NB – Not to be confused with Grain Waves.
Granular synthesizers is like a synth/sampler hybrid – you start with “simple waveforms such as triangle, square, and sawtooth waves” and then manipulating that sound or sample into “something more musical”, using looping, filter envelops and low frequency oscillators (LFOs) (Price, 2005).
In the demo I produced for this blog post, Pizza, I’ve included examples of what I used and what were the outcomes for both the granular and wavetable synth patches I created. Example A was the sound sample I used, which was an organ sample from one of the sample packs in my library. Example B is the outcome, using Fruity Granulizer and FL Studio’s built in sampler (similar parameters to Ableton Live’s Warp functions) I adjusted grain attack, grain hold, grain speed and wave speed in order. I put a fade on the sample and set a certain region for it to loop while the note is sustained. Since the original sample was a D note, I had to assign it to the D on the virtual keyboard in the plugin, so it played the correct note in the midi editor.
In this video, Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park reveals how the band came up with the synth sounds from songs such as Crawling & Numb – granular synthesis.
Wavetable synthesizers use audio samples known as ‘wavetables’ to create a bank of sound waves that the user can cycle through to get to a specific sound. A distinctive feature of the wavetable synth is the ‘wavetable position’ control, which allows the user to crossfade a sound wave with a different one in the table in order to create a dynamic tone.
Since only one cycle of each sound wave in the wavetable is stored in the synthesizer, wavetable synthesizers are efficient on memory usage, leaving more memory for other plugins and more important tasks in the session.
Wavetable synths are also less harsh on processing power. Rise explains that “calculating what two waves would do when added together or how a filter would affect a wave is computationally intensive”, wheras with wavetables, “all the different waves are precalculated and stored in the tables.” (2013)
In Pizza, I used Xfer Serum to make my own ‘dubstep’ style synth. Using the ‘Toilet Lunch‘ wavetable from Cymatic’s ‘Vomit‘ Xfer Serum preset pack, I was able to create one original preset and split it up into three different ones (with different LFO rates for the filter automations). I cycled through the wavetable and picked the sound wave I thought would sound best. In the embedded audio, example C is the wavetable I used, and example D is the outcome.
Price, S. (2005, December) Granular Synthesis | Sound on Sound [Web Article] Retrieved 23rd November, 2016, from http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/granular-synthesis
Rise, S. (2013, February,27) Wavetable Synthesis | The Synthesizer Academy [Web Article] Retrieved 23rd November, 2016, from http://synthesizeracademy.com/wavetable-synthesis/