Synth Tutorial: Calvin Harris “Let’s Go”


In this synth tutorial, watch Joe Hanley, creator of Syntorial, as he re-creates Calvin Harris’ “Let’s Go”, using Ableton Live and various free plugins. You can also download the midi files, synth presets, audio files, session files, and everything else you’ll need to follow along at home. Plugins used:


Welcome! Today we are going to be remaking the beat from “Let’s Go” by Calvin Harris. We’re going to be using all free plugins and effects when it comes to the synths. So, you can download and follow along exactly.

Uh, we have made all the presets, audio files and MIDI files available for you to download. Just click the link at the top of the video. It’ll take you to the Syntorial kickstarter page. Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see a bunch of tutorials here. Videos, each video will have link above it.

So, find your video, click the link and what you will get is a bounce of the audio, a file with the links to all the plugins to download, Ableton and Reason sessions. For the Ableton users all you’ll need is those free plugins and it’ll be ready to go. And then for those of you who do not have either Ableton or Reason, we’ve got all the MIDI files and the presets for each track as well as the drum audio.

So, you can just bring it all in to whatever software you use and set up the beat there. While you’re at this page, check out Syntorial. It is the ultimate synthesizer tutorial. “Fully interactive training software that’ll turn you into a synth programming guru.” Let’s get started.

Starting with the drums. Right now these tracks for the drums only are audio. I originally made them in Reason. So if you want to get the MIDI, if you want to rebuild with your own samples or just to see exactly what the rhythms are, you can download them with the link at the top of the video.

Breaking it down we’ve got, kick, clap. Clap’s being sent to medium hall reverb. There it is without it. There it is with it. I just put the medium hall on “no return” and then you can send whatever tracks you want to it, which includes the clap. Hi-hat. Tambourine. And at the end of this loop, you got this big crack sound. That is drenched in reverb. Maxed out. And that’s the drums.

Next is the Big Synth from the chorus. We’re going to be using synth one, which is a VST. For those of you who need an audio unit, for garage band or logic, we have presets available for Automat, which is a great free audio unit synth, but for the video, we are using synth one.

Now to start, we need to load an initialized patch that I made, which kind of sets all the values to zero because by default synth one loads one of its patches. And before I push play, I’m going to turn this down because it’s really loud. A little bit up. Okay.

First, we want to switch over to a saw wave, and then we’re going to detune it. This basically doubles that wave form and detunes one of them, so you get this big swirly effect. Next, we’re going to add a sub oscillator, one octave below. We want saw wave. That really adds body to the sound.

We add one more oscillator, as a triangle wave. Here’s what it sounds like by itself. It’s kind of bell-ish. We obviously don’t want that much. We want that much. Next, we want to add some attack using the amp envelope. We keep the decay short, which it already is. I’ll show you what it does.

We bring down the sustain. It adds a kind of abrupt attack to it. We don’t need that much, we want that much. Then to add a tail to it, we increase the release. About here. Then we want to take just a little bit of the highs off. Not too much. So we switch to a low-pass 12dB. And bring the cutoff down to about here. Just a very subtle cutting off of the highs.

Next, to make it even bigger and swirly, we add unison. We want three voices per note. Now, when you do this you have to make sure you have enough voices available because basically, the three voice unison is tripling every note you play and then de-tuning each one. So, if your voice count was way too low, just to show you. See, you’re losing tons of notes.

So, we need to increase ours to the point where we can get all of these notes in. Twenty seems to do the trick. Next, we want to spread our sound and now its covering the whole stereo field. Nice and big. Next we want to detune it more. So, each of these voices detune slightly from the other.

But, we want to do it even more. This kind of makes it more intense. If I really did it, it really starts to get out of tune, so we don’t want to go so far it gets out of tune, but you want to go far enough that you get the kind of intensity you’re looking for. Last, we want to add delay.

We’re going to spread the delays from each other a little more, so you hear that in the left and right channel. You want to increase the number of delays and decrease the feedback. And we don’t want it to be so loud, the delay, so, we bring it down to about there and that’s your sound.

There’s also a bit of reverb on it. I’ll show you what that sounds like. This kind of adds some space around it by increasing it. Its kind of subtle because the delay’s already kind of giving a lot of space, but this just gives it more. And that’s the Big Synth. Now, we have the Synth Bass. This is a real simple synth bass sound. We’re going to be using Tal NoiseMaker, a great free VST/ audio unit synth.

First, I’m going to turn it down a little bit. Oops, too much. About there. Now if I turn the sub oscillator off, all you hear is the main oscillator, which is a saw wave. The sub oscillator is one octave below that and it’s a square wave. That’s where that nice low end is. So, there’s your full waveform sound. Next, we want to add a little bit of tail. Not too much, just a little bit. This prevents it from sounding too abrupt, but also helps it fill up the space.

If there’s some kind of notes trailing off between each note it kind of just fills that low end, which is what this track calls for. Now, we want to set the lowest point of the sound, the roundest part of the sound to here. .43 But we don’t want to start this low and round, we actually want to start bright and work its way down to that.

So, we set the contour to the point where we have to start, and then increase the decay and lower the sustain. So, we bring the sustain down to where the cutoff is, because this where we want the envelope to go and bring the decay up to there.

So, now it starts at the contour and it quickly makes its way down to the cut off. Now, just to make sure that notes that are released early do the same as the decay, we set the release to match decay. So then no matter how you play this patch, really short notes or longer notes, its going to go, the filter’s going to go down from the contour point down to the cutoff point the same way no matter what.

When you use a filter envelope and apply it at this speed, at a really quick decay, instead of hearing the sloping down of the cut off, you’re going to instead almost kind of hear just like a bright attack on the front of the bass sound. That’s kind of what we’re going for. It helps it poke through the mix.

So, with all of the other stuff, Last, there’s kind of a bit of a pitch bend in this. So, we set this all the way so it bends at a full octave and then you can hear it. A at the end of that line. Next, is what I call the Big Noise.

In this track, there’s this sort of noise in the background. This white noise. It’s all over, in the left and right, it’s moving around, and it’s cool because it just fills this sound. It makes it sound like it’s just that more active and big. So, what I’m going to do here, is show you how to make that with a synth. Now right now, Tal NoiseMaker, I’m going to turn it down before I get this going.

Okay, right there. So, now it’s an actual wave form. No sub oscillator and we want to switch this wave form from saw to noise. There you go. Now, that’s the simple sound itself. Now we just need it to sort of drift off. There we go. And we want to get rid of some of the lowness in there because it will fill too much space and make things messy. So, we put on a high pass. In this case, I went with a 24dB high pass.

We obviously don’t want to cut everything out because that would make it nothing. Uh, let’s see here. How low do I want to go? I’ll put it down to about here. And that’s your white noise. It’s the same rhythm as the Big Synth. Hitting at the same time. Next, we want it to be really wide so, we’re going to use a delay widening trick. This is Tal-Dub delay.

Now, right now you can here like, the delays and the tail of it. We don’t want that. Instead, I’m going to show you how to use this just to make the sound wide. So, first things first. Make it wet. A hundred percent wet. We don’t want any damping, we don’t want any resonance.

So, now you really hear those delays. We want to get rid of that. Instead, we’re going to make this manual instead of synced. We’re going to make one channel zero.

So, it’s basically just the noise going through, nothing happening to it. The right one, you want to set, as far as you can without hearing the two separate delays. If you go too small, we don’t want that too far to hear them separate so, we’ll go to about here. Feedback now. This is where it gets tricky. Too low, and you don’t get anything. It gets quieter and quieter and quieter. Too much, whoa, we get a little feedback.

We’ll set it to about here. There you go. Wide noise. Off, it’s in the center, on, and it’s wide. Now last, we want to give it some reverb, so lets turn everything on again. Kind of subtle. Here we go. Here we go. It’s very subtle now. Off. On. I’m going to turn it up so you can really hear it. We don’t want it. It’s more of just a subtle fill in the background. That’s the Big Noise.

All right, last there’s this Bending Noise sound on the fourth beat of every measure. Uh, it could be a sample, but I’m going to show you how to make it from scratch with a synth, a filter, and a flanger. So, start with NoiseMaker and we’re going to turn this down considerably. It’s made with noise, so no sub oscillator and switch this to noise. Very good.

We’re going to add a little bit of attack to it now. I’m gonna to show you how to do that. Bring the sustain down about halfway. Then bring the decay up. So, I don’t know if you could hear that little TSK at the front of it. If I bring the sustain down you can really hear it.

So, it has a little attack on the front of it. We don’t want that much, we just want this much. Now, we’re going to take off some of the highs and lows with the band pass, set it up to about halfway point, good that shapes it. Resonance will shape it even more, give it some kind of mids, make it bite a little bit more. There it is. It makes it kind of cut through. We want to cut off some more lows, just a little bit more subtle cutting to help it really bite through the mix.

So, another high pass and set the high pass to about here. Yeah, it gives it just a little bit of more of edge. And then the flanger is what makes it swirl and bend. This is a stereo flanger. All we need is mono though so it stays in the center. So we send the spread to zero, the gain to zero so it doesn’t make it quieter or louder.

The delay is the most effective part. Right now, if we reduce it, we get less to the grainy metallic-ness and we get more swirl and sweep. Yeah, there we go. Depth, we want it to go really high and really low, so it’s an extreme flanger. So, we bring that depth up. There we go.

And then lastly, we slow it down just a tiny bit. And that, is your Bending Noise. Now, with everything else in. Now, turn it up for a second. I’m going to give it some reverb. Helps it sit in the mix a little bit. I’ll be turning it back down. And that’s the Bending Noise.

Thanks for watchin’! Click the link at the top of the video to download all the stuff you need to make this at home, and check out Syntorial while you’re there.