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How to use the VA synth

The VA synth is a virtual analog synthesizer and one of Soundation’s Virtual instruments. Virtual analog means it emulates vintage analog synthesizers. This makes it a great choice for a retro 70s or 80s sound. It can be polyphonic with 8 voices, which is suitable for chords, but it can also be monophonic, which is fitting for basslines and melodies. This makes it a very versatile synth. It features 2 sawtooth oscillators, a filter section, glide (portamento), and LFO modulation.

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  • Funk bass
  • Synth brass

What is a synthesizer?

A synthesizer (or synth) is an electronic instrument. There are different types but the most common type uses what’s called subtractive synthesis. This is when you start with basic waveforms and use filters to remove frequencies and shape the timbre.

Subtractive synthesis is also what was used on the first analog synthesizers like the Minimoog. Analog synths use analog circuits and signals to produce their sounds.

In the modern age, we can do this digitally. All you need is a computer and a software synthesizer like the VA synth. The original subtractive workflow has stuck for good reasons, it makes it fairly easy to do sound design and create pleasing sounds.

Adding VA synth presets [Beginner]

  1. 1
    Open Soundation and create a project
  2. 2
    Click on Virtual instruments in the Sound library
  3. 3
    Search for “VA synth”
  4. 4
    Drag in a preset to the Arrangement area
  5. 5
    Start playing or drawing in notes

Making VA synth sounds [Pro]

  1. 1
    Open Soundation and create a project
  2. 2
    Click on Add channel and add an Instrument channel
  3. 3
    Change the instrument to VA synth in the Bottom panel
  4. 4
    Click on Edit VA synth to open the instrument
  5. 5
    Start tweaking the settings to your liking

Osc 1-2

The VA synth has 2 oscillators. Oscillator 1 is always active and produces a rich sawtooth waveform. Osc 1-2 controls the base pitch for both oscillators.

Octave

Octave is the overall octave pitch of both oscillators from -2 to +2 octaves. This means it will play the same note but in a higher or lower register

For bass, you might want to drop the pitch down 1 or 2 octaves and for a lead, you might want to pitch it up 1 or 2 octaves.

Tune

Tune the overall pitch of both oscillators from -100 to +100 cents.

Osc 2

Even though the base pitch of oscillator 2 is determined by Osc 1-2, you can offset the pitch of it with the Osc 2 section. Unlike oscillator 1, you can also change the level and add white noise.

Coarse

Coarse is the tuning of the second oscillator in a range of -24 to +24 semitones.

Most of the time, you only want to change to a different octave. For this, you should stick to 0, -12, -24, +12, and +24 semitones.

Fine

Fine lets you fine-tune the pitch of each oscillator in a range of -50 to +50 cents. This is commonly used to tune the two oscillators away slightly from each other to create a thicker sound.

Level

Level is the volume of the second oscillator. Set it to 0% to disable it completely.

Noise

Noise lets you control the loudness of the white noise. Turn the volume all the way down if you want to disable the noise. White noise is random frequencies over the whole spectrum. This sounds kind of like TV-static and can be used to add some extra texture, hiss, or dirt to your synth sound.

Filter

The Filter in VA synth is a low-pass filter which means it only lets through the frequencies under the Cutoff point. The filter is used to shape the timbre of the synth.

Cutoff

The frequencies above the Cutoff point will be filtered away. This means you can control the tone by changing the Cutoff position. Decrease the Cutoff to darken the tone, increase the Cutoff to brighten the tone.

Resonance

Turn up the Resonance to increase the emphasis around the Cutoff point. This creates a ringing, whistling, or vocal quality.

Velo

Velo is how much the note velocity (note loudness) modulates the Cutoff. Set it to 0% if you don’t want the Cutoff to be affected by the velocity. Set it higher for a more expressive sound.

Env

Env is how much the Filter envelope affects the Cutoff level. Set it low if you don’t want much movement to the Cutoff. Set it high if you want a lot of movement to the Cutoff.

The Env knob can be set from a negative -100% value to a positive +100% value and controls the movement direction of the Cutoff.

A positive value means the Cutoff moves from its current position and up, opening up the Filter more. A negative value means the Cutoff instead moves in the opposite direction, down from its current position, to cut off even more of the frequencies.

Envelopes

The VA synth has two envelopes that are color-coded yellow and blue. The top row with yellow knobs is the Filter envelope mentioned above that controls the shape and movement of the Cutoff.

The bottom row with the blue knobs is the Amp envelope that controls the shape and movement of the amplitude (loudness).

Both are standard ADSR envelopes, which stands for Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release. You can adjust them to create anything from short plucks to long growing pads.

Filter envelope

Attack

Attack is the amount of time it takes for the Cutoff to reach the level set by Env from when the note starts. Set it low for a fast attack that works well for plucks. Set it high for a slow attack that works well for pads.

Decay

Decay is the amount of time it takes to move from the Env level to the Sustain level. Set it low for a fast plucky sound and high for a slower descent. If the Sustain is all the way up, the Decay will not make a difference.

Sustain

Sustain is the Cutoff level for when a note is being held out. Set it low for a sound that doesn’t sustain, which is good for plucks. Set it high for a sustained sound, which is good for pads.

Release

Release is the amount of time it takes for the Cutoff to drop to the original Cutoff level after the note has ended. Set it low if you want the note to go away quickly, which is good for plucks. Set it high if you want the note to continue to ring out, which is good for pads.

Amp envelope

Attack

Attack is the amount of time it takes for the amplitude to reach the maximum level from when the note starts. Set it low for a fast attack that works well for plucks. Set it high for a slow attack that works well for pads.

Decay

Decay is the amount of time it takes to move from the maximum amplitude to the Sustain amplitude. Set it low for a fast plucky sound and high for a slower descent. If the Sustain is all the way up, the Decay will not make a difference.

Sustain

Sustain is the amplitude level for when a note is being held out. Set it low for a sound that doesn’t sustain, which is good for plucks. Set it high for a sustained sound, which is good for pads.

Release

Release is the amount of time it takes for the amplitude to drop to silence after the note has ended. Set it low if you want the note to go away quickly, which is good for plucks. Set it high if you want the note to continue to ring out, which is good for pads.

Glide

Mode

Select the Mode you want the synthesizer to have. You can set it to polyphonic or monophonic with different glide types. Choose polyphonic for chords and monophonic for basslines and melodies.

  • Poly is a regular 8-voice polyphonic mode without glide
  • Poly legato is an 8-voice polyphonic mode with pitch glide when notes are overlapping
  • Poly glide is an 8-voice polyphonic mode with pitch glide even when the notes aren’t overlapping
  • Mono is a 1-voice monophonic mode without glide
  • Mono legato is a 1-voice monophonic mode with pitch glide when notes are overlapping
  • Mono glide is a 1-voice monophonic mode with pitch glide even when the notes aren’t overlapping

Bend

Bend sets the pitch at the start of the note. Over time, it will bend down or up to its default value. If you set it to a negative value, the pitch will start lower and bend up. If you set it to a positive value, the pitch will start higher and bend down.

Rate

Rate is how fast the pitch glides when you have the Mode set to glide or legato and/or the Bend set to a negative or positive value. Set it low for a fast glide and set it high for a slow glide.

LFO

An LFO, or Low-Frequency Oscillator, is used to modulate parts of the synthesizer. The modulation is controlled by a silent sine-wave oscillator.

Rate

Rate is the speed of the sine wave oscillator used for modulation. Set it low for a slow wavy modulation and set it high for a fast fluttering modulation.

Vibrato

Vibrato is how much the LFO modulates the pitch. It can be set from a negative -100% value to a positive +100% value.

When set to a negative value, the LFO will only modulate the pitch of oscillator 2. When set to a positive value, the LFO will modulate the pitch of both oscillators. At 0%, there is no pitch modulation.

Filter

Filter is how much the LFO modulates the Filter Cutoff. At 0%, there is no Cutoff modulation.

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