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Creating a weird psychedelic lead using LFO

How to emulate a typical psychedelic glitchy sound you hear in tracks from the artists like Imagine Mars, Tristan, Ajja, etc?


Zahaan, I don’t know for sure how these guys making their sounds, but I’ll share my thoughts on how to achieve something similar.

Formally speaking, this sound is very simple and it’s made of two key components: a bandpass filter and an LFO with a “Sample and Hold” waveform, all the rest is processing. Special thanks to my colleague Evgeniy Dolgih for hinting that specific LFO type, I probably wouldn’t figure it out myself.

Let’s try to recreate it from scratch. I going to use Sylenth1, but you can use any other synthesiser you have as long as it has an LFO.

Recommended synths

Initial preset. Single oscillator with Saw wave and one voice. Choose bandpass filter type and assign modulation envelopes to the filter cut off.

You should get something like this:

Initial preset with a few tweaks in the filter and envelopes sections

Now in the LFO section, assign it to the filter cut off and choose “Sample and Hold” waveform in the dropdown menu. Tweak rate and gain knobs up to your taste.

Here is what we’ve got:

Choosing LFO waveform in the dropdown menu

That’s pretty much it. You can play around with the LFO rate, add distortion, reverb, frequency shifter, or any other audio processing effects.

After spending a couple of minutes tweaking it, I’ve come up with this really weird sound:

And here’s how it sounds like in context:

Effects processing chain

Have fun tweaking yours!

P.S. I had a personal chat with Zahaan sharing these tips, and he eventually made the following sound using an extra phaser and distortion:

Well done!

 878   2017   Advice   Music production   Sound design

This post is a part of the “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as music production, sound design, performance, management, marketing, and career advice in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions via Google Form.

Талян 2019

Хороший трюк. Читаю и перечитываю до корочки все ваши статейки.

Arseny 2019

I believe Tristan and others are making these sounds with Access Virus. The core element of this sound is indeed a sample and hold LFO which in case of Virus is assigned to formant shift available in the Formant Complex mode, this gives that crispy metallic sound. It may also be emulated in certain wavetable synths having “sync” as a wavetable effect, such as Serum and Parawave Rapid. In such case the sync amount is the modulation target.

In this short example Virus plays the first 6 seconds and the next 6 seconds is Rapid.

patrick 2019

can you show that with serum too please?

Los 2019

I’m doing almost the same but I’m getting something very different. The sound I made is more like random bleeps while Zahaan’s is pretty tight and well balanced. My problem is not about the sonic content but the rhythm. Am I missing something important?

Arseny 2019

@Los, Sample&Hold LFOs are meant to be unpredictable. Make sure your LFO is tempo-synced for starters (you need 1/16 resolution), then just bounce few bars of your sound into audio and select the fragments where you like the groove the most and use them as samples.

Joao 2019

Please don’t stop this website! You are a fucking genius! Thank you very much :)
Hugs from Portugal

Gabriel Cardoso 2019

Saudações do Brazil irmão, seu site é ouro, queria muito ter mais contato contigo.

© Daniel Sokolovskiy, 2021
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