How to understand Xfer Records Serum's modulation setup


In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, Serum is a two-oscillator wavetable synth with a raft of effects and comprehensive modulation options cribbed from Xfer’s LFOTool plugin. While mainly the brainchild of Xfer’s main man Steve Duda, Serum was also constructed with the help of notable gurus like Deadmau5, OhmForce’s Laurent de Soras, filter king Andrew Simper, and Sonic Charge’s Magnus Lidstrom. It is, quite simply, a must-have for every dance music producer.

In this walkthrough we'll take a whistle-stop tour of Serum’s modulation setup. For more on the subject, pick up the May 2018 edition of Future Music.

Step 1: Let’s look at Serum’s modulators. We can see the shape that LFO 1 will apply - a triangle wave, of sorts. To apply it, drag the modulation handle to another control. Let’s modulate oscillator B’s wavetable position (WT Pos).

Step 2: By Alt-dragging, we can reduce the amount of modulation applied. Change the Rate below the LFO waveform. It’s simple to change the shape of the modulation signal. Create curves by dragging the blue nodes in the middle of each line. Create new nodes by double-clicking.

Step 3: Right-click the waveform background to flip the signal vertically… or horizontally. With the LFO in Env mode, right-click a node to set it as the Loopback point. With the Delay parameter, we can create a pause before the LFO kicks in.

Step 4: Now to the envelopes. You can set the timings and levels of these modulators directly within the signal display or by using the knobs below. Assign the envelope in exactly the same way as the LFOs and other modulators. As well as the usual Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release settings, there’s a Hold stage that can follow the attack.

Step 5: There are plenty more modulators in Serum. Use the Mod selector to take control of parameters with the mod wheel; and use note Velocities and Note values as modulation signals. Finally, Serum’s four Macros can be set to modulate multiple controls at once - one knob to rule them all!

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