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Creating an FM Psy lead

I would love to see some insights on creating FM psy leads, that typical agressive full-onish sound. I’ve made some such sounds with FM engines in Spire and Dune2 synths, but they don’t sound as granly and vicious as they are in “big guys” music. What are the important synthesis parameters, what kind of processing is used after the synth’s output, which synths would you recommend?

E.g. Depth Of Emotion by Dark Soho, the lead playing between 1:18 and 3:28. This is an FM sound isn’t it? I’ve also heard similar sounds in many other darkpsy/full-on tracks.

Recursion Loop

You are right, that lead sounds like an FM to me. Also, you’re right that Spire is probably not the best choice for this job (can’t say such about Dune), I think synthesizers like U-He Zebra or Xfer Serum would do this better.

Speaking the truth, I’m not as good in sound design as I would like to. So, to answer your question, I asked an expert to help — Tetarise. He is a music producer and sound designer, who dedicated his time and efforts to creating professional sound banks. 

Tetarise’s sound banks for Spire at Reveal Sound store

From there Tetarise tells:

This is quite simple, and all about Pitch modulation. In order to achieve that sound, try to emulate FM synthesis using LFO modulation. Set LFO rate at high speed and offset the starting point to reduce the modulation range. Such method gives a pitch shift effect, most noticeable at lower notes.

Wave shape and oscillator settings aren’t making a big difference in this case, it can adjust the character of the sound just a little bit.

You can possibly make something similar in Spire as well, but it won’t sound as good as in Serum:

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This post is a part of the “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as music production, sound design, performance, management, marketing, and career advice in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions via this Google Form.

Daniel Lesden

Marek Dendy Dendeš have added a useful comment on Facebook, so I’ll put the link here.

Recursion Loop

Hi! Thanks for your reply and the useful tips! I would like to share also my attempts at creating darkpsy FM leads with Discovery Pro softsynth. I found out that it is better suited to this kind of sounds than Spire or Dune2. Here is what I do:

  • initialise preset
  • select PWM or square for osc 1 (both work but have sligthly different character)
  • select saw for osc 2
  • set semitones for osc 2 at -24
  • set FM amount for 65%
  • here it is ;) Than play notes between C2 and C3 (or you may go lower for some funny results) and automate FM amount between 50% and 75%

Here is what it sounds like

Not quite the same sound as in this Dark Soho track, but more or less in that vein ;)

Daniel Lesden

My pleasure! And thanks for your contribution too, nice one!