Synth Tutorial: Clean Bandit “Rather Be”


Watch Joe Hanley, the creator of Syntorial, as he recreates the featured synth patch from Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be”. Video includes valuable info on finishing a synth patch, and making a simple sound interesting. Don’t forget to download the presets and MIDI files. Software and plugins used:


Today we’re gonna be covering how to recreate the main synth patch from Clean Bandit’s Rather Be. Now this is, in and of itself a pretty simple patch, but it’s a great lesson on how to take something very simple and plain and make it interesting, which is important for a sort of a featured sound. In this track, it’s by itself at one point, or it’s just this in the vocal. So it needs to be interesting when you’re using it as kind of a featured sound. And this is a great lesson on how to take something plain and make it interesting.

Before we get to it, I just wanna quickly tell you about Syntorial. Syntorial is video game like training software, that’ll teach you how to program synth patches by ear. I designed it to give you the skills that I’m using in this video. I’m taking a sound that I hear in my head or a sound that I hear on a track and recreate it.

Now it does this by combining demonstration videos with interactive challenges in which you program patches on a built-in soft synth. And you can try for free just click the link that’s popping up on your screen now it’ll take you to our site where you can download the free demo.

So Rather Be, here’s the patch. Simple but it’s really playable and there’s a lot of details in there that make it interesting. So first thing I’m gonna do is just get rid of everything but the synth.

I’m using synth one and you can download these plugins -they’re all free plugins. You can download them from links that’ll pop up on the screen every time I open them. And we’re gonna start by initializing the synth. Now I created an initialized patch, and you can download that initialized patch along with all the presets used in this tutorial, by clicking the link that’s popping up on your screen now.

It’ll take you to our tutorial page on syntorial site and you can download all that stuff there along with the MIDI file. So if you’re curious on what the notes are here and how it’s played, you can use the MIDI file to look at that in detail. So after you install initialized patch, you can select it here. And now it sounds like this, Ops! Sorry. I’ve to go away from it there we go.

So it’s just a plain saw we’re already in poly mode. So we’ve got a bunch of voices more than enough. So we’re gonna switch to a sine wave and we’re almost all the way there. Now there’s a couple little tweaks I gotta do to the amp envelope.

I wanna take our sustain and set it to zero ’cause we want the sound to disappear to cut off no matter if we’re holding a key or playing it short, always want a short note for this one. So now we have this. it’s a little too short. So I’m gonna increase the decay and release just a tiny bit.

You know, ’cause the interesting thing is release is obvious, just how long it rings out for, but in this sort of short intervals, these little tweaks can make the difference between a full sound and a small sound. Just by extending that a little bit, we get a little bit more body, a little more length and just gives our sound a little bit more fullness.

So here’s our basic patch. You’d be fine to just use that. It’s very playable. It sounds nice. But again, you wanna make it interesting. You get this has to have something to it. If it’s gonna be a featured patch. So they do a number of things here.

The first one is they use an LFO to make it sound sort of slightly out-of-tune, sort of unstable almost like when you hear a record player, when the there’s a little glitch in the record and you hear everything like go down in pitch and back up. We wanna give it that sort of unstable wobble. So we activate the LFO and we wanna route it to oscillator one’s pitch, which it already is. So here’s oscillator one and two. That’s fine we’re not using two.

And then when you increase our amount just a little bit, if we overdo it it’s going to sound too crazy. Like obviously that’s way too much. So we wanna do something subtle. We wanna be able to hear the pitch change, but we still want to hear the notes.

And then we wanna slow down a bit ’cause right now it sounds a little too erratic. So now let’s compare LFO off. and on. So we’ve given it personality with this. We’ve taken something plain and simple that’s nothing to write home about and we’ve given it a little bit of personality by making the pitch a little unstable.

Next we wanna kind of give it some attitude. We wanna add some variation to it. And we’re gonna use overdrive for that. Now there’s a lot of overdrive distortion wave shaping plugins, free ones out there. But the ones I currently were using, I didn’t like. A lot of them give this sort of along with the crunch they also had this trashy white noise onto it, which I never really liked. So I went searching again for one and I found this one I really like called TubeDriver made by Nick Crow lab.

And it gives you that nice warm distortion that crunch without adding that papery trash onto it. So just by default it kind of sounds nice. It’s subtle but it’s a nice little, just subtle warming and subtle distortion. But we’re gonna tweak it a little bit here. Now I’m gonna turn this off for a second. One thing I forgot to mention.

You can notice that every time a notes played, you hear a little “tt”, little popping noise. Just little “tt”. Now this happens a lot with synths when they’re playing sine waves at the beginning of each note, you hear that little attack transient.

Now oftentimes you can get rid of it just by increasing the amp attack just a little bit, but in their case they liked it so they kept it in and they used it as the attack transient. We wanna actually increase it. We wanna make it louder. So all we gotta do is brighten the high end and TubeDriver got an EQ built into it, a high shelf. So we’re gonna turn this on. We’re gonna use one kilohertz range. We really wanna brighten a lot of the high end and watch listen to the popping sound as I turn this up.

Now since we increased the volume of the high end of this so much, it pushed the drive even more. So we got more crunch, more distortion. But we want it even more. So we’re gonna increase the drive knob a little bit. You can hear it especially with the chords, when you play more notes, the more signal you’re pushing into the overdrive. So you’re gonna get a little bit more distortion.

Now we also had too much volume, so we’re clipping so we’re gonna back off on the volume here. A lot of times when you add drive, you get an increase in volume so you can just compensate the volume now.

The last thing we have is this bias knob. Now the best way to learn what this is doing is to test the extremes. In fact, if you’re curious about what a knob or a button or whatever does the best thing you can do to figure out what it’s doing to your sound is always test the extremes, turn it all the way up, turn it all the way down and you’ll hear the differences and what this thing’s actually doing.

So let’s turn it all the way left. So almost gives it kind of like a steel drum, sort of metallic tone. All the way right basically that disappears. We get a much more pure overdrive sound with bias all the way up. And that’s what we want with this one.

Now this steel drum effect that’d be cool if you wanted to add some personality. But we already got some personality with that LFO wobble. So we’re gonna turn the Bias all the way up to get a nice, pure, clean overdrive. Without. So it’s sort of clean, Unassuming.

So this is nice, it brings it forward makes it a little more aggressive, gets us some attitude. And now when you play chords it’s a little crunchy, single notes it’s a little clean. It’s just a variation in the sound.

Next we’re gonna take some of the bulk out of this. It’s a little frumpy with EQ you can use any EQ you want. I went with 711 Hertz, negative 5.16 dB. And then when I cut, I like to narrow the cut little bit so I increased the Q to about here.

So let’s compare off, on, So just remove some of that frump. Now that’s an aesthetic choice. And for all I know the mixing engineer could have done that ’cause maybe it was interfering with the vocal who knows, but I’m just trying to imitate that patch as much as possible. And I like it. We take out some of that frump it cleans it up, it lanes it up a little bit, but it doesn’t take away too much body or bottom end.

And then last we wanna give this patch some life. So we’re gonna use reverb for that. I’m gonna use this free ambience plugin and by default the dry is all the way zero. So we’re just getting wet. So let’s bring our dry back to 100% and we don’t want this wet. Ops! Right now it’s extremely wet. So we’re gonna bring it down to about half for now later on we’re gonna bring it down even further, but I’m gonna leave it up here so you can hear what’s going on.

So first I wanna make it longer. I want that reverb to ring out a bit longer. And then I wanna shrink the room a little bit, just to make just the overall size of the reverb a little bit smaller. Then we want it all the way spread left and right. Really take advantage of our stereo field with this one. If you’re wearing headphones you can hear the difference now it’s nice and wide.

And then this reverb there’s a lot of space in it. It’s taking up tons of our mix and there’s a lot of bottom muddy washy end. So we wanna cut that out with an EQ and this reverb’s got an EQ built into it. So the first thing I’m gonna do is just bring our low-shelf cut all the way down. That helps but we wanna cut even more. So I’m gonna increase the frequency so we’re cutting more, more of the low end. There we go.

I’m gonna compare the difference between lowshelf cut with and without. That “oooh” that like low end is gone now. it’s much more cleaner sounding, but we still get the nice big room around it. Now we want this to be much more subtle. So we’re gonna bring our wet gain way down.

So let’s compare off. on. So it’s subtle but it brings it to life. ‘Cause since synths, particularly soft synths, any synth you’re plugging directly in, there’s no room around them. There’s no size around them. They’re like these very sterile sounds. When you add a little bit of reverb, even just a tiny bit like this or delay, it suddenly puts space around it. It adds life to it.

So LFO gives a personality, the drive gives it some attitude and variation, and the reverb gives us some life. And that’s it. Thanks for watching.