How to fake polyphony with virtual analogue gear

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These days, it's hard to believe that early synthesizers were only capable of outputting a single note at a time, but such was the limitation that users of monophonic instruments had to deal with back in the day.

Music producers being the inventive sorts that they are, though, they quickly figured out various clever ways to make their synths sound as if they were playing multiple notes at once. Here, we'll walk you through a couple of those techniques using a virtual version of a vintage classic.

Step 1: The one-note-at-a-time limitation of a monosynth can actually be pretty liberating in the studio, as it forces you to think creatively and dig deep in order to fake polyphony. Regular chords are a no-go, but we can create chord-like passages with the clever use of delay. We start with u-he’s Repro-1, a software replica of Sequential Circuits’ Pro One monosynth.

Step 2: The default patch is fine for our needs. Have a play with the sound. Try alternating between notes in a chord. Now, go to the effects section by clicking the Effects tab in the lower-left. Activate Lyrebird, Repro-1’s delay. Set the Sync to 1/4, boost Regen, and play our alternating notes again. Each new note forms a chord with the echoes.

Step 3: Now, let’s try another old trick from the monosynth days. Shut off Repro-1’s Lyrebird effect and turn instead to the synth’s oscillators. Currently they’re both playing sawtooth waves and mixed about evenly. Reduce Oscillator B’s Frequency knob until it reads -5.00. Now play and hold a few notes. Instant power chords!

Step 4: We can go the other direction, too. Try tuning Oscillator B up a fifth (+7 semitones). Now return to the effects section and re-activate the Lyrebird delay. Sweet! Repro-1 offers only two oscillators, but as you might imagine, more complex chords can be created with monosynths offering three or more.

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