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Drum Synthesis With FM8: Creating A Snare Drum Sound

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This is second part of a drum synthesis tutorial series and today we will be making snare sound. Creating a realistic snare sound on a synthesizer is not really an easy job since snare has a very complex frequency spectrum covering very broad frequency range.

Creating high frequency component

First we will need some noise for the upper frequency part of our snare since snare has very complex noise spectrum.
We will use X noise module to simulate that.
Enable X module, it’s cutoff should be all the way up, small amount of resonance and be sure to set saturator section like in the picture below.
Short envelope should be set to very sharp attack, no sustain, small decay.
Also set velocity sensitivity of the X module to 25.

Feed the audio output of the X module to Z module and set it like in the picture below.

Creating low frequency component

But snare has also very complex frequency spectrum in the lower frequency range. It’s fundamental sits at roughly 180-200 Hz. And then the next harmonic component roughly 330 Hz and so on. The right distribution of partials in this quasi harmonic series is a very complex task which we won’t be covering here.

To emulate this we will have to use some harmonically rich operator waveform such as square waveform. In order to achieve enharmonically distributed partials as in real snare drum sound we have to modulate it with another signal to produce enharmonic sidebands around our original harmonic content of our oscillator’s waveform.

We will do that by modulating operators with noise signal and feedback.

Go to F operator control page and set it to square waveform.

As with previous tutorial we don’t want the frequency of operator to be related to the note frequency we play so we set operator’s F ratio to 0.

Set it’s offset value which now fully determines the pitch of operator F to 200 Hz.

Set velocity sensitivity to 15.

Set the envelope to roughly the length of the one in we have set in the X module. But the slope of the envelope should be much higher resulting in a much more concave shape.

Now we need second operator for the 330 Hz partial of the snare drum sound spectrum.

Enable operator E, ratio to zero, offset value to 330 Hz and this time choose soft square so it’s sound will be a bit weaker from the operator’s F one.

Also set envelope with high slope amount so we don’t hear the tone of the operator anymore.

Set the the operator’s D ratio to zero, offset value to 1200 Hz, waveform to soft square and envelope to something like with other two operators.

Now set the audio output of the operator F to X module to 100, output of the E operator to X module to 60 and operator D to X module to 40.
So our fundamental will be the loudest, second partial a bit lower in volume and the third and the most noisy one is the lowest in volume.
This way we can very roughly simulate the frequency series distribution in snare sound.

Also to simulate snap of the snare drum we should use global pitch envelope to modulate all three operator frequencies. Se it to roughly the length of other envelope and set modulation amount to just above 50.

Almost done. Now we have to adjust operators modulation amounts to produce enharmonic sidebands around our operators frequencies we have set.

We will use X module to modulate operators F, E and D. This will introduce some randomly distributed sidebands as we wanted. Modulate operator F with 40, operator E to 70 and operator D to 100.
So the higher the operators frequency is more noise we introduce into the signal.

Setting the effects

We should also use few very important effects in this case from FM8 effect section which will greatly improve the realism and define the character of our snare drum.

Overdrive increase the higher frequency snap of our snare drum and limits dynamics range of a signal.
Set the Drive parameter to 25 for now but be sure to experiment with values fro 15-30 they have a great impact on overall sound.

Another very important effect for shaping this snare sound is Shelving EQ. You can get everything from heavy muted snares to light and bright sounding ones just by adjusting the low shelf and high shelf parameters of EQ.

In this case the most important effect is Tube Amp effect. It limits and shapes the very high frequency content of our snare drum so it doesn’t sound too bright.
Set it’s volume to 65, Drive to 23.

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As an alternative you can use FM8 filter instead to limit and shape higher frequencies.
We have set the cutoff frequency of the Z filter module before to value of 100. Lower it to 60 and disable the tube amp effect.

You can hear the difference in snare character here and also you can lower the velocity amount of filter Z module to zero so the snare will be more muted like in the second example.

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Another alternative is to set the Z module cutoff back to 100 and use X noise cutoff parameter instead.

In combination with X module resonance parameter you can get some more artificial sounding snare drums.

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Also here are variations in EQ and overdrive settings:

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Here are variations of all above mentioned parameters:

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I’ve experimented a bit and to me the version with tube amount sounds the best in terms of realism so set it back for the moment and try the following trick first.

Velocity scaling of the X module envelope

The final thing we could do is to set the X module envelope velocity scaling. Set it for 40. The higher the velocity more pronounced and longer will snap of the snare be.

You can also adjust velocity sensitivity of the various operator but I recommend you go easy on that since the sound of the snare drum highly depends on how hard and were drumstick hits and we can’t emulate that sufficiently enough just with velocity sensitivity.

Hope you will find this tutorial useful and even though this is not the best snare drum in the world it is still a good start for further experimentation.

Have fun and if you have any questions or comments please leave them below.





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