Serum vs Massive
Massive has become my go-to synth, but I got tempted by the rent-to-buy splice offer for Serum. Serum is touted as a better sounding Massive, with high-quality oscillators and all that funky talk about aliasing and oversampling and analogue sound.
Because that struck me as a bit flippant, and because I rarely hear aliasing with the analogue oscillators of massive, I decided to compare the massive sawtooth to the serum sawtooth. Serum has a significant (and audible) amount of aliasing on its square and other “simple” waveforms, which correlates with them being simple wavetable forms. Massive on the other hand seems to use antialiased oscillators, as there is virtually no aliasing.
Nitpicking aside, Serum is a fairly capable synth, which makes editing / creating / loading / transforming wavetables very easy. Another strong point compared to massive is its easy FM routing between oscillators, and the possibility of loading samples for layering (in the Noise oscillators). It has easily editable LFOs/envelopes, and overall is very close to Massive in its UI and concept. I miss the feedback paths and the “semi-modular” approach of Massive, and haven’t yet used Serum in tracks, but I’m sure that time will come.
New techno tracks
I have been taking some of the concepts posted last months and turned them into full tracks. I have been trying to get the arrangement out of the way fairly fast, with a standard intro / main1 / breakdown / main2 / outro template, and keeping the vibe minimal. I got two tracks out of it that I’m very happy about:
Attic is built around a simple Reaktor blocks patch with a very Mike Parker minimal vibe, the only melodic part being a single note pad in massive, morphing from atonal to tonal. It’s not the final mix yet, I still have to remove that clap, taking off minimal energy.
The other one I’m very happy about is this more melodic relaxed track. The synths are Reaktor Form (for one part of the melody), Massive (for the slightly more boring sounding melody synth) and Reaktor Spark (for the pads). Ambience has been done with Form and some Molekular. I arranged this track in Ableton Live, vs Studio One which I used for the other ones.
I feel that for creative exploration / mixing, Studio One is mostly standing in the way of exploration, and clips and especially automation clips make it much easier to lay out and try out ideas in a track. I will try to do an arrangement and first mixing pass in ableton, then export everything as wave stems and refine the mix in studio one.
Two tracks got wrapped up, but I’m not entirely happy about the results. I think mainly the problem is that the “core idea” of the track (in both cases a sequence in a reaktor blocks ensemble) is both not enough melodically to carry the track through, and too much to actually stand on their own as minimal hypnotic elements. It’s a fine line to walk.
I have to add that scnuggles is the first track I laid out after a 8 month hiatus, and it has no real sense of progression in its arrangement. In light of the progress I am making in terms of mixing (this will be the topic of another blog post this month), it might be worth revisiting both cellar and scnuggles, if just in order to call them “done”.
What I’m up to
Here is a short list of things that have been grabbing my attention (a lot!) in the last few weeks:
FM synthesis with FM8. I’m still uncomfortable with FM, and while I can sculpt interesting sounds, I still don’t really know where I’m at.
learning to hear compression and EQ. I have been focusing a lot on my listening skills, and I feel that I made quite a few important leaps. This will be the topic of a full blog post, since there is so much to write about. The key point has been to normalize for volume, and close my eyes. Which sounds obvious, but there you go.
playing with the Solid and Tube compressor/eq/reverb series included in Komplete. As a side-effect of learning about compression and EQ, I have been trying out and comparing quite a few plugins. The compressors and EQs included in Komplete are very satisfying, and hold up (at least to my untrained ears) to the other compressors and EQs I could find. I am very happy to have all these in my arsenal already.
Klanghelm MJUC, DC8C2 and u-he Satin are other plugins that are part of my toolbox now. I’m still getting up to speed though.
Discovering all the synths in Komplete. Spark is a great synthesizer, and I’m loving the feedback paths in all the Stephan Schmidt creations. Skanner XT is a synth I often forget about, but it’s a beast to quickly creating impressive sounding basses or atmospheres or pad. It’s very versatile and it doesn’t eat half a CPU like form.
The Kontakt course on Kadenze has started, and I am working on my first assignment, which is a 40 bar track sketch like in the previous Loudon Stearns course. I am going to go for a gonjasufi / future bass kind of vibe through out this course I think.