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Intro Tutorial 2: Snare Drum Synthesis


In the previous section you learned how to use the ADDsynth to create a kick drum. Let’s build on what you learned to create a simple snare drum.

Many of the steps of this project are identical to the steps we took in our first project to create our kick drum, but with different values.

Hopefully you have begun to feel comfortable enough with the general layout of Zyn-fusion to follow along with this project without us posting similar screenshots with slightly different values.

When you’re finished with this project you’ll know to:

  • synthesize a custom snare drum using ADDsynth and envelopes and filters

This tutorial assumes that you have completed Project 1: Kick Drum Synthesis
Open your previous Ardour session

Launch the Ardour session you used for Project 1.

Add a new midi track
  • Create a new Zyn-Fusion midi track for our synthesizer

    • Shift + Ctrl + N

      • Name: Snare

      • Instrument: ZynAddSubFx

      • Click Add and Close

Open the piano roll

Expand the track itself by clicking on the lower edge and dragging it down until you see the "piano roll" similar to the picture below.

Draw your midi area

Enable draw mode by clicking on the pencil icon.

  • Draw a midi area that is 1 beat / 4 measures long. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, you can just draw from the 1 to the 2 following the Bars:Beats bar. See the image below.

Draw your midi pattern

I’m just going to place a simple 4/4 pattern. You can do anything you like, but don’t get too crazy yet, it’s going to be repeating behind you while you sculpt the sound.

ardour midi 4 4 with snare
This tutorial uses note C4 as our starting note.
Loop your midi pattern

Now we’re going to tell Ardour to loop this specific region whenever we tell it to play. Right click on your midi area, select "play", and "loop region".

You should now here your pattern being played with your kick drum and the default Addsynth sound.

You can mute the kick drum at any time by selecting the M button on the Ardour kick track.
ardour mute kick track
Launch Zyn-Fusion
  • Select your Synth track and then double-click on the ZynAddSubFX button (circled in red below)

Launch ADDsynth

Launch the ADDsynth by selecting the ADD button.

What Key am I in?
We use note C4 as our starting point.
Raise the volume

Snares are meant to be heard, let’s turn ours all the way up.

  • Navigate to Global >> Amplitude

    • Adjust Volume to 100%

Open up the global filter

A snare generates a wide range of frequncies so let’s open the global filter all the way up to let all frequencies through.

  • Navigate to Global >> Filter

    • Adjust the General >> Cutoff to 100%

Modify your amplitude envelope

We’re going to shorten the Release, Sustain, and Decay of the amplitude envelope for voice 1, or in simpler terms, let’s make the note have a "shorter" more percussive sound.

  • Navigate to VCE1 >> Voice >> Amplitude >> Envelope

    • Enable it by pressing the grayed out power button until it lights up.

    • Adjust R.DT and S.DT to 0.

    • Adjust the D.DT to 32

Lower the octave

Now that we have a short percussive sound, let’s lower the octave of VCE 1 so that it’s something closer to the hit of a snare drum.

  • Navigate to VCE1 >> Voice >> Frequency

    • Adjust the Octave to -2

Modify your frequency envelope

Now lets adjust the frequency of our sound a bit to give it a bit more "bounce" by adjusting the Attack Value.

  • Navigate to VCE1 >> Voice >> Amplitude >> Envelope

    • Adjust A.VAL to 110

Let’s add a little more length to the sound by extending the Attack Decay time.

  • Navigate to VCE1 >> Voice >> Amplitude >> Envelope

    • Adjust A.DT to 25

Use a second voice to add the snare "sizzle"

Now that we’ve got a basic thwacking percussive sound that is similar to a snare drum it’s time to add the sizzle that is created by the metallic snare wires.

  • Navigate to VCE 2 by clicking the + beside VCE 1

  • Enable VCE 2 by clicking on the power button.

Enable noise modulation

We’re going to add some noise much like we did when creating our kick drum previously, only this time we’re going to use white noise instead of pink.

Don’t worry if you don’t know the difference between white and pink noise, we’ll cover that later. For now, feel free to alternate between them and see what differences you can notice.
  • Turn on the noise

    • VCE 2 >> Modulation >> VCE OSC >> Type >> White

Now you may notice that the noise is too loud compared to the smack of our drum. Let’s turn down the second voice a bit so it sits properly beneath the primary thwacking sound.

  • Lower the volume of this voice

    • Navigate to VCE 2 >> Amplitude >> General >> Vol

    • Adjust Vol to 100

      • Note that this means the actual value of 100, not 100%.

Enable amplitude envelope

Now that we’ve set a decent volume between the thwack and the sizzle of the sound, let’s adjust the amplitude of the noise generated by VC2 to match that of VCE1.

  • Navigate to VCE1 >> Voice >> Amplitude >> Envelope

    • Enable it by pressing the grayed out power button until it lights up.

    • Adjust R.DT and S.DT to 0.

    • Adjust the D.DT to 32

Save your instrument

Congratulations, you’ve crafted a snare drum - starting with a single sin wave and using additive synthesis!

Now would be a great time to save your Zyn-fusion instrument and Ardour session.

  • Navigate to File >> Save instrument

  • Choose a directory and name your file before selecting Enter

Save your Ardour session

  • Navigate to your Ardour window

  • Ctrl + S