Designing a Buzzing Lead Sound

Tips & Tutorials  | 

Lead synth sounds are key in many of today’s great productions. They often carry the riff or hook of a song, so it’s important to make sure they sound big, in order for your next production to stand out from the rest.

An engaging lead sound needs to have interesting tonal content for melodic importance, and interesting noise content to create a compelling texture.

How do we create a lead sound like this? Let’s take a look, in this step by step tutorial using iZotope’s Iris synthesizer.

The presets and samples in the Iris factory content and the additional sound libraries draw from a combination of field recorded organic objects and environments, as well as modular synths and altered, hacked instruments. For this “Buzzing Lead” preset, we are combining several layers — a mix of basic synthesized waveforms and exotic textures to give our lead synth movement and action.

Here’s the final preset:

Layer 1

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The sample pools of Iris can be accessed with the Sample Selector buttons in the upper right corner. In Pool 3, load a Square Wave.

By using the tools in Iris to draw shapes and select areas in the spectrogram, you can isolate specific audio frequencies within a sample. Use the Brush selection tool to create visual arcs, which impart some harmonic movement.

Adding Asymmetrical Distortion helps excite certain harmonics. Use the LFO to assign a Sine Wave to control Pitch, with an Attack of between 0.5 to 1 seconds to help the sound develop.

Layer 2

izotope-designing-a-buzzing-lead-layer-2

In Pool 2, load a texture with a repeating pattern (this preset includes “WoodBrushTa,” a sample included in the Wood Sound Library). To add some spectral movement, use the Eraser Tool to remove sections of the frequency spectrum.

Layer 3

izotope-designing-a-buzzing-lead-layer-3

In Pool 1, load another textural sound with a faster repeating pattern. Use the Time-Frequency selection tool to select some high end buzz to add more edge to our sound. Add both distortion and reverb to give the buzz texture some space.

Layer 4

izotope-designing-a-buzzing-lead-layer-4

In the Sub Pool, load a Square shape, then select the fundamental harmonic and a few of the next harmonics to help emphasize the tonality of the sound. This can be sent to Distortion to emphasize upper harmonics and make the sound a bit richer. If you choose to bring out some upper harmonics with distortion, this can be sent to Delay and Reverb to help the Sub Pool blend with Pool 3.

This preset and the samples used were taken from the Iris Cookbook, a collection of recipes designed to help inspire you to achieve some creative synthesis with Iris.

Download both the Cookbook PDF and ZIP folder containing the Iris Cookbook presets which have all the necessary samples included. The PDF contains instructions to import the presets into Iris. Test out some of the presets, then follow along with the Cookbook to learn how to make the sounds from scratch!

Get the Iris Cookbook | Download the PDF (12.2 MB)
Follow along with free Iris Presets | Download the .ZIP (30.7 MB)

Driven by iZotope’s award-winning visual selection technology, Iris allows you to find music in everything.

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