Cubase’s FX Modulator makes it easy to design ear‑catching riser and drop effects.
Sound‑design elements such as risers, hits and drops are used in all sorts of musical contexts to highlight a specific point in an arrangement, such as a musical transition. Risers (with or without a tail) constitute volume swells into an impact/transition, while drops can be thought of as a kind of impact sound but with an added pitch drop element. There are, of course, lots of excellent commercial sample packs or virtual instruments that can supply these sorts of sounds, but rolling your own can both be quicker (you don’t haver to trawl through a million samples) and deliver a better, unique result. Users of Cubase 12 (Artist or Pro) can use the new FX Modulator plug‑in to do this, so let’s see how it rises to the occasion!
Because FX Modulator provides plenty of options for controlling the volume, timbre change and pitch (amongst other things) of a sound, we don’t necessarily need to start with a source sound that contains any of these features. For the example below, and the audio files that accompany the workshop on the SOS website (https://sosm.ag/cubase0223), I started with a couple of sustained presets from Cubase’s Padshop synth. I deliberately picked sounds with a broad frequency spectrum and then shortened the attack and release times of the amplifier envelope. I also bypassed any delay or reverb effects — because I wanted it to be FX Modulator which controlled the start and end/decay portions of my riser and drop effects.
For our purposes, there are two key features of FX Modulator. First, amongst its various effects modules are Volume, Filter and Pitch, the three main tools we can use for our DIY sound design (the ‘FX’ bit). Second, each of the effects modules lets you modulate a parameter (or two) over a user‑selected time base (for example, one beat, one bar; the ‘Modulator’ bit).
Let’s start simply, using just the Volume module to create two‑bar riser effect. As shown in the first screen, the basic configuration is very straightforward, but some details are worth noting. First, I’ve defined my own volume modulation curve and saved it into one of the user banks. The curve starts from zero volume, rises to a peak after two bars, and then there’s a rapid drop in back to zero (giving a short ‘tail’ to the sound, the length of which can easily be adjusted by changing the curve). For me to have the option for this tail setting, I needed to set the Time control to four bars...