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10 Sound Design Tips: Xfer Serum

10 Sound Design Tips: Xfer Serum

1. Supersaw wavetables

To make your Serum supersaws even fuller, try recording a supersaw (if you can, try an analog sounding synth) and importing it into Serum’s oscillator. Now you can use an LFO to move between frames of the wavetable. Now the oscillator sounds like a supersaw even if you’re using just one voice. If you increase the unison and detune now, the sound all of the sudden becomes huge. Doing this along with the “Unison stack” option in the Global tab can give you really fat supersaws.

Supersaw wavetables with Sylenth 1

2. Unison stack

Did you know that you can use more than one pitch inside one oscillator? This works only if you use multiple unison voices. The option is hidden in the “Global” tab and is called Stack. Here you can add higher or lower octaves or even fifths. This option is awesome for creating full sounding supersaws. With it you can double or even triple the sound over different octaves using just one oscillator and have the other oscillators free to make the sound even fuller.

Unison stack with Xfer Serum

3. Sharp attack

If your synth needs some extra attack, try making a very short envelope and assigning it to the Coarse Pitch of your oscillators. You may need to change the assignment from bipolar to unipolar by pressing shift+alt and clicking on the Coarse Pitch area. Once that’s done try to find a sweet spot of envelope amount and decay time. You can do the same thing with the Noise oscillator - assign a very short envelope to the noise level. It should give you a different effect and sometimes the best results can be achieved using both techniques at once.

Coarse Pitch oscillators - Sharp Attack Xfer Serum

4. Imperfect wavetables

Serum has a very “digital” sound, but there’s a few things you can do to make it sound warmer and more “analog”. One technique is to import wavetables from analog synthesizers. To do that you can record the waveforms in another synth and drop the audio onto Serum’s oscillator. The waveforms should look imperfect in the oscillator display. By doing this you can create sounds that sound half digital and half analog. Another technique to add analog flavour to a sound Ois to use an LFO and assign it to the fine tune of oscillators. If you add it just slightly, the pitch drift can make Serum patches sound very nice.

Minimoog Wavetable Sawwave Xfer Serum

5. Combs filter

If your synth needs extra “acoustic” factor, try using the “Combs” filter on it. Comb filtering is created when mic’ing sounds with multiple microphones. Especially on pluck sounds which need to sound realistic, this is great way of adding depth. Different cutoff and resonance values will create a different sound, so you’ll need to find a sweet spot.

Combs filter xfer serum effect

6. Downsample

If you want to make your sound extra bright, Serum has a very nice alternative to a bitcrusher called Downsampling. It’s a mode in the Distortion effect and sounds similar to a bit reduction effect. It’s very nice for adding a high pitched frequency to a sound with low Drive settings. Try it if your synth needs extra sparkle or interest.

downsampling distortion xfer serum effect

7. FM Noise

If you need a bit more grit in your sound, you can modulate an oscillator with the Noise oscillator. Another technique is modulating an oscillator with another oscillator and assigning an envelope to the FM Amount knob. Unlike most FM synths, if you do that, Serum produces distortions. They could be used to add that “noisy” factor to a sound, for example to a marimba. A sinewave a few octaves higher should be a great source to create this effect.

fm noise modulation frequency xfer serum

8. Clean sinewave

If you’re trying to create a clean sound out of sinewaves, make sure you’re using a pure sinewave in your oscillators. There’s quite a big difference in distortions and harmonics between the “Analog_BD_Sin” which is meant to be imperfect and the sinewave from “Basic Shapes”, which has no harmonic content. To make sure you have a clean sinewave you can always draw it in the table edit menu - simply add the fundamental frequency in Bin 1. If you need a bit of grit you can always add a few harmonics in other bins.

sinewave basic shapes serum xfer records

9. Additive synthesis

Additive synthesis may be tricky at first, but it’s a great way of learning how sounds are constructed. The basic theory of additive synthesis is that every waveform can be constructed from multiple sinewaves. Serum’s Wavetable Edit view allows you to transform any waveform into sinewaves using the “Wave to FFT” button on the left. This allows you to analyze any waveform that you import into Serum and see which sinewaves create its sound. Then you can edit it or create similar ones. It may be too difficult to analyze crazy complex sounds, but it’s great for creating synth patches similar to acoustic, sinewave based sounds - like marimbas.

10. FM Amount Modulation

When using FM synthesis in Serum you may be tempted to try to assign envelopes or LFOs to the “FM Amount” knob. Unlike most FM synths, if you do that, Serum may produce weird distortions. In some cases it could be the desired effect, but if you want to keep it clean, there’s another way of doing it. This only works if you’re modulating the oscillator with another oscillator. On the FM mod source oscillator you need to pick the wavetable frame you want to use and delete all the other ones. Then create a flat wavetable frame and use the Morph function. Now you can set the FM amount on the first oscillator to a stable value so that it doesn’t produce distortions and modulate the OSC 2 Wavetable Position to change the amount of the modulation in a clean way. On one end the wavetable should be flat, so it should not modulate the other oscillator at all.

fm modulation xfer serum from b

Check out our other "10 Serum tips" article!


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