Synth Tutorial: Creating a Two-Tiered Mod Wheel in Serum


Watch Joe Hanley, the creator of Syntorial, as he demonstrates making a two-tiered Mod Wheel in Serum. In this excerpt from the Serum Lesson Pack, you’ll learn how to set up the Mod Wheel to activate one type of modulation with its bottom half and another modulation with its top half.

Get 4 more Serum videos for free via the Syntorial Demo.


In this video, I’m gonna show you how to make a two-tiered mod wheel in Serum. What I mean by that is a mod wheel whose bottom half activates one modulation and then the top half activates another. To learn about this, we’ll go over modulation curves as well as the modulation auxiliary source.

Now, this video is actually an excerpt from the Serum Lesson Pack for Syntorial. Syntorial is a synthesizer training app that teaches you how to program synth patches by ear. It does this by combining video demonstrations with interactive challenges in which you program patches on a build-in soft synth.

The Serum Lesson Pack adds 55 videos that show you how to take everything you learn in Syntorial and apply it to Serum, as well as covering all of the many additional features that Serum has to offer. And you can get the first four videos from the Serum Lesson Pack for free by going to, clicking Try for Free, and downloading the Syntorial Demo for Mac, PC, or iPad.

This has the first 22 Syntorial lessons but also the first four videos from the Serum Lesson Pack. Once you download Syntorial, just go into this dropdown, download lesson packs, and you’ll see the Serum Lesson Pack at the top. Just click the Download button. We also have lesson packs for Massive, Sylenth, and a couple others, and like I said, the demo will have the first four or five videos from each of these packs. When you buy Syntorial, all of the packs and all their videos are included. All right, on to the excerpt.

And then you’ve got these curve boxes. So, what the curve does is it makes the source focus more of its time in the top or the bottom of its modulation range. So, for example, let’s say I were to route LFO. Now, if I curve this up, what I end up doing is kind of swaying it to the top of the range, so now it’s gonna spend more of its time near the top. You see how it’s hangin’ out up here and just shooting down and back up? What if I do the opposite? Now I’ve pushed it down to the bottom.

It’s spending more of its time down at the bottom and just shoots up and down from the top. This curve is also good for the mod wheel, so let’s say I route our mod to cutoff and I’ll do it for resonance, too. So, maybe I wanna be able to move slower through this lower range; like most of my mod wheel work, I kinda want it to be here, and then have the option to shoot up to the top when I need to.

Well, curve to the rescue. Now I can move the mod wheel pretty drastically and the cutoff, you know, it stays in this lower area. But I have that option, once in a while I can grab a high value. And if I do it real extreme, all the way up, now when it’s all the way down, I’m good. All I have to do is barely move it up and it flicks to the top. So, it turns your mod wheel into an on/off switch.

Next, LFO amount. So, there is no LFO amount now, right? There is no modulation amount knobs. The modulation amount is always done on the destination itself, right? So, what we need to do is modulate this amount setting, but you can’t just drag a source to these little knobs. Instead, we go into the matrix, we see our current LFO modulating cutoff setup, we go into this section here, auxiliary source.

Whatever is set as the source here will now control the amount here, so if my mod wheel’s all the way down I have zero amount, no modulation, but as I turn my mod wheel up it’s gonna increase the mod amount up to this point. This is a nice design, ’cause now you can modulate any modulation amount set here by setting your auxiliary source over here.

Now, this curve box over here, it’s the same, but it works on the auxiliary source. Again, this is great for the mod wheel. Let’s say I’ve got a vibrato thing. And I route my mod wheel here, so now well, I can curve it. Maybe I want to just flick it on. Let me give it a little bit more.

Let’s look at an example, an interesting example of this in use, actually, So these two rows right here I find interesting. Our mod wheel’s controlling our LFO amount and this mod wheel’s also controlling this LFO amount, but there are two different destinations; one’s to master tune and one’s to noise level, and they have opposite curves to the mod wheel.

What this means is when I turn my mod wheel up just a little bit, this curve is gonna jump up. So, right away I’m gonna kinda get close to my max noise, and you’re gonna hear the noise kick in. Right around there, you hear the kind of hhhhg But this is curved in the opposite way. So, this small amount will barely create this vibrato, this LFO master tune.

As I push the mod wheel higher, then you’ll start to hear that kick in. So, it’s kind of a multi-layered mod wheel; push it up a little bit for noise, a little bit more for vibrato.

To see the rest of this video and the 54 other Serum videos, you’ll need the Serum Lesson Pack for Syntorial, but again, you can get the first four videos for free if you download the Syntorial demo here and then in Syntorial, go to Download Lesson Packs, and download the Serum Lesson Pack.