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Program Your Synth Like a Pro: The LFO

Submitted by on March 1, 2014 – 8:58 am No Comment

One of the most difficult components of programming a synth is the incorporation of the LFO. The LFO, which is the low frequency oscillator, is a very necessary component of any sourced sound being generated. The human ear hears sounds at multiple frequencies, which is one of the many reasons why music is so enjoyable. Without low frequencies in a sound, to many, that sound will sound incomplete! Even though the LFO sounds are below the actual range of human hearing, it works to change the shape of a waveform.

Here’s how you can make a better use out of your LFO controller:

You Can Adjust the Amount of Changes That You Hear

One of the key controls of the LFO is the amount. If you have the amount set at zero, then there will be no change in your sourced sound at all. By increase the amount of note variables within the source, you then create variations that can then be changed as well. The higher the amount level that is set, the more change in pitch that you’re going to be able to hear. Then, based on the waveform shape you select, you’ll hear pitch changes based on the actual sound waves your synth is generating!

You Can Adjust the Shape of Your Waveform

The LFO is extremely useful in adjusting the overall shape of the sound waveform being generated. These shapes are what then help to create the unique sounds that a synth can generate! Triangles, squares, and other shapes can be used to create the baseline component of how the sound becomes variable. From there, you can then adjust the LFO to compress the waveform, thus speeding up the sound variations, or to elongate the waveform, which slows down the sound variations. This compression/elongation of the waveform is often called the rate.

Why Is the LFO Used On a Synth In Such a Way?

The reason why the LFO is heavily utilized on a synth is because it adds a level of vibrato to the sound. Static, uniform sounds of the same note are uninteresting to people. If you just play a “G,” people will literally get bored and tune out the sound. By adding vibrato, or pitch changes within the note, sounds become much more interesting to hear and will pique someone’s attention rather than repel it.

Vibrato is often controlled with a mod wheel, allowing you to be able to specifically control when you place vibrato within the sound. If you’ve got an extended note to play, for example, using the mod wheel to add vibrato to it will keep the sound interesting and the listener engaged. It also adds a level of personal touch to the music because you’re specifically manipulating the sounds as you play the sounds.

If you need to manually route your audio path, don’t forget to send your LFO through the primary oscillator source that you’re using. From there, even though the LFO is a source, it acts as a modifier, like a filter or amplifier does! Understanding that is what it takes to program your synth like a pro!

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