How do you create that fuzzy, slowly resolving synth sound?
December 16, 2016 9:10 AM   Subscribe

What is the common term for the synth sound in, for example, Retrograde by James Blake? I'm talking about the detuned, dissonant horn-like sound that slowly resolves to a more pleasant chord. I expect expensive DSI Prophets are involved, as it seems these are suitable for producing this sound. What is going on, from a synthesis aspect? I'm not a synth expert, but I'm familiar with the main concepts.
posted by swordfishtrombones to Technology (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I think any analog polysynth with 2 VCOs could make that sound. He's messing with the pitch offset of VCO2 while holding the chord. A Prophet new (6) or old (5) could do it, but so could a cheap Korg Minilogue for example.
posted by w0mbat at 9:37 AM on December 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, w0mbat has it. Might even get something very close out of a (relatively) cheap Volca Keys.

In addition to manually messing with VCO2 pitch, it might be the target of an LFO or some other signal.

You definitely don't need a $2-4k synth to do this, good virtual analog systems should be fine too. Probably many of the Roland boutique series can also get very close to this sound.

I would call that sound a "simple, brassy drone pad". I'm fairly new to this too, but while the technical terminology is highly standardized, there's not a lot of standardized terminology for categorizing final patches, as far as I can tell.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:56 AM on December 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

To add to what is said above, I think there's a slow LFO detune (a few cents each way, nothing more) across one or both of the oscillators as well, or some kind of gentle phaser/flanger effect, adding to the 'wooziness' of the sound.
posted by parm at 10:27 AM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the answers! Based on the keywords in your answers, I've been able to do a more targeted search. It led me to a youtube tutorial (why did I miss that?) dedicated to that track. It appears that (1) it's a single note, not a chord (2) he's indeed running 3 oscillators (3) the 2nd and 3rd oscillator are detuned a bit in opposing directions, and (4) the dissonance is done using some kind of automation/envelop that slowly "lands" on the final frequency from either above or below. It turned out to be remarkably simple and makes me want to a buy an analogue synth.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 1:07 AM on December 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

> makes me want to a buy an analogue synth

...and so, it begins.
posted by parm at 2:48 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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