PreSonus Blog

Tuff Beats

By Craig Anderton

Calling all beats/hip-hop/EDM/hard rock fans: This novel effects starts with drums modulating the Vocoder’s white noise carrier, and takes off from there. The sound can be kind of like a strange, aggressive reverb—or not, because the best part of this tip is the crazy variety of sounds that editing or automating parameters can create.

The following audio example plays just a few of the possibilities. The first two measures are the original loop. Then, several 2-measure examples alter Vocoder parameters.

Track Layout

Fig. 1 shows the track layout:

  • The Drums track hosts the waveform that modulates the Vocoder via a pre-fader send to the Vocoder track. How you set the Drums track fader depends on whether or not you want to mix in unprocessed sounds.
  • The Carrier track generates white noise as a carrier for the vocoder’s sidechain (fig. 2), as sent through a pre-fader send. You’ll probably want to keep the Carrier track’s fader at minimum.
  • The Vocoder track produces the processed output to mix in with the drums.

Figure 1: Track layout for Tuff Beats processing.

Figure 2: Tone Generator settings.

Editing the Effect

Figure 3: Typical Vocoder settings.

The only crucial setting is that the Carrier Source must be set to Side-Chain (fig. 3). Aside from that, you have plenty of options for subverting the sound:

  • Release. At longer release times, the sound is like a strange reverb. Shorter settings are more like doubling.
  • Release automation. Try drawing waveform automation with the Paint tool, like negative-going sawtooth waves and triangle waves. Freehand drawing can produce even wilder effects.
  • Attack. Turning up Attack reminds me of a transient shaper, because it softens the drum attack.
  • Patch Matrix. This alters the “reverb” character. You can get some pretty whacked out filtering effects.
  • Matrix automation. Now you can really go insane. Choose Write for the Vocoder’s automation mode, and “draw” on the Patch Matrix as you would an Etch-a-Sketch. This changes the filtering effects, and the automation remembers your moves.

It doesn’t take much effort to come up with some pretty novel sounds, so…have fun!