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Tips for Creative Sound Design in Melodyne 4

Hey guys, this is Eric Tarr for

I’ve got a video for you here all about sound design. About creative, unique, unconventional ways to shape and sculpt some sound you’re working on.

What I’m going to do is start out with a basic synthesized sound. A simple, sawtooth waveform coming out of the Hybrid plug-in, then look at ways to process it to make it more interesting and unique.

To get things started, I’ve already got a MIDI part played into my Digital Audio Workstation and a drum loop going underneath. It sounds like this.


So on its own, the sawtooth waveform is not very interesting. We need to make it a little bit more exciting and unique.

So what I’m going to do here that’s unconventional is pull up a plug-in you might not normally think of to do this kind of task. This is Melodyne. A plug-in people normally think of for doing things like pitch correction and auto-tune with vocals, but it’s great on all kinds of other stuff too.

This is Melodyne 4. Specifically, I’m going to pull up a new feature that they’ve got going in here called the Sound Editor. So now instead of just changing the pitch and doing that kind of stuff, we have other controls to do things like EQ and change the harmonics and that kind of stuff.

So we’re looking here at the spectrum. We can look at the individual notes that are showing up across the musical scale and change their amplitude. This is a very powerful, very precise equalizer, even to the extent that we can change the amplitude of just an individual note in the musical scale without changing the other ones.

So that’s pretty cool. We can also highlight a region of frequencies and change them altogether.

So let me play around with some of this and you can hear how we’re going to shape and sculpt the waveform.

[mix, adjusting EQ]

So really powerful way to do things like change the relative amplitude across the spectrum. A different way than what you’d normally do with your basic equalizer.

Let me switch over and show you another tab here. This is the harmonics tab. Still looking at the spectrum, but instead of looking at the overall frequency response, what we’re doing is shaping and sculpting things based on their harmonic content. So here, no matter what musical note is being played, we can change the relative amplitude of the fundamental frequency or the first harmonic or the second harmonic. The partials in the scale.

So this is going to change whether we play some note like a C or an E flat or whatever it is. Pretty cool stuff. It sounds like this.

[mix, adjusting harmonics]

Alright. We’ve also got some other controls — global controls at affecting things across the whole spectrum. So we can do kind of a spectrum tilt here to make things darker or to make things brighter.

[mix, adjusting tilt]

Several other global controls too. Things like the contour, how much you’re going to emphasize and kind of spread out the variations across the spectrum, or we’re going to bring them tighter together here.

[mix, adjusting contour]

And also changes to the waveform. Whether we want to emphasize the odd harmonics or the even harmonics.

[mix, adjusting waveform harmonics]

So a really simple way to take our sawtooth waveform and turn it into a square waveform. Shape and sculpt the underlying sound.

Here’s a comb filter to carve out things across the spectrum.

[mix, adjusting comb filter]

So really powerful inspiring kind of stuff when you start to put it all together.

A few more global controls up here about emphasizing the unique things about the performance.

[mix, adjusting global controls]

And also changing some of the dynamics. Whether the envelope is going to be elongated or shortened.

[mix, adjusting dynamics envelope]

The last tab I’ll switch over to here is the synthesizer tab. This is where we can do things like change the envelope of like, the amplitude or the formants.

[mix, adjusting amplitude and formants]

Or we can do the opposite where we get it pumping.

[mix, adjusting formants and amplitude]

The formant control is going to change the tone and timbre of what’s going on. This is even a control that’s not that easy to see in these other spectrums that we’re looking at, to have an ability to change the formants down here at the bottom.

So let me show you some of this and then show you the envelope control for it.

[mix, adjusting controls]

So it can be done across the whole spectrum or just an individual part.

[mix, adjusting controls]

So hopefully you’re able to hear there’s some pretty powerful stuff and pretty powerful controls you can find in this plug-in.

They’re also kind of unique and different from what you’d normally find in a processor that you’d use with the equalizer to shape and sculpt the sound. Really cool stuff.

If I had one complaint though with the plug-in, what’s kind of difficult to do with sound design and this kind of stuff with synthesizers is to automate a lot of this stuff. I could really see it useful if you could do things like automate the morphing in here between one of the different global controls. They don’t have it right now. I’m not sure if that’ll ever show up in the future. I think that’s kind of a limitation that people will have to deal with, at least for now until they get to that point.

So something I’d love to see in the future. Otherwise, you know, this plug-in, I definitely encourage you to think about using it as one tool in your arsenal of things when you’re trying to do this sort of sound design.

Until next time, take care, guys.


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Eric Tarr

Eric Tarr

Eric Tarr is a musician, audio engineer, and producer based in Columbus, Ohio. Currently a Professor of Audio Engineering Technology at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.
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