Point Blank’s Production Tip of the Week
In this Ableton tutorial Danny J Lewis reverse engineers the lead synth sound from Kerri Chandler’s ‘Bar A Thym’, using it as inspiration for a new track idea.
This post was originally published in DJ Magazine’s free online edition DJ Weekly issue 111
“When playing around with the Korg Polysix, part of the excellent Korg Legacy collection of digital instruments, I came across a texture that I recognised from Kerri Chandler’s deep house classic, ‘Bar A Thym’. I thought it would be fun to try to reverse engineering the sound to get it spot on and then draw some inspiration from that base for a new idea.
I set up two instances of the instrument – One to cover the bottom end and one for the higher frequency range (that is the one where most of the dynamism and movement in the sound occurs). The preset I found is called Brave Arp, which uses the in-built arpeggiator set to a grid division of 1/16th notes and a range of 2 octaves. It also is set to a chord in the key assign mode so for every midi note inputted, there are multiple notes being played. For those of us who lack natural key playing ability, this type of feature that you find on many synths can really help add thickness and an element of harmony to your riffs. On Point Blank’s Ableton live courses we cover how to replicate this effect using the chord midi device.
In the next part of the video I show you how the various Polysix parameters help to shape the sound further and give it different characteristics. The MG section acts much like the more commonly known LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) to create a wobbling effect. I have made it quite subtle in this case. You can watch me adjusting the attack, decay and cut-off on the other side of the synth until I created a nice punchy stab whilst retaining a good amount of warmth. Upping the resonance gives the sound a really interesting timbre as you increase the cut-off. The ping pong delay in the effects chain was a finishing touch to add to the feeling of overall movement and space. Finally I utilised the very useful ‘configure’ tool in live that allows you to map the parameters within third party plugins such as the Polysix to macro controls in an instrument rack
In the end a whole new track was born out of a deconstruction of the sound design behind this thymless classic”
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Hi. This is Danny Lewis, also known as Enzyme Black. I’m a course developer and tutor here at Point Blank Online. You are watching Production Analysis.
I was playing around with the Korg Polysix, which is part of the collection of the Korg Legacy Digital Collection. It’s a really, really good collection of instruments. I recognized something when I was listening to this sound. I thought, “That really sounds like the stab from “Bar A Thym”. What I’m going to do is basically try to recreate the stabs from the track. The moment you can hear the original beats looped, and then wire your stabs on top. I’m going to open up the filter. Have a listen.
Get a solo in now. Let me show you the Polysix. Let’s go to these, I’ve got two separate instruments into a group. This is one instance. This is covering the bottom end, so let’s have a listen. Listen to the high. Let me open the filter so you can really hear that properly. Then, them together. If I wanted to get behind this sound, and I need to work out what’s going on. If you take a look at the preset, because this is a preset called Brave Harp. What’s happening is there’s an arpeggiator here going on. You can see the actual grid division is 1/16th. This is going over a range of two octaves. This is going up and down.
The other thing about this is, you take a look at the key assign mode, it’s got a chord over here. Basically, what’s happening is for every single note, there are multiple notes being created. If you check some of my videos before, you’ve seen that I’ve used the actual Korg midi device inside Ableton Live, to replicate this effect. What I’m going to do in the next section is to explore some possibilities, look at some things that we could perhaps change with the settings here. Then, do something original, based on this whole concept that’s coming from Kerri Chandlers “Bar A Thym”.
Let’s get inside the sound on the Polysix. On the left hand side of the spectrum, we are down at 12 hertz. On the right hand side, we are up to 22.1 kilohertz, so that’s a very large range. A lot of people would say that we hear from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz. Just in a nutshell, you’ve got sub bass on the left, bass, mids, and high frequencies over here on the right hand side. You are going to trigger the sound. You can see it’s a very rich sound. It’s got plenty of low frequency, mid, and high frequency energy.
Now, at the moment, this is being moved by a couple of things. We’ve already established that there’s an arpeggiator, which is creating some rapid notes. I’m going to turn this off. We’ve got more sustained sound, but there is still some movement. Take a look at the frequency energy over here, pulsing up and down. That’s the high frequencies. This is the cut-off frequency up here. I’m going to reduce it. Let’s take it higher. It’s still got a movement going on. Now, we can adjust how much that is being modulated, by the amount over here.
This is pretty much the LFO section, even though it’s called an MG. Increase, so we are going higher. We can go lower. You can increase the speed by adjusting here. That is quite nice. I’m not really going for something like a dub-step kind of move, but I think it’s something that could be quite nice.
What I want to do is, I want to delay this. I don’t want the LFO to start straightaway. You can increase this. You hear that? If we hold the key down for a longer period of time, we’re going to get the “woo-woo” occurring. Let’s come over to this filter section over here. Let’s cut our frequency down. Let’s do a little bit of fine tuning. Increase intensity. This is all tied into the section over here. Let me show you something. If we slowly attack, we create that nice kind of rising vibe. In a moment, if you want to take it down slower, we can increase [K] time, or we can go faster. A nice quick, short, sharp sound. I think it’s working quite nicely.
Let me play a beat and see how that feels. I think that’s working well. Let me just record it in. Then, I’ll fine tune the sound after. I’m going to start fine tuning this. Think about possibilities for modulating, setting it up with macros. That sounds nice with more resonance. Also, what I’m going to do is try the arpeggiator. This is where the good division is different to the original. That’s working nicely. Let’s try a different mode for the arpeggiator. Interesting. Let’s try that. This is interesting, because what it’s done is, it’s created this interesting bass line kind of flavor. Just going to turn this up on my side.
That’s working really nicely. What I feel I want to do is add a ping pong delay onto this. Just make sure that the low frequency energy is taken away, because I don’t want it to be bouncing around too much with the bass. I’m going to take the dry/wet mix down a bit. Take the feedback down too. Let’s see how that feels. That’s really nice, but also, maybe a switch of the waveform. You can choose the actual waveform types here. It was D-14 to the saw. Let’s try the pulse wave, which we would classify as a square wave. That’s working really nicely.
What I would want to do is just set this up so that we can do some automation control. One of the great things you can do with live and third party plug-ins is to basically set this up. You can see the little control here that we’ve got for turning the actual plug-in screen on and off. You also got this arrow here. We can click on configure. We click on the parameter we want to assign. You can see that set-up now. You can see a VCF cut-off. That’s the controller I was modulating there.
Maybe, let’s just add a bit of the resonance on there, and potentially the intensity too. These are some controls that we can use in the rack. I set this up, select these together, right click, go down to group. Now, with these controls, let me expose the macros. Let’s right-click on this one, map it to macro one, take this macro two, take this macro three. What we can do now is, we can adjust the range of course. I’m actually going to set this up so that I’ve got it similar to how I had this before. We can start working with that in real time. I can’t remember precisely what the EG actually is. Let’s have a listen.
That’s working really nicely. We can take this away. This is our new synth that is inspired, of course, by the Kerri Chandler “Bar A Thym” track. It’s become something brand new that we could complete our track with.
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