The “Punch” Factor with Synthesizers

What exactly constitutes “punch”? Find out here

by Craig Anderton

We all know a punchy recorded sound when we hear it—but what exactly constitutes “punch”? It seems that perhaps punch is something that can not only be defined, but quantified.

This all started because years ago, I wondered why seemingly every musician agrees that the Minimoog has a punchy sound. Then, when I started playing a Peavey DPM3, several people commented that my bass patches had a punchy sound, “like a Minimoog.” Clearly, the technologies are totally different: one was analog, the other digital; one used voltage-controlled oscillators, the other sample playback. Yet to listeners, they both shared some common factor that was perceived as punchiness.

Analyzing a Minimoog bass line revealed something interesting: even with the sustain set to minimum, there was about 20-30 milliseconds where the sound stayed at maximum level before the decay began. There is no way to eliminate that short period of full volume sustain; it’s part of the Minimoog’s characteristic sound.

I then looked at the DPM3’s amplitude envelope and it exhibited the same characteristic—a 20-30 ms, maximum level period of sustain before the decay kicked in. Also, both instruments had virtually instantaneous attacks. Could this combination be the secret of punch?

For comparison, I then checked two synths that nobody considered punchy-sounding: an Oberheim OB-8, which is generally characterized as “warm” and/or “fat” but not punchy, and a Yamaha TG55. Both had fixed attack times, even with the attack control set to zero, that lasted a few milliseconds. I also recalled some experiments ex-Peter Gabriel keyboard player Larry Fast ran in the mid-70s, when he was curious how fast an attack had to be for a sound to be “punchy.” His research indicated that most listeners noticed a perceptible loss of punch with attack times as short as one or two milliseconds.

So it seems the secret of punch is that you need an extremely fast attack time, but you also need a bit of sustain time at maximum level. This sustain isn’t long enough to be perceived as sustain per se; it’s more of a psychoacoustic phenomenon.

Wondering if this same technique worked with other sounds, I took an unprocessed snare drum sound and tried to add punch by normalizing each cycle to the highest level possible for the first 20-30 milliseconds. Comparing the processed and unprocessed sounds left no doubt that the edited version had more punch.

When I designed the Minimoog Expansion Pack for Rapture, I made sure that where appropriate, the envelopes had that characteristic Moog attack (Fig. 1). Note that the second node sustains the sound for 27.5 ms. Rapture’s tight attack time and ability to create “high-resolution” envelopes made it easy to add punch.

Fig. 1: Adding the “punch” factor to a Rapture Minimoog patch. Continue reading The “Punch” Factor with Synthesizers

Free: Old-School Video Game Presets for Z3TA+ 2

June is Virtual Instrument Month at Cakewalk so we thought we would remind you of these great free presets for Z3TA+2 in case you missed them! Stay tuned to the Cakewalk Blog for Synth tips and other special offers all month long.

 

The Polybius video game expansion pack is a free set for Z3TA+ 2, inspired by all your favorite old-school video game titles. Includes video game themes, game over themes, boss themes, attack effects, blaster effects, and even some timeless sounds you are sure to recognize. The Polybius expansion pack proves the true power behind Z3TA+ 2’s synth engine and best of all, it’s totally FREE!

Polybius Video Game Sound Pack Info:

  • 100 Free 8-bit Inspired Sounds
  • Title Themes
  • Game Over Themes
  • Level Themes
  • Blaster Effects
  • Run, Jump, Attack Effects
  • Classic Sound FX
  • Additional MIDI Arpeggios
  • Both Simple and Complex Presets
  • Great for shaping your own sounds!

How to Download Polybius: If you already purchased Z3TA+ 2, you can download the free Polybius Sound Pack from your My Account page on the Cakewalk Store. If you have not yet created an account, you will need to use the same email address as your Z3TA+ 2 registration. Then proceed to the My Account section and under “My Registered Products” you will see the Free Polybius Expansion Pack for Z3TA+ 2.

If you buy Z3TA+ 2 through the Cakewalk Store then the free Polybius Sound Pack will be included with your Z3TA+ 2 download.

If you purchase Z3TA+ 2 on Steam the Polybius Sound Pack is Free DLC.

Z3TA+ iOS 1.1 Update – Full MIDI Support for iPad


Z3TA+ iOS V1.1 Now Available – Full MIDI Support for iPad
Z3TA+ iOS puts the full power of Z3TA+ on your iPad. Packed with hundreds of presets, real-time oscillator modulation, dual mode filtering, and flexible effects, Z3TA+ iOS is the perfect creative toolkit for making music anywhere, anytime. The version 1.1 update is free for Z3TA+ iOS users and includes numerous user-requested enhancements.

Download Z3TA+ 1.1 on your iPad

What’s New:

  • For greater expressiveness, a simple yet powerful MIDI Learn mode offers multiple continuous controller assignments or multiple continuous controllers per assignment
  • MIDI Learn save, load, and clear configuration functions
  • Improved MIDI Channel selection (Omni as well as channels 1-16)
  • Multiple MIDI input selection
  • Clock Sync for tight rhythmic integration with other instruments and systems
  • MIDI input indicator lights for visual feedback
  • Manual localization in French, German, and Japanese
  • Onboard X/Y Pad integration with more factory presets Continue reading Z3TA+ iOS 1.1 Update – Full MIDI Support for iPad

SONAR X3 Clinic by Craig Anderton – Berklee Online

In case you missed the Berklee Online Webinar with Craig Anderton (March 31st, 2014) – here is the video in it’s entirety! Craig outlines some of his favorite topics including:

  • The MIDI advantage for songwriting
  • Using loops for both songwriting and EDM
  • Speeding up workflow to prevent “inspiration atrophy” (effects chains, track templates, browser techniques, etc.)
  • Creating your own mixer architecture
  • Using “spot” timing correction to tighten timing without destroying feel
  • How to make amp sims sound great (e.g. effects chains)
  • Mastering in SONAR

Learn more about SONAR X3

TH2: Using Guitar Amp Software Live

Turning this powerful amp, cab, mic & pedal modeler into a MIDI-controlled effect for live use.

Original article posted on The Cakewalk Knowledgebase

TH2 is the guitar amp modeling software included in SONAR X3 and Music Creator 6 Touch, and while it deserves all the high praise it’s received as a guitar processor, one aspect that is often overlooked is its deep MIDI routing capability. More specifically, it’s possible to adjust the settings of TH2’s amps and effects pedals and even switch between separate banks, sounds and variations by using a hardware MIDI controller or a MIDI CC message in a track. With this setup, TH2 can become your full-time pedalboard and let you take the sounds of your studio recording to the stage.

Wait, what’s that sound? Oh, it’s all the groaning from the people who think that mixing “MIDI” with “stage” will only lead to wasted time and headaches. Fear not, TH2 is smarter than usual software and the flexibility you’ll gain—even if you don’t make TH2 your Continue reading TH2: Using Guitar Amp Software Live

Free SONAR X3 Clinic by Berklee Online [March 31st 2014]

Innovative Music Production Techniques with Cakewalk SONAR X3

When: Monday, March 31 at 4:00pm ET
Length:
30 minutes

Next Monday, join Berklee Online for an in-depth online clinic with Craig Anderton, a renowned music technologist and producer, and Chief Magic Officer for Gibson Brands.

Learn how to create, edit, master, and more using SONAR X3 Producer.

 

Topics for this Open House will include:

  • The MIDI advantage for songwriting
  • Using loops for both songwriting and EDM
  • Speeding up workflow to prevent “inspiration atrophy” (effects chains, track templates, browser techniques, etc.)
  • Creating your own mixer architecture
  • Using “spot” timing correction to tighten timing without destroying feel
  • How to make amp sims sound great (e.g. effects chains)
  • Mastering in SONAR

Sign-up here

First Time DAW Users: Frequently Asked Questions about MIDI

MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a language by which computers, virtual instruments, and hardware samplers/synthesizers can communicate. It’s a way to give instructions to music production software like SONAR X3 to play, control, and program your own tunes. Even touchscreen tablets have the ability to generate and accept MIDI information. MIDI is a great way to work with music and has powerful capabilities that appeal to users of all levels. There are a lot of unfamiliar terms and concepts in the MIDI world so let’s take a look at a few questions that I typically hear from first time users.

1. What is MIDI, can I hear it?

MIDI by itself is data and is inconceivable to the human ear. It is a universally accepted standard for communicating information about a musical performance. It encompasses both hardware and software components, and though it could be used for sending information about many other things, such as the control of lighting in a theater, or even to control your coffee maker, Continue reading First Time DAW Users: Frequently Asked Questions about MIDI

SONAR User and Composer Jerry Gerber to Give A Power-workshop on MIDI at NAMM 2014

When programming complex orchestrations, getting that authentic “feel” can be a big challenge for any producer or composer regardless of the DAW at hand.  It takes many years of use-case scenarios along with a full bag of MIDI tricks of the trade.  Longtime SONAR user and MIDI-manipulator Jerry Gerber possesses both of these elements, and will be sharing his secrets at the 2014 NAMM show.   Interestingly, the workshop is not targeted for just SONAR users, but rather for anyone who wants to create the most artistic MIDI recordings possible with the technology they have available. Continue reading SONAR User and Composer Jerry Gerber to Give A Power-workshop on MIDI at NAMM 2014

Make Your Voice Sound Like Daft Punk with Melodyne Editor and SONAR X3 Producer

Certain effects have defined generations of music. The decade of the 80’s for example was a major era for reverb. In today’s pop music, the use of pitch correction software seems to be an effect that many artists and producers are utilizing creatively. Daft Punk has been using this effect for a number of years now, making them one of the first to bring this vocal style to the level of popularity it is today.

SONAR X3 & Melodyne

To create a Daft Punk inspired vocal effect Continue reading Make Your Voice Sound Like Daft Punk with Melodyne Editor and SONAR X3 Producer

SONAR X3 Quicktip – Hum a Melody and Convert it to MIDI with ARA

As a musician, inspiration can hit you on the train, during dinner, or even while you’re driving somewhere. Many musicians that I’ve worked with carry some sort of recorder around with them. I know sound designers who always have a device ready for taking samples, and guitarists that hum melodies to themselves when they feel they’ve come up with something original that they want to remember.

Given that we live in a very digitized world, it’s easy to hum and capture a melody, and then email it to yourself or import it later for inspection. SONAR X3’s ARA integration is a great tool for taking melodies and easily converting them to MIDI. Here’s a melody that I recorded off the top of my head by simply humming it to myself:

Continue reading SONAR X3 Quicktip – Hum a Melody and Convert it to MIDI with ARA