Soundscapes/Ambient SFX (Batch)

I’ve mentally debated with myself whether to create this thread or just add a link to “OP-1 Tracks”. The selfish and attention-seeking part of me won.

So I like listening to Ambient. Probably not the kind of Ambient most people think of when they hear that name. I’m talking about soundscapes and soundtracks from games and movies. Low on percussions, high on arrhythmic noises, evolving patterns or monotonous low-frequency drones.

While not particularly musical, soundscapes are very interesting to synthesize. You can make use of weird (aka creative) patches, go crazy with effects, throw in a variety of samples - and it might actually sound good after all that abuse. Another aspect that draws me to the genre is the idea of recreating a specific physical space and feeling of being in that space via sound.

My initial attempt to do anything soundscape-y on OP-1 was an absolute failure. I failed to create any nice pads, and most of the sounds in general were too… familiar. Not strange enough, not natural enough. I almost decided that OP-1’s effects and engines simply weren’t fit for this kind of stuff. But after much tinkering and finding some useful tricks I learned otherwise. Anyway, I would like to post a bunch of random cra… I mean, a collection of different tracks made while experimenting. I don’t think they’re good, but I do feel they’re interesting enough to post.

Except for some human voice samples, all the sounds are synthesized on OP-1. No resampling. I didn’t mess with Tape speed either, although I reversed it in one track.

Very nice work. I bookmarked your page for future listening. I’ve been experimenting with similar soundscapes. Keep adding more, please!

I’d like to recommend a piece of gear that you might like. It’s a stereo reverb pedal called Trinity by TC Electronic. With an inexpensive connector you can connect headphones directly to the Trinity outputs. It’s a perfect reverb for the type of soundscapes you are creating.

@gambler This type of ambient is right up my street, you’ve coaxed out some great soundscapes here. I also struggled with this kind of music on the OP-1 for a while but I’m slowly starting to get the hang of it bit by bit. I still have a lot of learning to do but this kind of thread is very inspiring!

Really nice! This is exactly the kind of stuff I’m thinking of as my main focus with OP-1 projects. I only had couple of days on it so far (waiting for replacement unit :frowning: but in the time I had it I felt like OP is almost purpose built for this kind of stuff. The kind of tunnel vision workflow of resample + effects > resample + effects and so on is great for adding tons of character and nuance. Great sounds on these tracks mate :slight_smile:

Here’s something I was working on before I had to send mine back. Very unfinished in places and nothing special. I was just figuring out the OP and recording to tape while I learned. Prob never get finished, but making it definitely showed me how much potential the OP has. Ignore the ‘dolphin sex pest’ Soundcloud name!! Still figuring out what to name/do with this project :wink:

@Callofthevoid This is good stuff as well, hope you don’t have to wait too long for a replacement. The OP-1 is basically a small Swedish army knife of sound that can go in more or less any direction you want. It covers so much ground, even my ham-fisted sound mangling are catered for.

(As for you’re Soundcloud name, I found it pretty funny - you should consider doing really chilled out music under that name just for the fun of messing with perception)

Thanks @wolflegjon :slight_smile: haha, yeh maybe I’ll keep that Soundcloud account for some acoustic church hymns or something :wink:

This is awesome. I’d be interested to hear your tricks if you’re feeling generous enough to share! Lots of eerie noises, terrific through headphones. I am reminded of the creepy whistle from Gremlins in Ghost Submarine.

Thanks, everyone.

@toesthecat, I will check that pedal out. Appreciate the recommendation. Although, for now I have put a freeze on buying new equipment. I better learn how to use the stuff I currently have before acquiring more hardware.

@Callofthvoid Cool sounds. You definitely went beyond the familiar OP-1 territory. I especially like the middle section.

@ghostly606, as far as tricks, the real game-changer was using Tremolo LFO set to high (i.e. sonic) frequencies. The versatility of it was very surprising to me. It’s like adding a second effect with 3 parameters and attack-or-decay envelope. Using it significantly expands OP-1 tonal palette, plus it can be used to animate sounds in several ways or add a sharp percussive attack to any synth.

Another useful trick was using fast high-feedback Delay to alter the character of various pads. Since pads are generally smooth and have a long decay, it does not create any “stuttering” and instead seamlessly blends in with the engine’s sound. You can then “tune” the result by changing speed just a little bit.

Also, delay has an interesting effect on high-pitched sounds when its speed is set to something extremely low (0-9). The delayed “copies” of the sound have a very different tone - apparently OP-1 simulates diffusion, or maybe it’s just a natural effect of re-processing the sound.

Awesome stuff – I’m super impressed with the range and depth of sound you’ve managed to coax out of your OP-1, I really have no idea how you’re doing some of that!

One tip I wanted to share is Phone – I’ve found that’s it’s pretty amazing for generating ambient texture, especially when used as a master FX.

The trick is to tune it near unity (when you load Phone, it’s slightly flat… IIRC you should shift+turn the blue encoder 4-5 ticks clockwise to get the grains pitched near unity). White should be very low (start with 0; turning it up adds some LFO-type modulation to grain pitch (I think…)), Green is the size of the grains (99 leads to very smooth smeared sounds), Orange is wet/dry but it also seems to control the threshold for “freezing” the buffer. Play around with Green/Orange and I bet you’ll find some nice stuff.

Phone in the master FX slot adds a lot of smearing and movement to the stereo image which can be nice; here’s an example:

I’d love to hear more of your tips/tricks that you’ve found, since the sounds you’ve created are really different and captivating.

I didn’t get Phone at all for a while but now its one of my main effects but I had no idea it could smear so well - thanks for the tip @raigan, your track sounds great. I’ve mainly been using Phone as a sort of crude slapback sample and hold type thing which sounds like this (the first track):

Appreciate the info on Phone and especially the nice-sounding examples. I’ve experimented with it in the past and found some uses, but I’ve never mentally connected it to granular synthesis. After listening to your tracks, I’m beginning to think that the key to Phone is feeding it the right kinds of sounds.

As far as more tips and tricks, a lot of the other things I did are nothing special.

I scavenged around the octaves for interesting sounds. Most OP-1 engines change timbres across the scale and that effect is magnified by the high-frequency Tremolo, so you can get some really unusual stuff at -3 or +4. For example, DNA has uncharacteristically melodic sounds at the highest octaves, and rather interesting noises at -4. FM has interesting sounds throughout the scale as well.

On pretty much all the tracks I used the empty sequencer trick to hold notes from low octaves and then play much higher notes on top. How it works: I open Endless or Pattern sequencer, erase all notes, go back to the synth screen, hold a key, then change octaves and play new notes. It’s a great time-saver, although in most cases you could record the same track with a couple of extra takes. (Things become more interesting if you have LFO animation and highly reactive effects, but I didn’t try for that kind of effect here.)

The rest of it is even more trivial. Some random things follow. I used a fair amount of Grid on that long-tailed “ping” sound, to make it more “tangible”. Grid seems to work well with higher-frequency sounds. I used a cranked up Spring on one of the noise pads - not for reverb, but as a kind of sound-shaping amplifier. I used a non-free LFO on the blue (filter) param of DNA along with a well-timed zero-sustain envelope to create the effect that sound source moves away or towards the listener. It’s not very pronounced, but the end result still sounds different from just using the envelope. Finally, I did a lot of live tweaks to FM’s blue (scaled operator amplitude, I think) parameter.

Didn’t know about the empty sequencer trick. Thanks.