Join Scott Hirsch for an in-depth discussion in this video How to make a rich pad, part of Synth Programming Basics.
One thing synthesizers are great at is creating a bed of sound for your song to develop over. This is traditionally called a pad in synth speak. In this movie, we'll use Logic Pro 10's Retro to create a synth pad. Pads tend to be made up of chords using more than one note or voice at one time. So let's go into Retro Synth. And under the settings, let's make sure we have a polyphony of well, the default is 16. So we have 16 voices that can be heard at once. So we'll keep it there. Now, one of the keys to making a good pad is to make the sound unfurl slowly.
We'll use our envelope shapes to accomplish this. So, I want to lengthen the attack time in the amplitude envelope. Right now it's set to very quick so we hear the note fast. But if we open up this value a little longer, say something like 1400 milliseconds, we'll hear the notes fade in more gradually. We also want a longer decay. Something like 7200 milliseconds. And, we'll keep this sustained somewhere in the middle here. So, you'll hear an initial swell up to the loudest part of the note. And it will take quite a long time to get down to a little bit lower in volume.
Let's hear what this sounds like. So, here they got up to full volume and then they kind of gradually die down. And the last thing I want to do is set a release value that's a little longer. This will give a little bit of sustain after the note is let up to have our pad cords blend together. I'm going to open up the release value, 2400 milliseconds or so should be good for that. Okay, let's hear this. So you can hear it's starting to create sort of more of a bed sound.
A mellow sort of rich pad for everything to work over in this song. We also want to set up our filter envelope to a similar shape. Although I'll push the values to a bit more extreme. Let's set the attack to something a little, even longer than we had in our amplitude envelope. We'll go to about 4,000 milliseconds. So, a little bit longer for the filter to open up. Our decay will go to 61 or 6,500 milliseconds. So it's a little bit faster than what we have in the amp envelope. And I'll set our sustain to it, even lower values, so I'm basically mimicking what I have got over here in the amplitude envelope but pushing them a little farther in the filter envelope.
So it will be a little bit lower than what we had in our amp envelope, in terms of what it decays to. And we'll set a release to 3,200. Now, by setting it up this way, we're actually making the filter lag slightly behind the amplitude envelope. So the amplitude opens up around 1,400 milliseconds and the filter envelope takes almost twice as long, or a little bit more than twice as long, to open up. So, as you hear the note come in, a little bit behind, then you also hear the filter open up. And that's a good thing for a pad. In terms of our actual filter shape, it's actually working pretty good as a low pass filter.
And we can move a little bit of resonance in here and we actually might want to take the cut-off slightly down. Just to get a little bit more of a darker sound. Which is nice for a pad. You don't want to many high frequencies in there. Finally, we'll use our LFO to slowly modulate the filter. We can set it to sync at a very long value. So, I'm going to turn on sync and we'll do it at a value of two bars. And this means it will take an actual two bars at the tempo of the song to fully move the filter cutoff one whole wave cycle. And, we'll keep it on the triangular cycle.
Remember, we have to introduce the LFO here in the filter section. Let's turn this up a little bit, 0.15 should be enough to get the motion we need. Let's hear that sounds Beautiful, so we're hearing a little bit of motion in there on account of the LFO. I'm hearing the filter envelope open up slowly, and the amplitude envelope. Lets hear it in context of the song. Just move this over. And here we have the Digiwave Cycles. That's the MIDI sequence that we're going to here it through. Again, I'll solo it up, so we hear it by itself and then I'll play in context with the song. So that's it by itself.
And, let's hear it in context with the song. So that sounds great as a pad, and this pad provides a nice rich backdrop for this dramatic song. And again, feel free to experiment with your own synth programming ideas to embellish this synth pad.