How To Make Your Synths Sound More Analogue

We show you how to make your DAW synths sound more analogue


In our latest music production blog, we dive into Ableton and transform its stock 'Analog' synth into a vintage analog dream.



Detune waveforms and pitch modulation

Firstly, we can set both oscillators to sawtooth waves (chosen for their harmonic richness) and drop one down a octave. Then slightly detune and pan them away from each other, giving us a full, wide sound to build upon. To begin adding character, we can add some pitch modulation to 'Ocs1', which adds a ramp up or down to our chosen pitch.



NOTE: Although we're using Analog for this example, the parameters we are playing with here are present in most, if not all, synths. 


Filter Envelope 

Moving across from the Osc engine, we can start to play around with the shape of the filters. Here, we can adjust the timing of attack, decay, sustain and release once a note is triggered.

This can be used to create movement, character and, most importantly, vibe to our synth patch. Start by turning the filter down to nice starting tone, then tell our envelope shape follow by increasing the 'Env<Vel' and 'Attack<Vel' amounts. Play around with these settings on both Osc until you have a performance you like! 



Note: Often on analog synths, you'll see the envelope settings laid out as faders/knobs labelled A, D, S and R, for both the envelope and amplitude of a synth. This stands for Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release (visually represented by the shape in the middle left of the Analog interface).


LFO and Chorus

Moving beyond the synths parameters, we've added the analog sounds best friend; A 'Chorus-Ensemble' effect unit. By adding the Ableton LFO as well, we can modulate the amount of chorus we will hear by 'mapping' the LFO to the 'Dry/Wet' mix.



NOTE: You can modulate the 'Dry/Wet' mix manually using your DAW Automation mode, but setting an LFO to do that for us can save time, and by introducing some 'Jitter' we can also add some randomness!

Izotope Vinyl

Izotopes 'Vinyl' is a free plugin that can add considerable tone, shape and character to our patch. If we set it to '2000' mode, we can hear it pair back the brightness and add some 'warp' to the sound. 



Note: Jumping from '1930' to '2000' could be used in a transition moment in a track or DJ mix. Be sure to play around with the 'Dust' and 'Scratch' faders for more texture and character.
Drive, saturation and colour
Now we have the lions share of the shape, character and vibe together, we can add some heat and bite. Tape emulation such as the Slate 'Virtual Tape Machine' and the Ableton 'Saturation' can add low end energy and warmth, as well as some distortion and grit.
This can help the sound really stand out in a mix, as well as enhance  our already rich Sawtooths. 'Super VHS' by Baby Audio also contains a multitude of effects that match the vibe we're looking for: heat, wobble, chorus, reverb etc.
Adding Noise
Finally, let's add some tape hiss and noise to the sound. Using 'Sampler' on a new track, duplicate the MIDI information from the 'Analog' track to our new 'Sampler' track, and load in some noise (we've used some we had lying around, but try to find something that has the characteristic you're looking for) and play them together!
The same MIDI will info will ensure the noise only triggers when your synth notes do, and will add depth to your overall sound. Playing around again with the filters and envelopes can further marry the two layers together.