SunVox for beginners: making a track from scratch
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Русская версия
2022.04.25

Previous part: basics

We continue to get acquainted with the SunVox music program. In this article, I'll show you how to write a simple song with three synths from scratch.

Let me remind you how the SunVox interface is arranged (see the previous article for a detailed description):

Brief description of the interface

Open the main menu (the button with the SunVox logo on the top left). Select "New Project". This will open the "Create New Project" dialog box:

  • Template - create a new project and load a template into it (a starter set of modules, "hardwired" in the application); you can also use any project file as your own template by setting it via Main menu -> Preferences -> Main -> Set starting template;
  • Empty - create a new empty project;
  • Cancel.
Select "Empty".

We get the following picture:

Empty project

Here we see one Output module and one empty pattern (see timeline). We can start creating the composition.

Melody

Let's start with the melody.
Which synth should you choose? There are a lot of options. We will focus on the simplest. In the module editor, double-click in an empty area. The "New Module" window will open with a list of base (internal) modules. Select "Analog generator" and click OK. The synthesizer will be added to our project:

Empty project with

How to connect/disconnect modules:

  • click on the source module; press the button with two squares (next to the module editor menu button); click on the receiver module;
  • click on the source module with SHIFT pressed and drag the line to the receiver module; release the mouse button and SHIFT;
  • for multitouch devices: with one finger we press the source module, with the second - on the receiver module.

The reconnection acts like a disconnection.

Connect the Analog generator to the Output.

Click again on the Analog generator to make this module active. Start pressing keys on one of the musical keyboards (on-screen, MIDI, or regular PC keyboard). Notes will be sent to the selected module. The module will begin to respond to the notes, generating a signal. You can see the sound wave animation (oscilloscope) inside the module. The signal will go through the wire to the Output module - you will hear your notes on the computer speakers.

The Analog generator module generates a signal and sends it to the Output

Ok, now let's try to record a simple melody.

In the timeline editor (below), click on an empty pattern. You will see its contents in the pattern editor (above) - it will be one or more empty tracks. We need one track and 32 lines. You can change the number of tracks and lines in the Pattern Properties - just double-click on the pattern rectangle in the timeline editor.

Place the cursor on the very first line, in the NN (note) column. Press the space bar or the LOCK button - the pattern editing mode will turn on:

SunVox is ready to record music. Pattern edit mode enabled

Now our task is to enter the following sequence of notes:

Melody track - sequence of notes for module 01

In the picture above you can see the track, which contains notes for module 01 (Analog generator). There are empty lines that act as a pause. There are note off commands (==). Note length is the number of lines between the start and stop of the note. If there is no off command, the note will sound until it is replaced by another note on that track, or until the end of the pattern is reached.

The playback direction in the pattern editor is from top to bottom. In the timeline editor, from left to right.

Notes can be entered from different types of keyboards: computer, MIDI or screen.

If you have a computer keyboard, just press the keys in this order: F4 (octave 3), W, DOWN (go one line down), X, DOWN, Y, DOWN, O, DOWN, '~' (note off), DOWN, Y, DOWN, I, DOWN, '~', DOWN, R, DOWN, T, DOWN, '~', DOWN, F3, I, DOWN, O, DOWN, F4, R, DOWN, T, DOWN, Y.

You can use the on-screen musical keyboard. To see the names of the notes, make it larger - there is a slider button on the left for this:

The slider on the left allows you to change the size of the musical keyboard

The pressed note is recorded at the current position in the pattern, and then the cursor moves one line down.

To move the cursor to another position:

  • in the desktop version, just click on the desired place to go - the cursor will be there; or use the arrow keys;
  • in the mobile version (or if the "Control type" option is set to "Fingers" in the Preferences / Interface tab), touch the screen anywhere (but only in the pattern editor area) and start moving it - you will see that the cursor will move in the same direction; or use the on-screen arrow keys (on the right above the music keyboard).

When editing a pattern, you may need the buttons on the top right:

  • DEL - clear the content under the cursor in the current column and go to the line below; shortcut (on the computer keyboard) - DELETE;
  • OFF - add note ending command "==" and move to the line below; shortcuts: CAPSLOCK or '~';
  • INS - insert an empty line in the current track and move subsequent commands down; shortcut - INSERT;
  • BCK - shift the contents of the track under the cursor one line up; shortcut - BACKSPACE.

When finished editing, press PLAY with the letter P and your melody will begin to play in a loop with the sounds of the Analog generator module.

Let's make it sound better. To do this, we need the controllers (parameters) of module 01. Click on Analog generator and on the left we will see a list of all available module controllers. If the list does not fit on the screen, then it can be scrolled using the slider button (to the right of the controllers):

The list of controllers can be scrolled if it does not fit on the screen

Another way to fit all the controllers on one screen is to press the V button (above the controllers) to change the number of columns:

The V button changes the number of columns in the list of controllers

Let's make the following changes:

  • Volume = 60;
  • Waveform = sin;
  • Release = 227; this parameter lengthens the decay of the sound after the note is turned off;
  • Osc2 = -4; inside the module, for each note, two generators with slightly different frequencies will play simultaneously - this will add variety to the sound;
  • Polyphony = 6; this is the number of simultaneously sounding voices; the larger the value, the greater the CPU load.

Press PLAY P and listen to how the sound changes.

Melody completed!

Bass

Let's add some bass.
Create another Analog generator and connect it to the Output. The new module will be numbered 02.

Module 02 controllers:

  • Volume = 130;
  • Waveform = saw;
  • Release = 215;
  • Sustain = off; the sound will immediately go into the decay phase, without waiting for the end of the note;
  • Filter = LP 12dB; we cut off the high frequencies, leaving only the low ones;
  • F.freq = 3445; the lower, the stronger the signal is filtered, the less high frequencies remain;
  • F.resonance = 1133; to make the filter "ring" a little at certain frequencies;
  • F.release = 222; filter envelope decay time;
  • F.envelope = sustainOFF;
  • Polyphony = 2.

There is a menu button under module controllers 02 on the right:

Click it for a list of additional module options. Turn on the "Velocity-dependent filter frequency" option (in general, velocity is the volume of a note, set in the pattern's VV column):

Analog generator options

As a result, we get the following scheme:

Now the project consists of two synthesizer modules

Make sure the pattern edit mode is off and try playing module 02, especially on the lower octaves.

The bass notes (module 02) can be recorded into the same pattern with the melody (module 01). For example, on the next track. Or even on the same track, if the notes are so distributed in time that they do not interfere with each other. But it is more convenient and practical to create a separate pattern for the bass. To do this, in the timeline editor, double-click in an empty area - a new pattern will be created. As before, one track and 32 lines will suit us.

The bass pattern has been added

Now you need to enter the following sequence of notes into the new pattern:

Bass pattern track - note sequence for module 02

Unlike the melody pattern, additional values have been added here in the VV column. This is Velocity, or simply the volume of a note. Value range for VV: 00...80. An empty value is equivalent to a maximum value of 80.

After finishing editing press PLAY P - the current pattern with bass synth notes will start playing in a loop.

Now let's create the following sequence: first the melody plays, and then the bass appears. Open the timeline editor. Select the melody pattern and clone it 3 times. There are several ways to clone:

  • press CTRL+D;
  • right-click on the pattern -> select "clone" from the menu;
  • click on the timeline menu button -> select "clone";
  • in the main menu, select "Toolbar" -> a panel with frequently used functions appears -> move the panel somewhere, and when necessary, press the "Duplicate" button.

Now the melody pattern is at the beginning of the composition, followed by 3 of its clones. If you change something in the first (parent) pattern, then the changes will immediately apply to all clones. If you select a clone, the link to the parent pattern will be drawn as an arc.

Let's put the bass pattern a little higher in sync with the beginning of the second clone of the melody. Clone the bass pattern.

Listen to the result by pressing PLAY with a vertical bar (play from the beginning).

The simplest composition of 2 patterns and 4 clones

Drums

Add a drum synthesizer module - DrumSynth. It will be assigned the number 03. Connect it to the Output in the same way as other synths:

03.DrumSynth module has been added to the project

DrumSynth isn't the only way to add drums to a SunVox project. You can use other modules or load samples with different sounds. But DrumSynth is one of the easiest ways, where by default each note corresponds to a specific drum.

Create a new pattern for it (3 tracks, 32 lines) with the following content:

Drum pattern - notes for 03.DrumSynth

  • Track 0 - hi-hat sounds.
  • Track 1 - snare drum sounds.
  • Track 2 - bass drum sounds.

Now by rearranging and cloning create the following composition in the timeline:

Final composition

The project plays from left to right. First, the melody starts - the chain of patterns below. Then the bass starts playing - the patterns above. And exactly from the middle, percussion instruments begin to play.

You must have wondered where these pixel art came from on the timeline. Each pattern has a 16x16 pixel icon image (BW, pixel is either on or off). By default, the icon is filled with a random pattern. But if you want, you can draw something of your own. There is a button with an icon in the lower right corner of the pattern editor. Click on it and the graphics editor window will open:

Pattern icon editor

Final processing

Set the volume to 100% and press PLAY. In some places, you will hear an unpleasant wheezing due to too high volume of sounds. At such moments, the sound wave in the Output module has too large vertical amplitude - clipping occurs, part of the signal is cut off from above and below. And the indicator to the right of the volume bar turns red. How to avoid clipping? There are two ways.

1. Just reduce the overall volume or the volume of individual modules until the clipping is gone.

2. Add an additional Compressor module between the synthesizers and Output. This module reduces the volume during clipping, and then smoothly returns the volume to normal if there is no clipping.

The second way is very popular in modern music. Let's keep up with the trends and add it to our song :) Disconnect all synths from the Output. Add the Compressor. Connect synths to the Compressor input, and connect its output to the Output. I remind you that in SunVox the direction of the signal is determined by the direction of the wire, which must always be routed from the signal source to the receiver.

The compressor also acts as an additional effect, adding dynamics to the composition: the volume jumps in sync with the rhythm, especially if the bass drum (kick) plays louder than the rest of the sounds.

Final project with the compressor

Project source

Official documentation

To be continued...