One cycle waveforms

So okay Adventure Kid you are obviously into one cycle waveforms / wavetable synthesis / oscillator shapes but what’s so special about them? And by the way what the heck are one cycle waveforms really?

Well it’s the shortest bit you can take from a sound and still have some of it’s sound left. We are pretty used to the saw, triangular, pulse and sinusoidal oscillator shapes and for good reasons. The classic oscillator shapes are like caricatures or the essence of some typical sounds. They do not really remind of any natural occurring sounds but they have sonic content that at least in a mathematical way of thinking cover many sounds. I love a really good perfect saw oscillator and sometimes that is what is needed, but working with older digital and analog hardware I noticed that even the same waveform on two different synths didn’t sound the same. Then when it came to my modern synthesizers, both hardware and plugins, they often had for example the exact same sawtooth. So I started to experiment with sampling one cycle waveforms from my synthesizers and loading them up in my sampler and building sounds. Then I got a bit carried away and made waveforms out of more or less ANYTHING I could sample. Most instruments could be played this way, and they kind of became a mix between synthesizer and that instrument. The sonic fingerprint from the sampled instrument was still there but it was unmistakingly a synthesizer or sampler making the sounds. And I liked that.

So yeah, the shortest part of a sound you can get and still keep some of the initial sounds character.

Uhmkay, the smallest part of a sound… But what is it good for?

For me it’s waveforms are nice because of a bunch of reasons. I can get different sound out of my synthesizers, it might sound close to another synthesizer I like. Filters, distortion and other effects sounds different when a different waveform is fed into them. Even if it might be almost the same. Like a sawtooth with exactly the same sonic content when it comes to frequencies (overtones) but where the overtones are phased slightly differently may sound pretty different when processed to each other. The other thing is that I really like like synthesizers but sometimes it is nice to have something that almost sounds like a fender bass or a rhodes electric piano but still has that raw unstoppable quality that only synthesizers have. Sometimes it’s a shortcut, instead of working with a FM patch I can load up to waveforms and use envelopes to get them to evolve and almost sound like that instrument I try to imitate. I also think it’s a good idea if we can get sounds close to the classic subtractive synthesizer (cause I love them) but still add something new. Waveforms can also be used to emulate old obsolete synths that just aren’t easy to use compared to todays standard.

So can I use them?

Most modern musicians has a sampler or a synth they can load the waveforms into. Lately there have been a bunch of both hardware and software synths that has been designed with my library and other libraries in mind. If you got a DAW you most likely have something that can use them. Ableton got Simpler and FL Studio got the sampler, Sytrus, 3xOsc etc. Software is definitely the easiest way to try the waveforms out.

  • jon clinton says:

    Hey, I noticed that Lectric Panda credited you guys for providing the waveforms in their new Nostromo Spectral Synth. (Great Job by the way, so many possibilities it insane!) I was wondering if it is at all possible to post the waveforms used with a description of each type in the same order that they are listed in Nostromo’s Spectral Catalog. I know this would b a daunting task, but it would be awesome considering the lack of this info is the only thing keeping me from buying the Rack extension.

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