The DX7 - one of three instruments in a new library for Ableton Live. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Bernd Sieker.

Go full retrowave with a magical FM synth library for Ableton

FM is a conundrum. On one hand, it’s the ideal form of synthesis, capable of a rich range of sounds and transformations. On the other, it’s hard to actually get all that sound under control – the very thing that range would make you want to do. And accordingly, a lot of sound libraries have just skipped over FM altogether. Not our man Francis Preve and Symplesound. Here’s the concept: make FM fun and playable again. Make FM something where you want to start toying around and turning knobs, without fear that you’re going to get lost in a muddle …

The overview screen, for navigating - some overtones of both Kai's software from the 90s and the better stuff from Apple (Sculpture).

Substance is a new software approach to every kind of bass

There are those desserts that are subtle. And then there are the ones that are layered chocolate and peanut butter and cream that you drench in still more chocolate sauce, but in a way that holds together. You know – layering. Substance, a new soft synth from Output, is all about layering. It’s about making enormous bass things out of other already pretty-large bass things. And it represents a nice latest chapter in what the boutique software developer has been doing with sound design


Grab free sound samples of Montana’s ringing rocks

I’m going to let you start off with whatever bad rock puns you can think of. (Rolling Stones, rock music, uh whatever.) Done? Great! Okay, now let’s talk about the mysterious ringing rocks of Montana – and how you can grab some free sounds to use in your music right now, just in case you can’t make it out to the great American west at the moment.


Inside, Limbo game follow-up, music by SØS Gunver Ryberg

For lovers of shadows, dark dimensions spent wandering other states of being, and unrelenting rhythms, Danish composer/musician SØS Gunver Ryberg produces wonderlands. And that makes her music a perfect match for the game weavers of Playdead. Their follow-up to spine-chillingly creepy-good Limbo is this summer’s Inside. It does what’s so hard to do for this kind of title: it loses none of the elegance of the minimal original, while expanding in scope and maturity. And then there’s that score / sound design, made in collaboration with game maker Martin Stig Andersen.


Form is an all-new hybrid sample synthesizer

Native Instruments has been a pioneer in making tools like Reaktor that employ unique synthesis techniques. But more recently, that power has found its way to self-contained instruments. Tucked into the release announcement of Komplete 11 comes some very big news for lovers of creative sound design and synthesis. It’s a new instrument called Form. It’s powered by Reaktor, but it’s been built from the ground up, according to NI. And it lets you drag and drop sounds to manipulate them into playable instruments.


This amp and FX pack shows what you can do with Reason

In music software, you have things that are modular, and things that aren’t. Modular environments like Reaktor and Max/MSP let you build things from scratch with essentially unlimited flexibility. DAWs tend to lock you into fairly rigid options for how you combine different instruments, effects, and other tools. Well, Reason sits somewhere in between. Every virtual synth, effect, and signal tool can be patched into another in a single, integrated environment – even as it still remains a production tool with a timeline and mixer (or mixers). In a great example of why that’s cool, hard-core Reason expert Marco Raaphorst …

Photo: Udo Siegfriedt / CTM Festival.

Listen to John Chowning tell how he invented FM synthesis

To this day, it’s a synthesis method capable of producing wonderfully otherworldly sounds. And now as its applications on cell phones and cheap PC audio fade into distant memory, FM synthesis is left as one of the great achievements of musical invention, full stop – let alone being a key milestone of 20th century technology. So perhaps it’s time to revisit its significance.


Get some inspiration in the magic of field recording

Field recording isn’t just an empty exercise. It can change how you think. Just listen to Chris Watson, who records nature for a living: “Listening in a positive way – that is, actively taking the decision to focus on certain things and reject others … stimulates my thought process. It makes me think more laterally about problem solving. It makes me think in a different way.”

Sidechaining is a big part of Movement -- for using another signal to transform effects.

Movement is a do-everything, musical rhythmic effect

Movement is here – and it’s a little scary. The folks at Output have some weird way of dialing directly into the zeitgeist of what we want from production these days, and delivering it in an easy form. They did that with reversed samples (REV), with vocals (EXHALE), and now they’re doing it in an atypically musical multi-effect with loads of rhythmic and side-chaining features. This isn’t just another delay or something like that. It’s an entire effects toolbox built around rhythm and modulation, in a way that’s unusually accessible.


Hands-on guide to customizing the Novation Circuit

It’s not so much how complex or simple an instrument is – it’s how much you can make it feel your own. We covered a series of updates last week to Novation’s Circuit hardware. This week, as part of a collaboration with Novation and their product specialists, we’ve put together an exclusive hands-on guide to how to customize it for your own use. First, here’s a video overview of how loading your own samples works, and why it’s important: What you can customize The “Novation Components” update covers a number of areas. You can… Load your own sound samples (60 …