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How do you go about adding expression to the sounds you create? For those making beats, is it simply a matter of performance over patch creation, or do the two go hand-in-hand? That’s what we’re here to discuss. For many years amateur patch makers have even found their way into commercial libraries. This just goes to show you how far music instrument companies are looking to beef up their products with quality patches and new sounds. Most of this is just a marketing ploy, and unfortunately us music producers are the ones that have to go through hundreds of sounds to find a few usable ones.

Now that we know the value in programming our own patches and synthesis models for making hip hop beats, we need to be able to create sounds that are expressive. This is especially important if you are good on the keyboard or not. For the good players, having expression options for their sounds adds another layer to their performance. And for the weaker keyboardists, playing with a sound but being able to modify it with variation while only being able to press a few notes at a time creates confidence and makes for a deceivingly confident performance all the same.

The easiest way to add expression to a sound is to assign synthesis parameters to physical knobs, faders and keys on your hardware. You can use the actual keys of your keyboard as triggers by assigning polyphonic aftertouch, which modifies the sound after the key is released fully. Some of the parameters constantly associated with the aftertouch action is cutoff frequency on sustained notes and chords, and filters, envelopes and oscillators and associated effects.

This type of fingertip control is often sought-after by famous artists who perform live. It just gives the sound another edge to it.

Choose carefully the things you assign to the mod wheel and (if available) pitch wheel.  Some keyboards combine these two parameters and you want the mod wheel to not interfere with the pitch controls on these keyboards.

Common things associated with the mod wheel are vibrato-type effects that allow for a wah-wah modification without pedals. Be sure to use LFO modifying envelopes for this type of effect. Experimenting with these expressive controls can be extremely addictive and it can even make you a better keyboard player. You will make sounds that are delightful to play and won’t want to leave your keyboard, believe me. I’ve been there! Certain effects can also be routed to knobs. For instance, reverb is a tough one to get right but a right balance can be achieved and the reward is huge. Some patches work with it, and some don’t. Experimentation is key.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 at 7:10 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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