradually louder again and sustain as you continue to hold notes. Adjust the ‘Mod Skirt’ using Knob 3, and also adjust the Modulator Resonance using Knob 4 listening to the changes you hear in the sound. Remember, the Res Spectral Wave types have all the integer harmonics (overtones) present like the All1 & All2 Waves, but with individual overtones emphasized based on the Resonance parameter. So as you change ‘Mod Res’ with Knob 4 you’ll different overtones accentuated, similar to what you hear when you sweep a low pass filter with a very high resonance setting. Again, the ‘Mod Skirt’ on Knob 3 changes the amount of harmonics (overtones) similar to the lowpass filter cutoff as you heard with the All and Odd Waves. For a quick, cool tweak of the sound, set Knob 2 controlling ‘Mod Ratio’ to a value of 20, Knob 4 controlling ‘Mod Reso’ to a value of 42, Knob 5 controlling ‘CarrierWav’ to a value of 64 and Knob 7 ‘Car Skirt’ to a value of 32. This creates a nice FM percussive attack sound that evolves into a nice shimmering, square wave style sustaining pad. Play around with all 8 Knobs and listen to how the core FM-X Operator parameters we’ve been discussing contribute to and alter the final sound.
So, let’s review before we move on to an introduction to Motion Sequences. We’ve tweaked our sound manually moving the Knobs, and used Scenes to recall three preset tweak variations. Motion Sequences allow for automated real time control of FM-X parameters (as well as AWM2 and Effects parameters). To continue, select Scene 2, the square wave synth sound. I’ve assigned Motion Sequence 1 to control the SuperKnob, and thus Assignable Knob 1 which changes the Modulator Wave / Envelope combinations because the SuperKnob Link setting in “om” for Knob 1. However, the Motion Sequence isn’t active. To turn it on, press the “Motion Seq Off/On” button to the left of the Scene 1 button. When you turn on the Motion Sequence, you will see the SuperKnob and Knob 1 automatically move in parallel, changing the sound across the three variations as you play and hold notes. Here is Motion Sequence 1:
In addition, the Motion Sequence is set to loop at a length of 8 stages, and is synced to Tempo set at 110 BPM. This creates a ‘crossfade’ across all three timbre structures created in our sound for held notes. I’m using the “1st-On” mode for resetting the Motion Sequence to begin fresh at stage 1 when you release all held notes before playing new notes (i.e, discrete, or staccato playing). Also, if you manually play a legato arpeggio of notes at a Tempo of 110, you will hear specific notes align with the Motion Sequence position and distinctly hear each of the three different timbres play for certain notes in your melody. So, you may now be thinking it would be really cool if I could have this done automatically. And you can! Press the “ARP On/Off” Button to the left of the “Motion Seq On/Off” Button, and play a chord. This will trigger the Arpeggiator that I’ve set it to play arpeggio 5525 “MB_1Electrix” and you will hear the cool timbral interplay of the arpeggio pattern with the Knob controlled timbre changes, all tempo synced together! We can have our timbre ‘morph’ in realtime within the arpeggio pattern. Cool stuff, and in addition to that we can still manually adjust the parameters on Knob 2-8 to continue to change the sound while the arpeggio continues to play… REALLY cool stuff!!
Try out the remaining scenes 4-8 to hear how I’ve mixed and matched different arpeggio patterns with different Motion Sequences to create different ‘morphing’ of the timbre in the arpeggios. Whew, that’s a lot to cover, and it’s all there programmed into a single FM-X part of one Performance. Powerfull stuff. Remember to watch the accompanying “Manny Tutorial 2” videos parts 1 & 2 below:
Video Part 1 – Knob control
Video part 2 – MS & Arp control
Motion Sequences in Depth.
Hopefully in reading the prior articles (see links at bottom of article), watching the videos, and taking the time tweaking around with the tutorial Performances, you have gotten familiar with the core building blocks of the FM-X synthesis engine and Motion Control. With this article, I’m going to do a deep dive into Motion Sequences. In addition to explaining some specific tutorial example Performances, I will also deconstruct some finished Performances to show how it was all put together in practical sound design.
So, how deep is deep? Hold your breath:
- There are 14 native Controllers on the MONTAGE itself – eight Knobs, two Switches, Ribbon, Aftertouch, Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel.
- There’s the ‘master’ Performance Motion Sequence for the SuperKnob with up to eight variations.
- Then there are the four Motion Sequence Lanes per Part, each having up to eight variations.
- Those are all routed within each FM-X Part -up to 16 Control destinations, which can each be assigned to 29 synthesis parameters within FM-X synthesis engine.
- Then you can have up to 16 Parts within a Performance that can be layered or split into keyboard zones and/or velocity ranges.
For this sound I choose Algorithm 67 with 4 separate two-Operator stacks, in which I’m using Operators 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8 to create the pad base (three stacks, detuned, similar to three oscillators in an analog synth):
I’ve set the Modulator Ops 3, 5, & 7 each to the All 1 Wave with a Skirt of 4 and the Carrier Ops 4, 6 & 8 each to the Odd 1 Wave with a Skirt of 6. This creates a basic FM simulation of pulse width modulation (PWM) by having a sawtooth wave shape (Modulator = All 1 Skirt 4) FM-ing a square wave shape (Carrier = Odd1 Skirt 6). The Modulator Index – the Level of the Modulator Operators – will control the narrowing of the resulting pulse wave, meaning at Modulator Level = 0 we hear just the basic square wave sound of the Carrier’s Odd 1 Wave Skirt 6. Side note for the mathematically savvy FM heads out there – yes, to exactly recreate the harmonic structure of proper PWM, the modulating saw wave should be phase shifted 90 degrees from the carrier square wave. This example gives more of a blended saw/pulse hybrid timbre structure as we don’t have control of Operator phase in FM-X, but it still sounds very nice with same overall character of PWM. Part Motion Sequence Lane 4 is controlling these Modulator’s Level:
This Modulator Level control is what creates in our resulting FM-X sound the slow modulation from square to narrower pulse then back to square. There also a slight amount of Modulator Operator detune to enhance the effect. I’ve used the Sigmoid Curves for the sequence’s Pulse A and Pulse B shapes with PRM1 set to 2 and Prm2 set to 3, with the overall Smooth set to 96 for an even modulation effect:
This covers just the base pad portion of the sound. Exit to Home from Edit Mode (back to Performance mode) and turn Knob 1 all the way to minimum and Knob 2 all the way to maximum. This turn down the base PWM base pad sound and turns up the fourth stack of Operators 1 & 2:
Play and hold a few notes for about 8 – 10 seconds. You’ll hear a very extreme wave-sequency, FM-y, hard sync attack type of sound that will loop through a series of metallic harmonics for as long as you hold the note. This effect is created using three separate Motion Sequence Lanes. To show what each is doing, let’s go to Edit-Part 1-Common and choose the Motion Sequence Lane page:
We’ll begin by turning off Lanes 1, 2 & 3 (you can leave on Lane 4, it controls the PWM effect for the base pad sound that we’ve turned off with Knob 1):
If you now play some notes you’ll hear just a static, generic FM type of timbre. New, lets turn on only Motion Sequence Lane 1:
Play and hold note C2 (the C one octave below middle C) for about 4 -5 seconds. What you are hearing is Lane 1 controlling the Level (Modulation Index) of our Modulator Operator 1, along with the Resonance amount for the Operator 1 Res1 waveform:
This Lane is set to play once in 1st- On mode (Loop is ‘off’) synced to Tempo but playing at half the speed (200%):
Next turn off Lane 1 and turn on Lane 2:
Again, play and hold note C2 for a few seconds. You will hear a repeating, stepped metallic harmonic sequence that loops for held notes (Loop mode is ‘on’) also synced to Tempo and playing at half speed. Lane 2 is controlling the Ratio Frequency of our Modulator Operator 1:
Next, turn off Lane 2 and turn on Lane 3. Again play C2, and you will hear Lane 3 controlling the Spectral waveform of our Carrier Operator 2 and the Level (Modulation Index) of the Modulator Operator 1 in an 8-step sequence synced to Tempo at normal (100%) speed:
Combined all together these three Motion Sequence Lanes create a very complex modulation in the timbre of the sound. Finally, to hear how it all can work together, turn back on Lanes 1, 2, 3 so all 4 Motion Sequences Lanes are active, and press Home to exit back out to Performance Mode. When you’re back to the Home screen, turn Knob 1 back to Maximum to bring in the base pad sound, and also press the Arpeggio off/on button to activate the Arpeggiator:
Now, Play and hold a chord and listen of the interplay of our Motion Sequence modulations interplay with the sequencer pattern. Because the Motion Sequence Lanes have a mixture of looping mode and 1st-On mode, there is a different attack articulation with new discrete chords vs legato played chords. OK, take a breather before we move on...
We’ll continue by deconstructing a finished Performance based on an earlier example (see bottom of article for links to earlier lessons). Go back to our Live Set “Manny FMXplr” and select the Performance “Manny Slow PWM Pad”. This has ‘polished up’ the PWM base pad from our example Performance into a lush analog style pad emulating a slow pulse width modulation from a 50% square wave to about a 20% pulse. Mod Wheel and Aftertouch control the vibrato/pitch modulation.
First, let’s review the Assignable Knobs. As part of the polish in this Performance, I’ve programmed control of some core FM-X parameters to allow for useful & easy real time tweaks of the sound:
- Knob 1 for Carrier Ratio, stepped control of integer ratios of 1.00 to 8.00;
- Knob 2 changes the Carrier waveform;
- Knob 3 for Modulator Index (Modulator Level), which emulates the ‘pulse width modulation’ depth and is best between 40-80;
- Knob 4 for Modulator Ratio, continuous fine frequency control of ratio from 1.00 to 2.00;
- Knob 5 for integer stepped Modulator Ratio from 1.00 to 8.00; and,
- Knob 6 for Carrier Resonance, which will only have an effect when the Knob 2 position selects the Res1 or Res2 waves:
The Performance will load with Scene 1 as the default scene. Play and hold a chord and as in our first example above you’ll hear the sound slowly modulate back and forth from a square wave to pulse timbre. This time I’ve created the PWM effect using Part Motion Sequence Lane 1 Sequence 1, again controlling Modulator Level:
As before all the Modulators are set to the All 1 Wave with a Skirt of 4 and the default Carrier Wave setting of Odd 1 with a Skirt of 6. BTW - to more clearly hear the various components as we walk through this example, press Assignable Switch 1 which I’ve set up to bypass the Effects. The Motion Sequence is set up as a triangle wave shape and is synced to Tempo. However, note that the Unit Multiply value is set to 1600%, which means our triangle wave speed is16 times slower than the Tempo setting of 100 BPM:
Next I’ve incorporated Scenes to call up different Lane 1 Motion Sequences to change the shape and behavior of the PWM effect. Scene 2 plays sequence 2, which does the PWM effect twice as fast with a sinusoid wave shape using Pulse A set to the Bell shape with Prm1 value set to 5 and Prm2 value set to 2:
Scene 3 selects sequence 3, which plays the PWM effect 4 times faster, again with a sinusoidal wave shape. Note the Pulse A Discrete Saw shape uses a Prm1 value of 6 and Prm2 value of 4 to change the saw shape to four square pulses, then to ‘round’ them off I’ve set the Smooth parameter to 80 reshape them to a smooth sinusoid shape:
Scene 4 again plays the PWM effect twice as fast, but instead of the smooth wave shape modulations of sequences 1-3, this time I’m using a square wave shape for the PWM effect using sequence 4. Using a Prm1 value of 2 and a Prm2 value of 4 for the Pulse B Discrete Saw makes the ‘double square’ shape:
Then Scene 5 plays the square wave shaped PWM effect 4 times faster, so I’ve re-tweaked the Prm1 & 2 Values for the Pulse B Discrete Saw shape, but with Smooth set to Zero so it keeps the discrete square character:
Again, to hear the modulation more clearly, toggle the effects off/on with Assignable Switch 1. This is a useful application of a Motion Sequences and Scenes to create an many different LFO types of timbre changes in our sound, and still have the actual LFO to use for Mod Wheel and Aftertouch vibrato. Now we’ll go just below the surface and look at Scenes 6 – 8. As introduced in our previous article, I’ve set each of these Scenes to have a different ‘preset’ stored settings for Knob 4. By linking it to the SuperKnob and then storing the SuperKnob value in the Scenes:
Knob 4 is the continuous control of the Modulator frequency from a ratio of 1.00 to 2.00. Select Scene 6 and play and hold some notes. You will hear that the fast square wave shape PWM effect now has a strong inharmonic timbre as it pulses in and out, due to the Knob 4 stored setting of 53:
This is because Knob 4 controls the Ratio of the Modulators in a continuous manner that allows for changing them to non-integer Ratios compared to the Carrier. This is different than the whole integer steps set up on Knob 5. Non-integer Ratios between Modulators and Carriers create inharmonic overtones in the resulting FM sound. So then, the stepped behavior of Knob 5 is like adjusting the Operator Freq Ratio ‘Coarse’ parameter, while Knob 4 is like changing the ‘Fine” parameter. Use Knob 4 and Knob together to adjust the clangorous harmonics in the sound. If you don’t want any clangorous overtones, set Knob 4 to 0 and just use Knob 5 to select the integer ratios. Select Scene 7, which is similar to Scene 6 except the Motion Sequence selected for the inharmonic modulation has returned to slow triangle shape:
Again, play around with Knobs 4 & 5. Finally select Scene 8 which has the Knob 4 setting at maximum range of the continuous ratio control (an exact value of 2.00) and the Motion Sequence shape of an fast ascending ramp wave:
Again play around with Knobs 4 & 5 to vary the clangorous inharmonic and harmonics character of the sound. Now dig in some more: first re-select Scene 1 and set Knob 1 to a value of 110 and Knob 6 to a value of 24:
Play some notes and you will hear we’ve added a nice resonant filter quality to our slow PWM pad sound. Play around with Knob 6 to increase/decrease the Carrier Resonance and hear the changes, then finally re-set it to 24. Notice the PWM effect continues in motion, but the Resonance effect is static. Next select Scene 2 and play & hold some notes and you will hear the Resonance now sweeps up and down at a speed half that of the PWM effect. This is because “hidden in the background” as it were, Motion Sequence Lane 2 is set up to control the Resonance amount for our Carriers:
We didn’t hear this before as there is no Resonance for the default Odd 1 Wave for the Carriers. As we’ve changed Knob 1 to a value of 110 to select the Res 1 wave, the Resonance parameter is active and now it can be heard in our sound. As you play and hold notes you’ll hear the Resonance sweeping with a different pattern than the PWM effect, as the Part Motion Sequence Lane 2 Sequence 2 shape is very different than the shape of the PWM control from Lane 1:
Try out the remaining Scenes 3-8 and listen how I’m combined various shapes and speeds for Lane 2 and make sure you play around with all the Knobs! Activate the Arpeggiator, play a chord to get it going, and twiddle the Knobs and switch around through the Scenes and have FUN! This is what I find so cool about the power and versatility of FM-X That was a lot this time.
More Performances included in the Live Set that use these concepts are:
- MFMX Aether Pad 1 – Motion Sequence for complex FM-X harmonic control.
- MFMX Aether Pad 1Flt – To contrast Filter vs FM harmonic changes. Is Aether Pad 1 with Motion Sequence control of Filter without any FM control.
- MFMX Aether PadCombo – Combines both Filter and FM Motion Sequence Control.
- MFMX Krazy 8 HarmSwp – another extreme example, with an interesting use of a low frequency range Fixed Frequency Mode for Carrier Operator 8.
- MFMX Arp Harm Scenes – Example using Motion Sequences with Arpeggios and Scenes. Use Knob 2 and Aftertouch for control of Skirt.
- MFMX AutoHarm8Scenes – Another example using Motion Sequences with Arpeggios and Scenes.