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I've been working for a year on home recording and I kept all my sounds "pure" so I didn't mix my songs a lot. However, I notice that a lot of bands use synthesizers or even complete electro mixes as a rounding off of their songs.

I want to do that too, am I forced to learn how to make electro-tracks with Fruity Loops (I'm not really a fan of this DAW) or is there an easy alternative if I just use it as a supplement? I have used the Lounge Lizard VSTi (my current DAW is Cockos Reaper) and I like it a lot, but I miss the dirty dubstep or electro sounds I could use for crescendos or breakdowns.

I like the sounds of Daft Punk and Feed Me and I want to make electro sounds like Asking Alexandria or Bring Me The Horizon (I also like the synths on the new Arctic Monkeys album)

Are there VST-intstruments you like to work with or do you recommend a DAW with built-in instruments in general?

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I generally use Reason, as it has a great multitude of synths, but it's pretty pricey. You can also use samples from primeloops.com or something as well. To get you started –  Kramp Jun 11 at 7:03
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This feels like it will be very opinion based so it may get closed. If you want examples of music using VST's in Cubase in the electro/metal genre, check out the link on my profile page. Metaltech have all sorts of sounds that may appeal. –  Dr Mayhem Jun 11 at 7:03
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I changed the title to make it more inclusive and possibly increased the chance of keeping it open. I'm sorry if this does not capture what you intended, just change it in that case. –  Meaningful Username Jun 11 at 7:43
    
It's perfect, thanks :) –  muffin Jun 11 at 7:56
    
Meaningful - nice - I hadn't thought to tweak that way. Still a bit subjective, but better approach. –  Dr Mayhem Jun 11 at 9:32

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Seems that you are new to the whole synthesis thing and you are looking for specific sounds found in other songs, so I recommend you to start with a software synthesizer that has a big and good library and macro support/dynamics.

The library will let you choose from an array of well-organized pre-programmed sounds, and the macros will let you tweak those sounds providing a simple interface with just a few controls.

I see that you want "dirty dubstep" and "electro" sounds. Well, Native Instrument's Massive is a famous synth in dubstep and electro production, it has a very well organized library, and provides a very simple macro interface.

In fact, that's a true for every single synth Native Instruments produces (that is not hosted in Reaktor). All stand-alone NI synths have the same library and macro system, so you can't go wrong with them.

Let's see what I mean using Massive.

Massive

For a newcomer that screen can be very intimidating. Not everyone is a sound designer, and not everyone wants or needs to be one. With Native Instruments synths you don't have to deal with this screen if you don't want to, and still tweak the sounds easily.

In the upper right there are three buttons, go to the Browser section.

Browser Section

Here you will be able to select a patch based on its characteristics. Here I told Massive to show me patches with the characteristics: Instrument - Bass, Source - Analog, Timbre - Hard, Articulation - Percussive, Genre - Techno/Electro.

On the right a list with patches (sounds) that match your criteria is shown. Just click on them to see how they sound like. You don't have to select all those characteristics, you can select only one, or none, or whatever.

See those 8 knobs at the top? Those are the macros. That's all you have to tweak. You can completely forget about the intimidating first screen. This is very comfortable and productive for non sound designers.

Absynth and FM8 provide similar library and macro functionality.

As for DAWs, Ableton Live provides a similar library and macro interface, using the Instruments Rack library, in the Instruments directory.

Ableton Live Instrument Rack

Here from the browser we selected the instrument rack Synth Brass Silk Horns. Again, the patch is reduced to the 8 knobs that are presented to us in the lower left part of the screen. Pretty convenient.

That combo of Native Instruments synths and Ableton Live will get you pretty much any popular sound you can think of, and if you eventually are interested in sound design and diving for new sounds becomes your thing, that same combo is amazing too; because of both the synthesizers and the synthesis environments (MAX for Live, Reaktor).

As for production techniques, start simple. Replace one instrument with a synth. As you get more practice you can mix in both an instrument and a synth that are around the same frequency range.

You will notice that synths tend to need a lot of equalization (sometimes the patch already provides some). Bass synths tend to need some attenuation in the lowest freqs, modulation-based synths (FM, AM, Phase Mod, etc) tend to be very bright and need some attenuation in their highest freqs, and so on. Shelf EQs are great on these scenarios. Be careful when using filters like LPF or HPF, those might kill the tone too much or get rid of the fundamental.

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Very nice answer! Thanks for showing me a good possibility for beginners, that's exactly what I needed :) –  muffin Jun 11 at 11:43

If you don't like the user interface, you could try using audio tracker software, like MilkyTracker or ReNoise. This type of software provides a more text-based, multi-track interface for sequencing synthesized sounds.

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