In this tutorial we are going to cover how to create Lady Gaga’s famous synth sound from “Just Dance”. Despite all the advancements in sound synthesis, sometimes the best sounds are the ones that are most simple. In fact the basis for the entire sound is one simple square wave!
I will be using FL Studio and the synth Sytrus for this tutorial but any synth that allows for an LFO to be applied to pitch and phase will work.
After following this quick tip, here is the sound you will end up with:
Step 1: The Square
Load up your synthesizer and have your first oscillator (or operator if using an FM synth) be set to a square wave. For those of you using Sytrus just right click the waveform box and click on Square.
Step 2: Pitch Distortion
Next go to the Pitch and LFO menu (or however your synth controls LFO and pitch) and delete all but the first control point. From there set the speed to as fast as possible (may need to adjust for other synths) and move the control point up by only 3%. The move is so small that you won’t even see the LFO graph change (the % value is in the top left of FL Studio).
For other synths make sure the amount of your pitch the LFO effects is very light. The reason this is pitch distortion and not modulation is because we are changing it so fast by such a small amount it ends up sounding like a distortion. Remember it’s almost impossible to distort a square wave in the traditional sense because a pure square wave is pure distortion!
It should sound something like this:
Step 3: Phase Distortion
Next go to the Phase and LFO menu and once again delete all of the control points, set your LFO speed to maximum, and move your control point to about 3%. You may not hear too much if any difference now, but it adds to the overall sound later on.
Here is my sound so far:
Step 4: Starting the FXs
Next go to the matrix and send Op 1 to FX and take it off of Out since we will be using Sytrus’s onboard effects as the output. At this point just copy the picture as close as you can in the highlighted section.
For those of you who are not using Sytrus or those who want exact values, here are the values:
- Chorus Order: 1
- Chorus Depth: 20%
- Chorus Speed: 45%
- Chorus Delay: 0%
- Chorus Spread: 100%
- Chorus Cross: 0%
- Chorus Volume: 0%
For the reverb, the only important values are the Decay being 2.5 seconds and the wet level only being around 3%. Tonally, make sure it is a warm reverb without too much high end.
Here is my sound:
Step 5: Unison
Back in the main menu go to the Unison section and change the order to two. Make sure the panning is at 100%, the volume is at 70%, and the pitch is 30%. For those of you using outboard effects, try placing your unison before and after the chorus and reverb to see which sounds closer.
This is what my sound is like now:
Step 6: More Chorus
Make sure your synth is now routed to a mixer track and add a Fruity Chorus or whatever chorus effect your prefer. If you are using the Fruity Chorus use the LightEh preset. For everyone else follow the picture as close as you can for your chorus.
Here is my sound so far:
Step 7: Low Pass Filter
After the last chorus effect add now a low pass filter; I used the Fruity Filter in my patch. At this point nothing fancy needs to be done with the filter, just roll off the really high frequencies.
Remember part of Lady Gaga’s sound is here almost vinyl like quality and the removing some high frequencies helps that a lot. It should sound almost like the Just Dance synth at this point.
Here is my patch at this point:
Step 8: EQing the Ring
Some of you may have noticed that the fundamental of our square wave is rather ringy. To lessen this ring, add a parametric EQ to your patch and lessen the frequencies around 400hz by about 30%; also roll a hair off the high end.
Your final sound should sound something like this:
While we have created the sound, does it sound right in context? For all you skeptics, add the melody to your piano roll. It goes from E4-G#4-D#4-A4-G#4. While the whole melody sounds like 8th notes, you must make sure to trim off the very last bit of the note to give separation. I was using 1/4s of a Step to trim off the last 32nd Note.
Hope you all enjoyed! Remember Just Dance!
- FL Studio Source Files