Making atmospheric effects

Hey Daniel, I’ve always wondered how does well-known psy-producers (such as yourself) create atmospheric SFX? This also includes complex zaps, squelches, just the overall SFX that you often hear in today’s psy-trance. How is it made? Do you make it from scratch? Or use samples? Thanks :)

Timothy Bourne

Timothy, I can’t speak how other producers do their atmospheric effects, I can only tell how I do this. It’s also hard to say how to make some sound without knowing exactly what kind of sound do you mean by ‘atmospheric effects’, so I’ll go over general idea.

In my opinion, two things are crucial for making effects: knowing how to use audio processing devices and creativity. If you know how to use reverb, delay, gate, compressor, phaser, vocoder etc, you can turn pretty much anything into an effect.

Here are a few examples how I do atmospheric effects in my production.

Reversed ‘woosh’ with gate

A simple detuned chord stab:

Adjusting ADSR envelopes and adding a long reverb:

Then I reverse it and add some gate:

Making a reversed and gated “woosh” effect

Rolling texture

Now something different, with more texture. I’ll start with some simple saw wave stab with a bandpass filter:

Then I turn on the arpeggio to add some rolling pattern, and also add some long delay to keep this roll going longer:

This already sounds good to me, but we can make it more interesting by adding a high-pass filter and a pinch of metallic flavor:

Making a rolling texture with reverb, delay, panning, filtering, and ‘metallic’ flavor

Pitch-shifted gate pad

For this example I’ll take some ordinary string:

We can achieve some interesting pitch-shifted effect simply by modulation Pitch-bend wheel on top of some extra reverb:

Let’s make this effect more driving by adding gate:

Making an atmospheric pitch-shifted gate effect

Background atmo lead

Now let’s try to change some ordinary lead into a smooth background atmospheric effect:

Tweak the synth a bit, add reverb, filter automation, and auto pan as a ‘sidechain’ effect, and we’ll get this:

Just to put into perspective:

Making a background atmospheric lead

This is it, that’s how I usually do effects. This is not a ‘how-to’ guide, but rather just one of the way of making it, approach.

Some of these examples are taken from my forthcoming album

Zaps and squelches you’ve mentioned have slightly different approach, it’s more about synthesis rather than processing and maybe I’ll go over it next time.

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

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7 comments
F1END

Some great tips there Daniel, thanks :) Didn’t know about using the gate with a sidechain.

If you want some more ideas about FX creation, there’s some great tutorials on Psilocybian’s youtube channel.

Daniel Lesden

My pleasure, mate.

That particular Psilocybian tutorial is not quite about making atmospheric effects, but it’s good one too. Thanks for sharing!

F1END

Sorry, that link is to a playlist of all his tutorials, some are for FX, some for synths.

I was going to link to his channel, but he has about 100 videos on there.

CosmicBuddha

This is a very informative article thanks daniel for this wonderful article would love to see a couple of more wonderful and informative articles.

Sygnal

You’re a great person to share your way of producing.

Oktave

Hi Daniel, first of all thank you very much for sharing this tips.

I have several question and please accept my appologies if I am being to greedy...

My question is that I could not emulate that rolling texture fx, I´m really intrigued!
I tried doing it using zebra but the chord stab just does not sound the same, can you tell me what was the notes/chord combination used in the example?

It seems you did it using sylenth, I´ve downloaded the demo but could not achieve that punchie simple saw wave stab, have you used a sort of cut off envelope in the band pass filter?

The arpeggio you used in the rolling pattern is it a simple pattern native to the synth?

It seems you completed the trick with the long delay, which I could not emulate either, was it an external vst with panning triplets (something like 1/8 trip) in one side and normal in the other (like 1/4)?

Again, thank you very much!
Sincerely,
O.

Daniel Lesden

“can you tell me what was the notes/chord combination used in the example? [...] The arpeggio you used in the rolling pattern is it a simple pattern native to the synth?”

There are no chords or notes, it’s just a built-in arpeggiator going straight on 1/16th with 50% gate.

“have you used a sort of cut off envelope in the band pass filter?”

Yes, there’s Bandpass filter, basically like is what makes it sound like that.

“was it an external vst with panning triplets (something like 1/8 trip) in one side and normal in the other (like 1/4)?”

This is straight delay on 1/8 with a large amount of feedback, with no sides nor panning.

Oktave

Thank you for replying!

Ok, I am enlightned about the arpeggiator and delay but...

I am still not convinced about the first step :) In the example “a simple saw stab” (the 1st step you mention in the rolling texture fx), that apparently simple stab seems a chord (maybe minor), or a combination of notes, or was it an already made stab sample you used? Can you explain exactly how you did it and which synth/synthesis settings you used in that first step (it seems to be made in Sylenth or Spire)?

I know it must have been very simple, but I ´ve not been able to do it past 2 hours messing in sylenth and zebra, playing around filter cut off and envelope modulation values :P I used the saw oscillator as mentioned with a band pass filter with a minor chord but it just does not sound the same.

Without understanding that 1st step I simply cannot achieve the intended subsequent overall results,
maybe you could post a screenshot of the synthesizer settings?

Daniel Lesden

Oktave, there you go:

Oktave

Ok :) I can see the matrix clearly now,
thank you again!

Best,
O.

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