Hi Everyone, Julien from Mntra here. I take care of putting together the presets for most of our instruments. I wanted to share with you some tips and tricks as well as our design-philosophy for creating presets.
For this example, I'll be using ARCA; our latest sound sculpture instrument.
You may have noticed by now that many of the presets share common parameter type controls. When it comes to presets, our in-house sound designers tend to follow set guidelines on how to configure the X, Y and Z axis for maximum expressibility and ease of use. While these guidelines work very well for just about any preset, these are by no means rules that you must follow. In fact, you may have noticed some presets under the "Experimental" category sometimes don't follow any of these rules. We encourage you to tweak, patch and experiment to your hearts content. Generally speaking, the axis follow these rules:
X - Contrast , timbral variety, interval change, texture. The X axis is usually meant to serve as an instrument blend offering new tonal, timbral and textural variety.
Y - Intensity, amplitude, overdrive. The Y axis is nearly always configured to be the primary volume control for a preset. The Y axis is also sometimes used to blend between different dynamics of the same sample map, or to blend a more distorted / saturated version of the sample map.
Z - FX. Within MNDALA, the Z Axis is used strictly to control the FX section of the engine. This includes filters, tremolo, delay and convolution and algorithmic reverbs.
First, to start from a clean slate, I use the Init preset. Every sound sculpture instrument comes with an Init preset, which is meant to be used as a jumping off point. Next, I'll choose what kind of sound I want to work with. I want to combine both natural acoustic strings with some spicy, processed sounds. I'll use the MF String trio as my base acoustic sound. Once the Y Axis reaches a certain point, I'd like the string trio to become more aggressive. To do this, I divide the Y Axis table into two, so that as the Y axis rises, the MF String trio fades and the F string trio in sampler 2 takes its place. I've also added a little more gain for the forte articulation to compensate for the equal dB levels of both sample maps.
I want the un-processed string trio to be one extreme of my X Axis, and the effected, processed strings to be at the other extreme, offering textural contrast. Ill separate the X axis gain table into two, to create a seamless blend with effected and unaffected sounds.
I'll start with the hive synth sample map. While the Hive Synth is interesting in itself, I'd like the other side of the X axis to reflect the unprocessed strings on the Y axis; having a similar rise in intensity or change in dynamic. Since Arca does not offer multiple dynamics for it's processed sounds, I've opted for the next best thing: an even crazier sound!
I'll use the Digital Scramble Scratch sample map for it's aggressive glissandi-style articulation and granular-like distortion. I do the same envelope shapes as the string trio and test it. I find the blend between the hive synth and digital scramble could be a little smoother. I'm not too happy with how they blend with each other. To rectify this, I enlarge both envelopes using the zoom in button at the bottom of the table to further tweak the envelopes.
Much better! Now I test how the Y axis feels as well as the X axis blend. I feel that the unprocessed sounds are missing something....Perhaps an octave blend? I'll add a second MF string trio and have it fade in at the very cusp of the Y Axis. Time to move to the sampler page!
In the sampler page, I pitch the second string trio MF up an octave and adjust the EQ so as to augment the range where the octave is most sound. While I'm at it, I'll also adjust the velocity envelopes. I want the String trio to be very dynamic in response to my MIDI keyboard, so I'll give the velocity tables a more curved-like shape. As for the processed sounds, they feel a little awkward if triggered at too low of a velocity. To remedy this, I change the velocity shapes to hit -9.5 dB at their lowest. Now, I'll set the AHDSR's. Since I want everything to start and end the same, I'll chain all the sampler's envelope's by clicking the link button.
All right! Now for the Z Axis! I know that I want to use some kind of choppy tremolo. I set the tremolo table to a linear curve and set the LFO to a triangle shape in tempo-sync mode. I try it out and it feels like it's missing something. I add a delay and play around with the shapes a little more. I set the delay to tempo sync mode with the left repeating at 1/8th and the right 1/8th in triplets. I set the curve of the tremolo to be more steep, to have it be more audible towards the end of the Z axis sweep, while the delay will be a steady, almost linear climb.
Ah, much better! I've tested out the preset and tried out each axis. I'll just adjust the X Axis blend to make it a little smoother. Now everything feels good! I'll save the preset and give it a name. I want to call the preset something that reflects the variety of blend-able voices. I'll call it Chimera, after the monster in greek mythology that is equal parts snake, lion and goat...sounds fitting!
Here's the preset file. Feel free to download and place it in your preset folder.
- Julien Levesque