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What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

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What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby Ben Asaro » Sat Jan 09, 2021 4:45 pm

I have been working on a new large-scale piece of music and it features a lot of dones, pads, and pedal tones.

What techniques do you use to keep them interesting? Any favourite patches, effects, or layering techniques?
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby MOF » Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:06 pm

Omnisphere and Alchemy for me, I’ll often layer different sounds as well. I swap one or both of the layers for a different sound(s) at different sections of the song.
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby blinddrew » Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:07 pm

Being a notorious skinflint (I'm not from Yorkshire but I have lived here 20 years!) I find the Spitfire LABS series has a great range of pads and drones from a whole host of different sources.
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby Ben Asaro » Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:23 pm

Thanks for the replies!

I'm going a bit more old school and building them from scratch, so no software, just piles of analog synth tracks.
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby desmond » Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:32 pm

FX and feedback using sends is a good way to go. Having multiple FX all feeding in to each other and back on themselves, with mixer manipulation of sends and FX return levels will let you create and organically modify your drones.

I would say subtle effects automation in your DAW, but you're probably modularing, but modulation there should be familiar enough... ;)
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby Ben Asaro » Sat Jan 09, 2021 5:49 pm

Thanks, desmond! I didn't even consider using feedback ... :think:
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Jan 09, 2021 6:41 pm

I find Paulstretch to be a superb tool when it comes to creating drones or ambient washes.

If you have a piece of your own music that has some rapid arpeggiations in it, especially if they have a dynamic filter opening and closing as they progress then try dropping it into paulstretch, elongating it from a few minutes to about 2 and a half hours, locate the section with the arps and enjoy the beautiful ambient shifts as it plays those rapid arps as long drawn out legato sections.

You can use the result as a sample or as a backing track, either can work really well :thumbup:
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby The Elf » Sat Jan 09, 2021 6:42 pm

I often have something organic running along with a drone or pad - an eBow-ed guitar, for instance, or an old analogue synth, maybe playing notes from my Seaboard and bending them slightly.

Anything you can do to add tiny amounts of random elements to a drone or pad is usually a good thing. Add several random elements and you can have something that is ever-moving and pleasing to the ear.
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby Arpangel » Sat Jan 09, 2021 6:45 pm

Just a Moog, and an analogue delay, that’s all I need, still the best most interesting and sinister drones in synth land. But not every Moog, Grandmother/Matriarch, Mini, and the modular systems are cool, but can’t say that about any of the others.
You need a bit of dirt, didn’t work on my Voyager, not the same vibe.
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby BJG145 » Sat Jan 09, 2021 6:52 pm

Two pieces of kit I've always wanted:

1) Drone Commander. Because it comes in an ammo box. (Used to collect cartridges when I was a kid.)

Image

2) Shruti box. A friend of mine has one of these and it's awesome.

Image

In the meantime I just dial up a slow synth pad and lean on it.
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby Martin Walker » Sat Jan 09, 2021 11:59 pm

Ironically, I'm currently relying on Mitt and his bass harmonica for quite a few drone sounds. It's such a wonderful rich sound that has an incredible range of breath-controlled evolving subtlety, especially from a world-class player.

That and his chord harmonica have rather changed my mind about the versatility of harmonicas in general.


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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby ManFromGlass » Sun Jan 10, 2021 12:26 am

All great suggestions. Sometimes I use ebow on electric bass while bending the string in and out of tune. Finger bowing a crystal goblet with a whetted finger and then dropping it a few octaves can be awesome. Crystal works best but some of the cheaper glasses or bowls produce some cool squeaks and organic grinding noises. Your fingers must be clean and almost pruney for best results.
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby BillB » Sun Jan 10, 2021 12:47 am

Don’t know if this helps, Ben. This
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7L9SClQDq ... e=youtu.be
is one of my favourite YT videos of the JD-800. It’s an 18 minute long, quite dark, ambient piece, but the interest is maintained by the composer/improviser switching between the four tones of the JD-800 patch. The whole thing is knitted together with some lovely reverb, about which he is not specific (VST / Reaktor in his DAW) - but you are well-equipped in that respect.

Perhaps the take-away is not so much the excellent understanding and use of the JD-800, as how long he lets any one sound dominate the piece. Although the tones are repeated throughout and there is no obvious beginning - middle - end, it maintains interest through the tonal changes. The sound which uses octaves in particular is one that I would not have thought of, but it works really well through the ambient reverb and is quite a contrast to the other more conventional filtered pads.

An interesting example of a composition played live, on a single synth, without sequencers or arpeggiators, achieving a great atmosphere.
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Re: What's your secret sauce for drones, pads, and pedal tones?

Postby Ben Asaro » Sun Jan 10, 2021 2:37 pm

Finally had a chance to watch that video ... very nice stuff! And not too dissimilar to what I'm doing, though it's more 'polyphonic'. It was very melodic and easy to listen to, as well; never got boring, in my opinion.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

While not being used every time, here's the basic formula I ended up using (though I will be trying some things with feedback, as suggested by desmond):

1. Arturia Microbrute in Ultrasaw mode
2. Moog Mother-32, square wave, VCA mode
3. Another layer of Mother-32 one octave higher
4. BOSS RE-20 echo
5. BOSS RV-500 and Eventide Blackhole reverbs in parallel from the RE-20

https://soundcloud.com/user-329043613-5 ... on-excerpt
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