How to strip back a synth preset to make it more usable

Stripping a preset of the elements it doesn’t need will often lead to a better (and more individual) version of it

What makes you select a synth preset as the starting point for inclusion in your track? Most of us turn to the output of dedicated sound designers at some stage in our creative process and, while we’ll often tweak the sounds we select, we’re nevertheless usually picking one that has made us sit up and take notice.

The difficulty is that often this proves to be the case because the chosen sound is already awash with more than one sonic layer, lengthy release times in its amplifier stage, and (potentially) multiple onboard effects.

In other words, it’s already a gargantuan sound, even before you’ve tried to blend it with something else. It could even be that it overloads the mixer output due to high internal volume. Learn to strip out the parts of presets you don’t need and they’ll fit your track better.

For more on simplifying and streamlining your mixes, pick up the January edition of Future Music.

Step1: We’re starting with an Omnisphere patch. There’s nothing else in the arrangement but the part is already overloading. There’s no channel level boost, but high velocities levels are clipping the output. This is because the internal level of the plug-in is too high.

Step 2: This program uses two sound layers, panned hard left and right. We start by dropping the volume sliders for these, setting our choice of balance between the sound layers. Then we narrow the stereo field, bringing the Pan dials to the middle. 

Step 3: Omnisphere is adding seven effects; two each to each layer, and three ‘Common’ effects shared by both. We bypass all of these then drop the Release time in the amplifier envelope to make both sounds shorter in duration. Now we’ve got a sound we can work with.