This is my submission for the D-Nox & Becker’s remix Competition sponsored by Beatport and Baroque records. My version is funky tech house that also features a deep house bass line.
20 finalists will be selected to have their tracks reviewed by D-Nox & Beckers. The top prize is an iPad. I won’t lie… as some of you know, I wish to move into development of musical apps, so having an iPad would be a big step in that direction. The tricky part about the selection of finalists is that 10 will be selected by Beatport staff. The other 10 will be selected by votes. I could really use some help here. You do have to have a Beatport login to vote, but registration is realtively quick and painless. I would really appreciate any help readers of my blog can muster!
Pulsing synth lines, frequency sweeping pads, earth-shaking wobble basses. These are a couple of examples of LFO at work. LFO or Low Frequency Oscillator is one of those mystical acronyms in synthesizer jargon that can be somewhat intimidating to new synth users. But at its heart, the LFO is a pretty straightforward concept to understand. In this post, I would like to break it down.
Sound is produced as a series of waves and the frequency, or rate of wave cycles occurring in a given span of time, is what determines the pitch (note value) of a sound. This is measured in Hertz (Hz). The average human can hear sounds that fall between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz.
Those booming low sub basses we hear in hop hop and drum & bass usually fall somewhere in the range between 20 and 100 Hz. These are the kinds of basses you “feel” more than hear. Anything below 20 Hz is too low for human hearing. So why would we care about using waves in these ranges?
This is the beauty of LFO. LFO allows you to use its waveform to modulate (control) a parameter of another sound. For example, if we use an LFO sine wave to control the pitch of a different sine wave that we can hear (oscillating at an audible frequency), the pitch of the sine wave we hear will rise and fall steadily. This audible sine wave is now being “shaped” by the lower frequency sine wave, which is the LFO. Modulating pitch in this manner is how siren sounds are produced. Here is an audio example:
These are two of the most fundamental uses. However when used in combination with other synthesizer modulation tools such as envelopes or filters… well, here is where the full power of an LFO can really be unleashed. Here is an example of an LFO modulating a Low Pass filter, on a saw wave (which is richer in harmonic content than a sine wave). This gives us that classic sweeping, phasing effect we all love:
All of the above examples use a sine wav as the LFO. A sine wave has a very smooth up and down shape and thus produces a very smooth up and down sound. But we are not limited to only using a sine wave. Other wavefroms can be used, each with their own characteristic shapes, resulting in their own characteristic sounds. By looking at the shape of the waveform, one can get an idea of what the resultant sound would be.
A triangle wave has a linear up and down sound. This results in a smooth up and down progression, even smoother than the Sine when used as an LFO.
A sawtooth features a rise and then a sudden drop to silence.
A square is merely on or off, kind of like a binary function applied to sound. This switches the sound on and switches the sound off.
Finally, by matching the LFO frequency to the tempo of our song, we can get incredible timed patterns, that almost make our LFO act as a sort of sequencer. Most modern synths or synth software have a sync function that allows you to easily input the timing of the LFO rate. In other words, do you want the cycles to occur on quarter notes, eighth notes or through a whole measure?
So we have seen how LFO is used to alter the attributes of a given sound and how the waveform chosen for our LFO offers different sonic options. By combining multiple LFOs or having the same LFO control multiple synth parameters, some incredibly crazy sounds can be dished up. The LFO is an incredibly versatile and effective tool to liven audio productions. It’s amazing how something we can’t even hear can offer us so much power. Kind of like our imaginations…
A Guy Called Tom (yes, that’s his name on Vimeo) is using the TouchOSC app on his iPhone to control a modular synthesizer. Pure Data is doing the heavy lifting, converting the data to MIDI. Here is what he says about it:
TouchOsc iPhone app sending osc data into PureData Extended, where it is converted to midi and sent to the Doepfer MCV24 which converts it to voltage and controls the modular synth.
TouchOsc XY Pad controls the pitch of two Thomas Henry VCO-1 which also crossmodulate each other.
TouchOsc Sliders control Elby Steiner filter cutoff, Plan B Model 10 env cycle speed, Doepfer BBD feedback and delay. Thomas White LPG used in both mode for amplification. Delay is a Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai. Sorry for the video quality, its done using a photo cam.
Using TouchOsc is fun, there is a lot of control right at your fingertips. Actually it can control way more than i have to control 🙂 Really cool app. Disadvantage is the steping in the control voltages that you can hear quite well, especially when controlling the pitch of oscillators. Not sure if its the midi resolution, the mcv24 or the application itself.
This is very cool. I was experimenting with TouchOSC during my Special Projects in Music Technology class last quarter. I was just using my iPod to control some sounds in Pure Data, this is taking it to the next level. Maybe even the level after that.