Well, now that the early ’90s sound is back and in full
effect, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the synth patches of that
era. While analog tones are a huge part of that period of music
production, it’s important to remember that it was also the peak of the
digital age, with synths like the Korg M1 and Roland D-50 dominating
house and techno music.
In addition to these early sample-based synths, FM
synthesis was still firmly entrenched in dance music production.
Notably, Yamaha's affordable TX-81Z, which featured one of the most
popular bass patches of the day, “Lately Bass,” which was featured
prominently in Orbital’s legendary “Halcyon and On.”
This month, we’ll delve into the essentials of creating FM
bass patches using Ableton’s Operator—so you can stay ahead of the
curve, while the rest of the kids are still are still getting the hang
Starting with Operator’s default patch, extend the release
time of oscillator 1 to 80 milliseconds to eliminate any clicking.
Then, keeping the 1:1 coarse tuning ratio, increase the level of FM from
oscillator 2 to about 60 to 70 percent.
Next, to get that classic FM attack, adjust oscillator 2’s
modulator envelope so that it has an immediate attack, short decay,
zero sustain, and short release.
Fine-tune the sound by tinkering with oscillator 2’s level
and its envelope decay time. From there, try using different coarse
tunings for oscillator 2, since alternate ratios can dramatically affect
the overall character of this patch.