Designing an Organic Guitar Synth

Tips & Tutorials  |  May 27, 2014

In modern productions, which are often heavily electronic, sometimes using acoustic instruments as part of the synthesis / production process helps the music sound more engaging and interesting. For instance, guitar pedals and processors are everywhere, but it’s the guitar itself that delivers the true magic. Delving into acoustic guitars, the sound design possibilities are endless.

How do we create a production quality synth sound using an acoustic guitar? Let’s take a look, in this step by step tutorial using iZotope’s Iris synthesizer.

The presets and the samples in both the 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 organic guitar synth preset, we use a sample of an acoustic guitar chord and combine it with the spectral synthesis engine in Iris for a unique pad with a magical, chime-like quality.

Here’s the source material: 

And 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 1, load an acoustic guitar chord. In this case we’re using some strummed harmonics, but you can use any type of chord you like.

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 Time-frequency selection tool to select the main body of harmonics, but make sure not to select the initial attack of the strings being plucked.

Create a crossfading loop with the Loop parameter set to Fwd/Bkwd. By using the guitar harmonics without the attack, the guitar sounds smoother and more like a synth.

Next, use the Eraser tool to create steps where particular harmonics will not be heard. By creating movement within the preset, you’ll hear different tones come in and out of focus — much like listening to a wind chime.

Layer 2

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In the sub pool, layer in a low sine or triangle wave. This step is simple, but adds an important fundamental to the synth sound, which could potentially be lacking after the spectral selection in Pool 1.

With the effects set to Master, add some Delay and Reverb. Use the Width parameter in the Reverb to increase the sense of space, and play around with some other Reverb parameters to increase the magical qualities of this guitar- or wind chime-style preset, as heard below:

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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