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MetaSynth tips

Below, Helge Krabye will share MetaSynth tips. - He has organized each tutorial into a project. Each project contains instructions with images as well as preset libraries and input sounds. Some of the downloadable preset libraries and sounds have been compressed into Stuffit files, so be sure to install the latest version of Stuffit Expander. You will then be able to generate the output sounds yourself. - Select the project below, load MetaSynth on your Mac - and enjoy!

Creative Commons LicenseYou are allowed to download the files below and use them to remix or create you own musical composition under this Creative Commons license.

tutorial projects

One Drop (is enough)

"One Drop (is enough)"

Is it possible to create a musical piece with only one small sound source - like a single drop of water? Since the greatest rivers, waterfalls and oceans are nothing but collections of single water drops (and some fish and plants...), I allowed myself to use only this single sound. All variations (children) have been developed by manipulating this sample (mother) in the Image Synth, Effects window and Filter window in MetaSynth.

• Listen to the drop sound:


One drop (is enough) by Homeless Balloon 

• Click here to download a zipped file of the one drop sample as well as a bank of MetaSynth presets. The One Drop musical piece was composed by using a variation of sounds generated by these presets. Other sounds were created by manipulating the sounds in various ways in the Effects Room. Note: This MetaSynth preset bank requires MetaSynth 5.0 or later.

• If you want to test MetaSynth, go here and click on the "Software" link and then "MetaSynth", and you may download a fully working demo version. We highly recommend that you purchase the full version of MetaSynth. Is a stunning piece of software that is capable of creating sounds and musical effects never heard before!

Recording the sample
I started off by trying to record a drop falling into a glass bowl full of water. I soon found out that the neighbor's dog was disturbing my recording - or was it my own breath? A single drop of water doesn't make much sound, even if I use a sensitive condenser microphone. After turning up the mic pre amp, holding my breath and hoping that the neighborhood dog had fallen asleep, I was able to catch one perfect drop - with a little reverbration tale to give it personality.

Creating new sounds in the Image Synth
I loaded the drop sample into MetaSynth, and played around with it in the Image synth window. By painting several thin, horizontal lines and using only the drop sample as input, I discovered how I could create percussive sounds, sustained sounds and distorted sounds. I like to work with micro scales, because they make it possible to create frequencies between the ordinary notes in a traditional scale. I could now get interesting harmonics (adding more horizontal lines), chorus effects (making my lines thicker or very close to each other), percussive effects (using the Pulse tool to cut the lines in short pieces, see below), controlling the attack (by fading in the lines), and more. I could also fatten up some sounds by painting a new line one octave below the fundamental frequency (the shortest way to do this is by marking the line with the select tool and holding down the Option key while clicking on the octave down arrow).

This is basically how I created the different versions of my drop sample. I would ad panning information by either painting over the image with colored brushes, or by using filters (in the Image Synth window) with color information. - When you are learning to use MetaSynth, you will not keep your head between the covers of a book or manual - you will experiment, look at the screen and listen!

Creating rhythmic patterns
There are several ways to control the tempo when making rhythmic patterns in MetaSynth. I started with the Image Synth:

If you click and hold down the mouse over the little watch on top of the Image Synth, you can adjust how long it will the take the Image Synth to play the whole image from left to right. If you hold down the Option (alt) key while clicking, you will see the beats pr. minute. Example: If you set the speed to 120 bpm, create a horizontal line, set the grid to 64 and click on the Pulse button (on the tool bar to the right), your line will be chopped into pieces starting each second. By setting the tempo to 240, 60, 40, 80 or a similar number, you can create slower or faster patterns in sync with your other patterns. - I did this with my original drop sample as input, but also with my second or third generation samples. In the mixing process, I had fun adding several rhythmic patterns with different time signatures, but which still played in sync. If you choose to paint your rhythmic components in the Image Synth, you should first add a blue grid (by clicking on the little blue symbol on top of the window). The grid will not affect the playback, it is only a visual guide. How the grid will look, depends on your grid setting. You can listen to the pitch of your tone by holding down the Ctrl key when you click on the screen. And then, just paint and listen! You can also create rhythmic patterns and effects in the Effects window. The Shuffle button will reorganize the content in your sample and play it back depending on your settings. The Grain button will take time slices of your audio and play it back in a different order. The Stretch button is very interesting, because you can turn a short sound into a long one, with interesting results. In combination with the Inertia button (which sustains certain frequencies), I used stretch to get the long synth-sounds out of my original short sample. (The sound becomes kind of "metallic", so if you want warm synth sounds, it is better to let the Wave Table generate the sound input.)

Composing and mixing
Because I am using ProTools both for composing and mixing, I imported all my sounds into ProTools, created six stereo tracks and started placing my sounds on the tracks. I could also have used MetaTrack (from U&I Software) for this job, but personally I like the amount of control over levels etc. that I have in an audio sequencer like ProTools. When I compose, however, I try not to have too much control. I just choose the sounds which inspire me most in that moment, place them on a track and listen. This may result in a short sequence from ten to thirty seconds long. When I get tired or bored, I turn off my Mac and do something else (like playing acoustic guitar or eating carrots). Later that day, I might get some ideas again, and I sit down to compose more. After a few days, I have usually developed enough interesting sequences to put the whole composition together. This will also be the time when I have to kill some darlings... A sequence might sound good, but it just doesn't belong to this universe. A good rule is: If in doubt, throw it away! Chick Corea once said these words about playing with other musicians, and I think we can learn from him as well: "Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything." When adding sounds on top of each other, I discovered that some sounds needed extra filtering and adjustment to function in my mix. I went back to MetaSynth and recreated these sounds and used an extra filter (either in the Filters window or by using the Parametric EQ button in the Effects window. Since MetaSynth creates ProTools friendly stereo files (deinterleaved), I automatically heard my changes when playing back my mix in ProTools.

(note: this tutorial by Helge Krabye is also included in the "MetaSynthia 2 CD-project" available from Glen Bledsoe's home page.) (June 2005)

copyright 2007-2017 Helge Krabye