Synth Quickie: Evolving Pad


In this video, I’ll take you through the process of creating an evolving pad from scratch using Serum.

We’ll learn how to design the ebb and flow of a long, lush, moving pad. We’ll also answer the question “How many adjectives are too many adjectives in a blog post?”

If you have an evolving pad and would like to share it, visit our Forum.
We’ll stop talking about adjectives, I promise.


An evolving pad.

This is a pad that changes in different ways continually over a long period of time so here’s one I cooked up.

All right, so the key to a pad like this is two things: layers and tons of modulation.So I wanna to recreate this from scratch. Bring the original over here. Look at it… all right and now, we’ve got just a good ol’ plain saw wave so, first thing I’m going to do is just give ourselves a long release.

For the amp envelope, simple here just so when I let go of the key it rings out. Then I want to just smear the sound a little bit, so I’m going to give it some unison. Great. Then I’m gonna filter it and this will be our first sort of slow, evolving sound. By modulating it with a LFO. So, let’s enable it
and I messed around for a little while and I just ended up liking how the 18 dB slope felt.

All right, let me take LFO 1,modulate the cutoff and I don’t need a ton here just a little bit up and down. And that’s way too fast. I’m gonna set it so it’s not syncing to the tempo make it really slow. There we go! Okay, so that’s our first point of
evolution, right? It’s a very slow change in our cutoff And I also made this change so that it always starts at the top. You don’t have to do this, this is just a preference for me.

I just kind of like to how I’m always getting this nice bright attack on the sound and I really want to accentuate this cutoff movement,so I’m gonna increase the resonance. All right, so there’s our filter movement.

Now, let’s add another layer of movement and we want to be in a sort of a different pace so that it sort of kind of interacts with the filter movement in unpredictable ways, so I’m gonna take our oscillator over here and let’s switch to a wavetable again I was just experimenting and I like the way this one sounded.

Right around here.Now this doesn’t sound terribly different from a saw. However,I am going to modulate it with an envelope. I’m just gonna route envelope two here I messed around with the ranges and I liked this range. And we are gonna go with…I’m gonna lock this envelope so I can see all the stages a really really slow attack. So much, about nine seconds to get up and then instead of sustain down here and again our decay will be nice and long. We’ll also do nine seconds.

Now what do we have? So you see, by the time it takes this envelope to get all the way up and down for this wavetable to change all the way and then come back, the LFO for the filter kind of goes through this little less than two times, right? So you get these sort of conflicting cycles. Modulate two different things so it creates multi-as I hold this down it’s just going to change even after the wavetable is right here starts coming back, cutoff starts over.

So at this point the cutoff is moving up and down while the wavetable moves up and down.But when the wavetable is done moving so now we hear the cut off moving up and down without the wavetable movementSo we just created a very long complex
layer of change.At first we’re hearing cutoff movement and wavetable movementand then we’re hearing just cutoff movement Right? so that’s two large stages of change. Right off the bat we have this long changing evolution. Okay.Let’s bring in another layer-

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Let’s bring in another layer using our noise source and in serum it’s more than just noise. I like this atmosphere 7, track the pitch, see the settings. Now again, I don’t want this just to come in and stay there, I want to you know bring this in and take it out, do something with modulation so,I’m gonna route our envelope to our level.

Start the level at zero so then now,if I give it a fairly long attack let’s say this is going to be about almost six seconds now that means we’ve got noise taking six seconds to come in versus our wavetable taking nine seconds to get all the way to the end. So now our noise is going to come in kind of partway through this wavetable modulation and then the wavetable modulation will continue. There’s the noise.

Now, I don’t want the noise to just stay there. Right? I want it to kind of start to go away but never fully away cause later on, it’s always still kind of there creating a little layer of complexity. So I’m gonna take our sustain and bring it down to about 64 percent and our decay to about 8 seconds. So now, here comes the noise now it’s gonna kind of start to drift away and there it is. it’s gonna sit there, so it’s present but it’s not in your face. Okay.

Let’s add yet another layer with oscillator B and for this one I want to make a really distinct sound that’s sticking out, bring ’em down a bit, filter ’em. I’m gonna bring them up two octaves. We’re gonna go heavy on the Unison: six voices I’m gonna leave it strongly detuned. Okay now that’s kind of abrasive, it’s really on there really visible or audible so let’s modulate it.

We’re gonna take an LFO and I want to do something a little different here. I’m gonna go square and I’m gonna route this to our level and let’s hear what it sounds like right now. Make it faster. Okay now, actually I like that,but I want it to swell in, right? Again kind of like with the other things, I don’t want this to just be there right away I want to gradually come in so we’re gonna use this LFO’s rise method and that basically- it does a fade-in of the LFO itself and so what we’re gonna do is set the level of oscillator B there. Max there. Now:

And if I increase the rise, you’d think okay it’s gonna start quiet, and then it’s gonna get loud but it didn’t. This confused me at first. You see, it’s actually starting up here at the top Why is it doing that? well because Rise pays attention to where this LFO waveform starts and it starts at the top so that means it’s gonna start up here and it’s gonna rise like that.

Alright it’s gonna stick up here then it’s gonna gradually increase the range until it’s using the whole thing. So what we want to do isthere’s a few things you can do here but I like this solution. what I particularly like about this is it almost sounds like the LFO has several fade ins. Right? You have the initial fade in from the LFO and you get another fade in as the cutoff comes back up again. Rising in and then the cutoff is increasing and then it’s collapsing, increasing again but without the wavetable, so it makes this one more audible.

All right so there’s almost three different stages of this oscillator B thanks to the cutoff in the wavetable movements and the rise of the LFO. Alright, let’s do one more thing. Let’s throw some chorus on there to kind of glue things together a little bit. Nice. And then let’s do a reverb and I want this to be pretty heavy. I want to do one other interesting thing here:
I want to modulate the reverb mix.I love doing this. It really kind of -it’s an odd sort of thing that it does to the perspective.

We take say, LFO 2, make it bi-directional and again we’re not gonna sync ourselves we’re gonna go pretty fast. Listen to what it does I love that. It’s like this dimensional pan that, you know, it’s just kind of otherworldly. I really love the sound of that but again, I don’t want this on the whole time but kinda want this to fade in and fade out. And I might use rise, right?but that would only fade it in and then keep it in I want to fade in and then fade out.

This is where we can use our auxiliary source. So essentially here’s our modulation for our LFO2 to reverb wet. I can set auxiliary source to envelope 2 Now remember, envelope 2 is gradual over nine seconds. This is what’s modulating our wavetable. So now, that reverb modulation of the mix will fade in with this envelope and then fade back out. Listen. Here it

That’s an evolving pad!
Again, I’m not telling you what to do here,I’m just giving you examples. What you want to focus on are layers and modulation.