Synthwave from Scratch 

Thanks to peer pressure from the internet from an idea I didn't fully think through, I will be making a synthwave track from "scratch". No DAW, using open source DSP aglorithms in C, with some embedded scripting languages on top. I'll be submitting a version of this for the . I'll do a blog series about it after the fact. I will post the rambles here.

So, I wasn't actually sure what "synthwave" was, so I did some listening, found some reference tracks I liked, and started building some initial sounds. Featured here are some initial drum and bass sounds.

Everything is synthesized! More details on the instruments to follow...

Synthwave from Scratch 

Initially, I was just going to use drum samples. But I got frustrated trying to find one I liked, so I gave up and just ended up synthesizing them.

The kick is a sine with exponential frequency mapping. There's a tiny bit of phase distortion synthesis happening to add some grit but it's hardly doing anything. I also added a little click to try and better match the kick in the reference track I'm using.

The snare is enveloped white noise put through some tuned EQs for coloring. And yes, there is gated reverb on the snare. You can't not do that when it's 1986. I had to fiddle a lot with this one to get the tail and body to match the reference recording. I'm still not entirely happy, but I think it's close? The snare is without a doubt the most important part of this newwave/synthwave sound.

Hihats in these mixes are tiny! I ended up with another enveloped white noise instrument, but put through a high pass filter.


Synthwave from Scratch 

The bass is a pulsating subtractive 3osc supersaw, which I've put through a chorus too. It's not my favorite sound, but it works well enough for the period. It also complies with the "wavetable synths only" rule for the LMC. For the blog series, I may replace this bass entirely with an FM bass, which has a more interesting timbre AND works well for the time period.

I'm using a bandlimited saw at the moment, which I'll need to replace with a real wavetable oscillator before submitting. I'm also planning on swapping out the lowpass filter too.

I'm ducking the bass out every time the kick triggers using an envelope generator (copy of kick trigger signal), which is an effect typically achieved with sidechain compression. This way is simpler and gives you better control.

btw, I'm not going for any specific hardware emulation. Just a particular feel and vibe. That seems to be what this genre is all about anyways. 80s feel and vibe, with some 21st century polish.

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