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Recreating steel drum style synth sound

Nov 10 2012 | 3:43 pm

this synth is really odd, it sounds like a steel drum with some reverb. what synth settings would I need to recreate this?

also, what are the tricks to getting different sounds out of saw~ and rect~, apart from using reverb, delay or tuning the oscillators differently?


Nov 10 2012 | 4:45 pm

Not sure which part of what your talking about is steel drum like. (the bendy guitar-ish sounding bit?)

Synthesis is a whole big monster of a subject, and you can do a ton with just a couple of objects (additive synthesis, FM synthesis, subtractive synthesis(?), etc…)

I personally never bother with trying to create synthesized sounds in max, as there’s sooooo many softsynths out there that it seems all but pointless.

Nov 10 2012 | 5:42 pm

really? You never build your own synths in max? I don’t find it pointless at all if you want something very specific.
Besides that one learns a lot and finds things that one wouldn’t have encountered when one wouldn’t have bothered to build a synth oneself.
I just wanted to say i do recommend building synths in max. it’s fun!

Nov 10 2012 | 6:22 pm

Heh yeah never. Well I have a couple sections in my patch which are super simple synths, but for me, synthesis isn’t an interest (in Max). I’m all about the sampling/processing of stuff, so all my energies have gone there.

Nov 10 2012 | 7:44 pm

How does a sound evolve? What is the impulse or exciter? What is the nature of the resonator? Two names always mentioned in this context are Perry Cook – PeRColate external – and Dave Bessel – MetalWood.

I’m surprised to hear Rodrigo say he’s not made much use of synthesis per se. Is live processing not a form of synthesis? I’ll not get [more] pedantic but the little I’ve heard of Rodrigo’s unique soundworlds use synthesis processes, no?
Woyteg has posed an interesting question too.

Tired and emotional on sat nite.


Nov 10 2012 | 7:49 pm


Guesswork would lead me first to FM synthesis, for those enharmonic overtones, and then to AM, for more intuitive control. Both methods immediately mentioned by Rodrigo : )

Nov 10 2012 | 11:03 pm

Nope, no ‘real’ synthesis. As mentioned there is a small part of my main patch (the party van) which has some super basic sinetone/fm type stuff, but I rarely use it.
I do use some hardware/oddball synths (ciat-lonbarde stuff), but I’ve found when trying to make synth stuff from scratch, that unless you know a tremendous amount, it sounds quite flat and uninteresting (this extends all the way up to full on hardware soft synths. And it’s not because I think analog is the ‘real deal’, it’s more the complexity and nonlinearities required to make for an (in my opinion) interesting synth sound are way beyond my knowledge.

Nov 10 2012 | 11:40 pm

I have an old DX synth. It’s digital, and I’ve recreated the algorithms in MaxMSP. Not the same. Je n’est ce qua. I believe the Yamaha is just noisier : P

Maybe OP should search here for Bell/Bar synthesis?

Nov 11 2012 | 1:44 pm

I imagine it’s very difficult to recreate a synth sound exactly. I just wish those sound on sound synth secrets tutorials were more compatible with Max as they have some great tutorials but I find implementing them in Max is difficult.

I have however managed to get some cool synth sounds from max msp. the synth sounds i got with ableton are not my cup of tea.

I would go with what rodrigo said though. Unless you know all the tiny intricacies of synth building you won’t get a fully professional sound which is a little disheartening. my synth patches are always a little mickey mouse. can’t afford a decent synth though.

ah well, back to the sound on sound tutorials I go.

Nov 11 2012 | 3:10 pm

I’d like to see your efforts in transferring the SOS algos into Max. I recently had some success with Gordon’s article on string modelling.


Nov 11 2012 | 4:29 pm

….in fact, if you have PeRColate, the [bowedbar~] and [vibraphone~] helpfile examples sound like they could get you close to a steel drum. If you grab a soundfile example of a steel drum that would also help.

Nov 12 2012 | 2:46 am

If you’re referring to the tones in the background I think you’re looking for something like
If you actually do want steel drums try Modal synthesis

Nov 12 2012 | 3:56 pm

I don’t hear the steel drum in the recording that was posted. I think it’s just electric guitar, if it’s the repeated tones that OP is referring to. However, if you’re looking for a steel drum-ish sound, try FM first, since it’s simple, cheap, and requires no externals. (nothing against the others, just they may be a lot more effort and if you’re not going for an exact steel drum…)

You could run two simpleFM~ in parallel, the first one is for the metallic element, and should die out very quickly. Try a harmonicity ratio of 1.6-1.8. For the second, you might try something like 5; I seem to recall the vibraphone having a prominent 5th harmonic, but YMMV.

Nov 14 2012 | 11:33 pm

Maybe he’s hearing the Ondes Martenot?

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