Randomization – part two

So last time I looked at replacements for Stochastik, that is to say drum sequencers that apply dynamic randomization so that a pattern has random elements that change with probability for each iteration of the pattern as it is running… Er – or “mixy uppy drummy thing” if you like.

This time I am looking at the topic of Randomly Generated Patches in synths, press the button and see what sounds you get. When this is done well it is awesome, when this isn’t done well it is still frequently useful.

I suppose there are a few approaches to sound design:

  • Made to order from scratch: I am sure that some people can ‘hear’ the sound they want to produce and know enough synthesis to start from a init patch, add a bit of this, tweak that, build the envelopes and LFOs etc and construct exactly the sound they had in their head.
  • Tweak a preset to create the exact sound: if you have an idea of the sort of sound you want, a slowly evolving pad with a very long attack and a good deal of morphing texture in it for example, then you can fire up a synth, find a sound with many of the right attributes, and hone it to your exact tone.
  • Tweak a preset and see what happens: wander through the presets, find a sound you like, poke buttons and switches to make it sufficiently different from the original and something new.
  • Randomize: either blindly setting values and hoping for the best, or using a built in random function and using the generated result, or polishing the random patch to something you can use.

There are a lot of apps that allow you to generate a sound randomly, I cannot hope to list them all, but here is a rundown of the ones I know:

Great randomizer this one with smart patch building algorithms so the results are usable – you can select the type of sound you want to create (pad/bass/lead/strange) with or without Arps, click Spawn and see what happens – often something really good, or at least inspiring, a tweak here and there and you have a new patch. If you are not sure what you want click “Surprise me” and get something completely random. Great way to while away a few hours and build up impressive banks of usable sounds. Under all of this is a very smart algorithm to guide the process so that the random sounds are not just noise, but useable sounds.


Not sure if I should really include this one – the dice icon on the front page randomizes just the two waves and filters, so the trick here is to find a preset in the right ballpark in terms of envelope/feel and then hit the dice to change the waves/filters and get a new patch. Addictive also has great Arp randomization but I will discuss that at a later date.


Irritatingly hidden under menus Sunrizer has a “Randomize everything” option under Utils>Synth Options – the results vary but I have had some amazing sounds out of this. Sunrizer can still blow me away with the depth and power of its sounds…


Cube is Addictive all grown up – instead of 2 waves and 2 filters we now have four of each with a bunch of other stuff and then the ability to morph between the four waveforms in pretty much any way you can think of. There is, I believe, a smart algorithm (like Magellan’s) that guides the app to make decent choices. Some of the results are amazing, some are not. I recently based a track around a random Cube patch I had created randomly that came out as a drum line with a bass. This was thanks to an extremely complex envelope/morph path and a synth that had three “noise” corners and one bass sound corner on the synth. That was quite astonishing. Another “lose a few hours” activity…

(CLICK THE DICE!! GO ON!!)20131231-102756.jpg

PPG Wavegenerator
Wavegenerator allows you to select/create a wavetable and then you can randomize the other parameters – The results are very varied and sometimes makes we wonder why we bother having more than one wavetable at all! Anyway – this is a good way for people like me who spent money on wavegenerator, but cannot stand/understand the UI, to get our money’s worth. Use in conjunction with the draw-your-own wavetable function and it really feels like you are getting somewhere!


PPG Wavemapper
Interesting one this and one I have used extensively. Wavemapper allows you to throw a bunch of synthy options (envelope, waveform, amplitude etc) and put them on a grid of er, other options – wavetables, paths, noise, vibrato etc and that makes a patch. If you have one of these patches open you can click the randomize button and it will shuffle all of the icons you have in the patch on the board of options that are available. Good thing to do here is pick a preset that has a lot of options and then start randomizing – I used this one a load last February for FAWM and it inspired a number of tracks. Because the randomization will only re-arrange the icons on the board on the options on the board choosing one preset and randomizing it will produce completely different results to picking another preset and randomizing it, also if you hit a rich vein of usable patches from a given preset you can just change a few board items and hit random again for new alternatives.





Crystal Synth
The results of the random patch generation for Crystal can be a bit out there – which can be good, or just unusable. The Randomization section looks like a sinister experiment in genetic engineering – There are a couple of options with Crystal Synth – if you leave the Mother/Father dropdowns unpopulated then you will get a randomly generated patch, alternatively you can choose parents for your new patch and it will pick up “genes” from each resulting in a randomized hybrid of the two parent patches.


Synth Patch breeding scheme…

I should mention Turnado as I think of it more as part of my synths than as a separate FX unit – if I have a sound or a groove and I want to create something completely new I sometimes fire up Audiobus and Turnado and hit Random a few times – results can vary from useless to bizarre, but often inspiring or interesting things can happen….


Just a mention here for SeekBeats as it has at it’s core a sound randomization feature where you can randomize one or more (or all) of the sounds Because each voice in SeekBeats is a 2 oscillator subtractive synth with a noise generator and multiple envelopes/parameters/filters etc the results are often not very “Drummy” – in fact they tend to be more on the bleepy bloopy side of the spectrum, however if you freeze the voices you like and randomize the rest, just a little bit, it can add some real interest to the sounds you are creating.


Impaktor – this has a total patch randomizer too – and I had forgotten about it – and I just lost 45 minutes playing about with it. I always think Impaktor is an amazing app anyway but sitting with my headphones on desktop drumming and hitting “Rand” every now and then is pure fun.


Next time I want to look at apps that allow you to generate a random pattern. As you generate the pattern ahead of playing it (or manually while it is playing) I will refer to this as Static Randomization (as opposed to the Dynamic Randomization that I covered last time).