TUTORIAL: Resonant Bass with Diva and PG8X

Welcome to another synthesis-for-synthwave tutorial! This week I’ll be making a Jupiter 8-style resonant bass patch using u-He’s incomparable Diva, and then remaking it with the excellent (and free) PG-8X, which emulates a Roland JX-8P. As always, my goal is to make synthesis accessible, though we’ll be adding some extra wrinkles in this time in order to emulate the “warmth” of vintage gear. For those who missed it, here is last week’s tutorial, where we made a Juno-style poly synth using TAL U-No-Lx. And if you want to hear how I use the patches I make, check out my latest release. -G 

Resonant Bass with Diva

Before we begin, create a simple bass loop with 16th notes playing on the 1 and 3 (at 100 velocity):

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 3.48.41 PM

1. Load INIT-Jupe-8

Diva can model a number of different classic synths, as well as create hybrids by mixing and matching their parts. For this patch, we’ll be using the Jupiter 8 template. Basically this means Diva is modeling two voltage controlled oscillators, a voltage controlled filter and analog envelopes.

TUT Diva Start

2. Oscillator

Our bass patch is very aggressive, so we’ll stick to sawtooth waves. But we also want to take advantage of the Jupiter-8’s dual oscillator design. So to begin, drop VCO 1 down an octave (from 8 to 16). Then detune VCO 2 by 0.10. You can go either direction. I went to +0.10, but -0.10 will work as well.

TUT Diva OSC

What this does is create “fatness,” which is to say, a subjective sense of width. Try messing around with the detune settings. The more detuned the oscillators, the fatter the sound. But at a low setting, like 0.10, the oscillators still sound like they are playing the same note. Increase it too much, and they won’t.

3. Filter

Our sound is still quite harsh and grating, so let’s pull down the filter cutoff to 40%. Since we are making a resonant bass patch, we want to increase resonance to 50%. Next increase Keyboard tracking to 50% and ENV2 setting to 70%. (These determine how much of the sound is determined by how you play the keyboard and what your filter envelope settings are.) Now you can hear some squelch!

TUT Diva Filter

4. Envelopes (ADSR)

The aren’t labeled as such, but the top envelope modules the filter and the bottom envelope determines the amplitude. Use these settings:

Filter: A 0%; D 50%, S 80%, R 40%

Amplitude: A0%, D 50%, S 100%, R 30%

On the filter envelope, also raise the velocity sensitivity bar to 50%. That means the harder you hit the keys, the more the envelope will modulate the filter.

TUT Diva ADSR

5. Effects and “Trimmers” 

Now that we’ve got our basic sound, it’s time to give it some character. Thankfully, Diva offers plenty of tools for doing just that. To begin, let’s play around with the effects section. Like the Juno and JP synths, Diva features chorus as a standard effect. But it doesn’t really sound like a Roland chorus, and it doesn’t sound all that great on our patch. The tempo-synced delay, on the other hand, basically acts as a doubler–giving us an even fatter sound.

Next, navigate over to the “Trimmers” window. Now this may be my favorite set of features–controls that let you adjust the tuning and variance of individual voices, as well as mimic age and “oscillator drift” (i.e. the ability of VCOs to stay in tune, which compounds over time). These imperfections are what make vintage gear sound warm and characterful. And we can model them! To start, let’s raise the voice detune amount to 40% and voice drift to 70%. The effect is subtle but if you listen carefully, you can hear the voices coming just a touch apart from one another.

TUT Diva Trimmers

6. Final Touches

I like the squelch this sound gives, but for synthwave, it works even better if we increase the release a touch on the filter envelope, up to 40%. So let’s do that and call it a day!

TUT Diva Final touches

…and there you go! A classic resonant bass, perfect for acid-style filter sweeps. Just try raising the cutoff and see what happens. Or the filter envelope release…sounds nice, eh?

 

Remaking the Patch with PG-8X

Our resonant bass patch sounds lovely in Diva, but you can make a version of this with any subtractive synth that has two oscillators. To demonstrate, I’ve chosen the excellent PG-8X, which is a free software emulation of the Roland JX-8P. Now, remember that the JX- synths were somewhat different from the Jupiters–actually, you could say they were a cross between the Jupiters and Junos. They had two oscillators, like the Jupiter 6/8, but they were DCOs and DCFs like the Juno 6/60/106.* And of course they did have that sweet Roland chorus. Even still, we should be able to get close to our Diva patch with PG8X.

*Note: a digitally-controlled oscillator is an analog oscillator where waves are reset by an electronic rather than an electrical pulse. It is still an analog synth.

1. Oscillator

First, in the mixer section, bring up the volume for OSC2. Then drop OSC1 down an octave (to 16) and detune OSC2 by 10% (0.10) using “Fine Tune.”

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 9.43.59 PM

2. Filter

Bring the cutoff down to 40% and resonance to 50%. Now raise the envelope modulation (ENV) to and KEY FOLLOW to 40% each.

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 9.46.29 PM

3. Envelopes (ADSR)

Envelope-1, which modulates the filter cutoff, should be as follows: A 0%, D 40%, S 80% and R 30%.

Envelope-1, which shapes the amplitude, should be as follows: A 0%, D 80%, S 80%, A 40%

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 9.48.51 PM

4. Effects and LFO

PG-8X does not have a delay, but we can introduce some fatness with chorus—and actually, the chorus sounds a lot better (and a lot more Roland) than the one on Diva. Let’s opt for CHORUS 1, which is a bit cleaner than CHORUS 2.

PG-8X also doesn’t have Diva’s options for emulating age and imperfections. But we can  capture that feel another way–by adding a touch of tuning wobble via the LFO. We want to effect to be subtle, but unfortunately PG-8X’s LFO is not very subtle. So we’ll need to be careful here. In the Oscillator section, set the LFO on OSC2 to 3. On the LFO section, set DELAY TIME to 50% and RATE to 5. That means the wobble won’t kick in right away, and when it does, the oscillation will be long and shallow. Our bass arp is made of 16th notes, so we’ll just end up with a touch of tuning wobble–exactly what we want!

Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 9.14.04 AM

 

Comparing our Patches

If you have both synths, copy/paste our loop so that the Diva patch plays for 2 bars, then the PG-8X patch plays for 2 bars. You’ll immediately notice how much quieter PG-8X is, so you’ll need to adjust relative volume, either on faders or in Diva to properly compare. Once you’ve done that, you’ll see that the two sounds share a basic structure, but each have their own character. Our Diva patch is fatter, more resonant and definitely a lot more aggressive. Our PG-8X patch, though, has that pleasing Roland-in-the-80s character.

I like them both, but would use them in different scenarios. If there’s a lot of other stuff going on in a track, then I’d lean toward the PG-8X, as it will sit more comfortably in the mix. But if I’m doing a track with only a few elements, and which relies on the bass to drive things forward (e.g. your typical outrun track), then our Diva patch can carry a lot more weight. Both sound great with a bit of modulation, either using the filter or filter envelope. Try messing around with both–there are lots of possibilities!

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