Synthesis and Sound Design Techniques

I had a request to make some videos focusing on the synthesis capabilities of the ER-301 (as opposed to the sampling capabilities). I’m not a pro sound designer or anything, but happy to share what I’ve picked up over the years and what I’m learning now. Hoping this will spark some discussion, and you’ll share your tips and discoveries too!

I thought a good format might be to explore a technique, and then use it to make a patch.

Edit: Updated the top post to contain a playlist of these videos for easier finding.


This is right up my alley as I am a relative newcomer to synthesis. I know the concepts but I’m still learning how to make the noises sound good.


Excellent Joe, thank you. Very informative indeed.

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This is an excellent insight to all sorts of stuff, not least the mute button, where is it. I patched out something in the rack today which was inspired by what you demonstrated. Tomorrow i’m Gonna try and create the same patch inside the 301 if I drop the frequency right down on the oscillator, is that a sub oscillator.

Thanks for that

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Hi Joe, great video thanks!

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Thanks so much for all the likes and comments here and on Youtube. Here’s the next one. This time, we feature oscillator hard sync on an arbitrary single cycle wave form from the AdventureKid library, and use it to create a rhythmic pad sound.

Below is the patch for you to experiment with. Actually, this custom unit is the first version that I created to prep for the video, so there are a couple small differences.

To get up and running, load this unit into a stereo chain and connect your gate and pitch signals to the custom controls.

You’ll need to download the AdventureKid library if you don’t already have it. Mine is in SD/ER-301/samples/AKWF. If yours is somewhere different you may need to go load it into the Sample Scanner. The sample I used is


Sync Pad.unit (46.8 KB)


lovely! i think this very effectively doubles as a great general custom unit tutorial for beginners — it covers all the basics (including what the v0.4.x has to offer) one needs to start experimenting!

i encourage said beginners to follow the video and construct the unit themselves instead of downloading @Joe’s because the ‘do it with your own hands’ part is really essential (even if you just follow others’ examples) — i experienced it very recently while learning supercollider not being a coder.

also i’d love to add that (if you don’t have AKWF or for any other reasons) you can very easily draw and process your own single cycle waveforms, as well as import / edit existing ones, using the amazing cross platform free software WaveEdit from Andrew Belt and SynthTech.


Hi Joe, just want to say this is a great thread! I have been playing modular for about 1 year. I built up a system after considering it for a long time. I looked at the ER-301 for a while worried that i had too limited knowledge to do it justice, despite that and with a willingness to learn i purchased one. Now i have a basic grasp of getting around the unit i find it is a great tool to quickly experiment with new ideas and then have a go a using them in the rest of my system. These videos are really helpful to someone like me! Please keep up the great work. Thanks


I really need to give this a whirl for reals sometime. I’ve downloaded that software multiple times, played around with it, decided it was way too awesome to be free, but have never actually hit the save/export button and used it for anything!

Thanks for the feedback! Some confirmation that these videos are really helping fellow 301 users add some new tricks to their bag is always welcome! I have occasional doubts - probably strongest when I sit down to record one and try to figure out what to say and not have it come out as nonsense. :wink:


yes, i’ve been using it a lot with my E352 albeit i have to confess mostly to download wave sequences from ‘waveedit online’ (waldorf PPG ones are too awesome!). however, it came in super handy when i needed to add grit / “lo-finess” to waveforms for use in E352. i tried it with the ER-301, works beautifully.

please don’t! i literally just recommended watching your latest video to a friend of mine who got her 301 pretty recently!

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Your videos have been challenging for me, but in a way that only keeps me riveted to the potential that has yet to be explored in my ER-301. When those of you on the forums dig deeper into possibilities it only works to encourage me to maintain a healthy respect and awe for this tool.

I do understand the doubts because no matter what I’ve ever put out for public consumption I was nearly always certain I could have done better and so my effort probably wasn’t worth it. Good thing once things are in the wild they are there for others to decide what to do with it as it is now out of our hands. Please keep on with your contributions.


Yeah, I definitely have to shut down my inner perfectionist with these things or they just frankly would never see the light of day due to time, equipment, skills, etc. I do keep looking for ways to improve them without adding a ton of extra time and tedium to the process, though.

For these recent ones, I’ve figured out a way to separate the audio and video recording so that the 301 is a direct stereo recording and I can do some mixing and editing between its output and voice over. That makes me feel a lot better. I always felt bad about recording the 301 through a camera mic in past videos.

I’ll check those out. I was perusing the robot voices one yesterday and thought that was a lot of fun!


Thank you soooo much for your contribution!!! :+1: :smile:

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when it comes to synthesis techniques, for several years now, i spent a great deal of my time exploring
those techniques that can help producing percussive sounds.
the other day i realized that it is time for me to move on, or rather to get back to what stood at the beginning of my journey with my own modular system: i.e. pads and drones…

due to several discussions on this forum it also occured to me, that this would be the right place to
share and to discuss my discoveries on percussive techniques…
i started to list specific aspects that could be discussed in this thread if there was an interest in them. this is the list so far:

snappy envelopes
pinging vactrols
decay/release modulation

but one of the most intriguing discoveries to me was that there was a
VCA with Zero Crossing Detector, namely the DVCA from WMD.
And now that @Joe gave us such a unit for the ER-301 with his
Accents v0.4.11.0 i’d like to refer to it
here (again) because its underlying technology was a crucial enhancement of my personal percussive synthesis techniques.

I won’t have to produce a corresponding video for Joe’s ER-301 Synthesis and Sound Design Techniques playlist,
because he already done that work for us when he introduced his Accents v0.4.11.0.
@Joe: would you mind to add the following time stamp to your playlist of techniques, maybe with a title like
“ER-301 Synthesis and Sound Design Techniques: VCAs with Zero Crossing Detector”


I’m not really sure this video fits into the playlist in this thread, because it’s just a very simple bespoke unit demo, mixed in with some other bespoke unit demos. Maybe I’ll use this VCA in another video?

I’d like to hear more about what tips you have for percussive synthesis. :slight_smile:

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yes, please? :no_mouth:

glad you’re interested.
i am not sure yet which “tip” or “discovery” i should bring up next.
do you have any particular questions? or a prefered subject i should delve into next time?

since i already started with a specialized vca, maybe i should share my experiences with other aspects of VCAs that are informative for percussive synthesis? linear vs. exponential response slopes e.g., bleed controls anyone?


Bleed controls pleeease

Any/all of the above! :slight_smile:

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One thing I’ve always struggled with is a good source oscillator(s) for long-ringing metallic things. E.g. crash, ride, splash etc. cymbals. Have you done any exploring there?

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Everybody has questions, but for those of you who have insight, knowledge and are prepared to bless us lesser mortals, please, share don’t shy with … With … With…

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