Renoise as a Mono Synth pt. 1

Renoise as a Mono Synth

part 1

This is part 3 in a series of tutorials called ‘Renoise for Hip Hop Heads’. If you did not follow the first two parts already, please do so, because we’re going to start off right where we left, again. There’s important info and jargon introduction going on in part 1 and 2. For the ‘Renoise as a Mono Synth’ tutorial this is the first half of 2.


So you’ve got some files.. let’s get extras
pitches.xrnt (you might already have this one)

Last time we’ve updated our beat with some effects on different send tracks, laid out a solid basis for a song. Let’s get some synthesizer things going.

Tha Wah??

So this pitches.xrnt thing will allow us further in this tutorial, to have the oscillators that we’ve created for kicks just now, actually tuned to different notes and octaves and scales! That’s gonna be friggin awesome. But it’s tough stuff to, it’s hard to work with. So let’s make people say Wah man first without tuning stuff. Load your working song from part 2 up in Renoise and go to the first track labeled ‘synth‘ (you will need to open up the ‘Synth‘ group track first with a small arrow-pointing-down button). Check in a envelopes.xrnt and a oscbased.xrnt. Add a Filter device and set its Resonance to 3.520, a Distortion device with Mode Shape, Drive 5%, Tone -44%, Wet Mix -12dB, Dry Mix -9dB, and then add a velvol.xrnt chain. Append a Gainer device and set it to around -30dB and test your sound. Ahh no this is not really it.. We haven’t automated the filter yet. Go to envelope #3 (it’s the only one we’re using in this track, so if you want you can deactivate and minimize the other 3), and draw in something like:Envelope 1

Now scroll to the right a bit, until you can see the oscillator (RingMod device). In its top line you can select different waveforms (‘shapes’):RingMod shapes

These are Sine, Triangle, Exponential, Sawtooth, and Square. Select the saw wave like in the picture and set the Frequency to 219.43 Hz. Test your sound again. Nice, goes with the beat, but let’s have it echo around a bit too shall we? If you did indeed make 6 send tracks, there are a few left unused still. Go to the last one, #6, and add a Delay like this: Line Sync on, Lines L 4, Lines R 4, L Offset 4%, R Offset 8%, L Feedb. 60%, R Feedb. 51%, L/R Output Pan inversed, Send -4.013dB and Mute Src. on. The mute source option is nice because when we insert a send to this track, in the ‘synth‘ track (do it now, just after the last Gainer device would be nice), with ‘Keep Source‘ on, we have a way of making its first echoes a little louder than the first ‘dry’ hit.
After the Delay, add a Filter on HP of Type Moog and with 2.17kHz on the Cutoff. In the source track (track #06) I’ve turned the end volume down to -6.912dB and kept the Sends Amount to 0dB. You can have a C-4 note (or any other, they’ll sound the same) on line 04 in the first pattern for instance.

Pitches Be Crazy

So the die has to be cast, load up pitches.xrnt in an empty track, preferably the second track labeled ‘synth‘. This is an extremely loaded and bloated tool chain to have e.g. RingMods tune exactly to the key you press on the (MIDI or PC) keyboard. Massive thanks go to dblue on the Renoise forums for most of the work in the programming of these devices. In this chain you can delete a lot of the devices already that we won’t use in this track: the *Pitch- which is a Formula device, the *Pitch -1 Oct, the two Pitch + devices, and then every (LFO) device after *Filter (that’s 5 less devices). When removing devices like this, it’s really handy to do it in the Mixer view where you can click the first from a series you want to get rid of, and hit Delete key a few times. Now enable the two devices that’s still there, *RingMod that will tune the oscillator for us, and *Filter that will make a filter device have its cutoff at the same frequency. Beautiful.
Like you might expect already, now that you’ve chiseled off some of the weight on the pitches.xrnt, load an envelopes.xrnt right behind it and an oscbased.xrnt too. Set the RingMod (without asterisk) further in the chain to Oscillator Triangle. We’ll now bind the pitches correctly so that we can play a (monophonic, no chords) melody. Scroll back left in the chain to the LFO device renamed to “*RingMod“. Double click it to open up. Set it’s Destination to CT/LFO (3)/Offset. Make it small again if you like. Scroll to the device we’ve just bound, the first envelope now named “LFO (3)” (if you like to rename devices, it’s really easy and neat if you can’t remember later on what is pitch bend and what is decay.. just double click on the title of a device). Set the Amplitude quite low, I’ve got 1%. You might want to let the one-shot end at value 50% instead of at 0% if you want to have this tuned ‘for real’.. I’ve drawn this simple thing

Envelope 2

Make sure you bind this envelope to the RM, set its Dest. to CT/RingMod/Frequency, and set the envelopes duration quicker, 1.000 LPC. You’re adviced to turn the track volume down quite a lot and test some beeps now. Bind the 4th envelope (“LFO (6)“) to CT/Gainer/Gain to have it limit the volume to a max decay of 1/16th note. I’ve thrown a simple pattern of D, D, D, F of the 7th octave on the off-beat. Try it: go to line 04, set edit step to 8 with Ctrl-8, now press asterisk (*) on the NumPad until the ‘Keyb. Octave‘ setting in the top left of Renoises window is set to 6. Turn the keyboard velocity button on and set the value to 20 or so, arm recording with Esc and press W, W, W, R. Repeat this for the second and third pattern, then use W, W, W, T for the last one. Let the player loop this for a while to see if you like it. And better yet, see if your ladyfriend thinks she can give you head to that beat. Maybe it’s not polished enough for that yet but you’ll think up something.
If you haven’t already added velvol.xrnt, do it now. Always comes in handy. Now just before it, you can add a Distortion first (Mode Fold, Drive 12%, Tone 64%, Wet Mix -10.17dB, Dry Mix 0.000dB) and a Filter directly after it (before the velocity tracker) with Model Moog, Type BP, Resonance 31.967%.
Now for the filter to be tuned too.. get to the 2nd envelope in the queue and draw a mountain like:

Sharp envelope screenshot

Have the envelopes Amplitude at a 12%, and copy over the same weird Frequency value (duration). Bind it to CT/Filter/Freq. so that you can already hear it working. Scroll back to the left to find our LFO called “*Filter” and open it up. Set that ones Dest. to CT/LFO (4)/Offset and we have some wicked ‘hypnotic’ type bleeps. I’ve turned the end volume for this track real low so that it’s almost subliminal, and as an extra added a Delay device with Line Sync, Offsets -6% and 10%, Feedbacks both 75%, and automated the Send parameter to get echoes on the first 3 beeps of every pattern (-20.00dB) but nothing on the last.

Pitches Be Crazy, part 2

Now, although you might have just created wicked bleeps throughout last chapter, you’re not gonna wanna get hypnotized by your own creation just yet, so to be able to keep focus, stop the beat for a second, and turn off that one track that you just filled (remember, you can tag it ‘off’ by clicking its scope in Track Scopes). Because we’re going to do more cool stuff with them pitches.
But this time we won’t be loading that fat bitch called pitches.xrnt, hell nah, we’re gonna configure a Key Tracker device to work with a RingMod ourselves. Let’s see.. start up with the usual envelopes.xrnt and oscbased. Bind the LFO (4) to the Gain. Add a Filter device just after the gain and set its Reso to 1.840. Go to the LFO (2) device and bind it to the Filters Cutoff, but set it to Offset 45% and Amplitude 10%. Scroll back right, to the RingMod, and set its Osc to Sawtooth. Now insert a *Key Tracker device before it, and set it like this:

Pitch settings

Be sure you don’t forget setting the low and high notes correctly (dragging with the mouse works best for me). Now add a velvol.xrnt to the end of the chain, followed by a reso.xrnt where you will set the new Hydras Input to 3%. Add a Reverb with Wet Mix 0.000dB, Room Size 67%, Width 70%, Damp 0%, Dry Mix -INF dB. Test some notes on the 3rd octave, it might just sound quite sick already.. but it’s not done yet.
Add a Scream Filter on HighPass, Distortion 51%, Cutoff 0.41kHz, everything else defaulted. Now another Filter, Model Moog, Type LP, Cutoff 1.90kHz, Reso 55%. Then a Comb Filter on Frequency 0.04kHz, Wet Mix -16.48dB, Dry Mix 0.000dB.
Play in a cool sequence! Turn ‘Follow’ back on with Scroll Lock, remember that this synth is monophonic (that means more than one note at a time will not do anything), and try some stuff out. You already know from the setting of the Key Tracker that in this simpler way you can not really go out of the range of A-2 through A-5, or at least it won’t make any sense tuning-wise. Now if you’re cool with a sequence you’ve played, turn record on with Esc and lay it to the track for all eternity. That is, of course you can clean up after yourself by removing Note-offs (they are actually signals in Renoise), Quantizing, Humanizing, etc. We might discuss all those options later on.
One more thing is still bothering me and it might bother you just the same.. If so you want to turn the treble down some. You can do it with a EQ 5, EQ 10, a Mixer EQ, but I’ll advice you to go with another Filter! (Model 24dB Moog, Type HS, Cutoff 1.09kHz, Gain -7.80dB)
Now put a Repeater device at the end of the chain and have some fun with your mouse.


Although you probably can not for the life of ya get enough of this synth stuff we’re calling it a day again, so you know, I have to sleep in between writing sessions of this stuff too man. Later.

On to part 2