How to transform your tracks by automating unexpected plugin parameters

SoundToys FilterFreak Plugin Week 2023
(Image credit: SoundToys FilterFreak)

PLUGIN WEEK 2023: When you're producing or polishing your tracks, an element of surprise can make the difference between so-so and ear-catching, particularly when it comes to electronic music. And one way to add a bit of unexpected excitement and interest to your tracks is to get busy automating some of the plugin parameters that you might sometimes set and forget.

Here, we explore a few less-expected automation tricks that you could try with your plugins.

1. Start here

(Image credit: Future)

We start with a track featuring just five parts – it features some digital percussion sounds, a separate hi-hat part, a low and resonant moody loop, a repeating bar-long sequence from Signal and a bassline which joins halfway through. A few effects are set up, but nothing’s automated just yet.

(Image credit: Future)

2. Decay

We start by choosing to automate the decay time to the digital hi-hat part. This is most easily done by control-clicking this parameter and choosing a MIDI controller assignment. Next it’s time for you to draw the automation line you want, which causes variations in the length of each hat.

(Image credit: Future)

3. High-pass

The loop contains a resonant low frequency. This is fine until the bass enters and that’s when a conflict here leaves the mix feeling bloated. We add a high-pass filter to the loop part, with cutoff set at 110Hz. We only ‘jump’ to this automation point when the bass enters.

(Image credit: Future)

4. Tweaking tape saturation

There’s a tape saturation effect set up on the main bassline. We choose to automate the mix depth for this next, which provides more rasp when the mix depth is high. This is a nice alternative to more common filter variation techniques often heard on sounds like this.

(Image credit: Future)

5. Tremolo!

A tremolo effect is providing auto-panning on the Signal part. At the start, a modest depth level keeps the sound gently moving from mid-left to mid-right. When the bass arrives to dominate the middle ground, we increase depth to make the auto-panning wider. There’s real presence as a result.

(Image credit: Future)

6. Add more depth

Lastly, we automate the depth parameter on the SoundToys’ Tremolator plugin assigned to the same sound. This produces a chopped, gated 16ths effect and by increasing the depth amount, the effect becomes more pronounced. This kind of small detail adds interest within the mix. 

Future Music

Future Music is the number one magazine for today's producers. Packed with technique and technology we'll help you make great new music. All-access artist interviews, in-depth gear reviews, essential production tutorials and much more. Every marvellous monthly edition features reliable reviews of the latest and greatest hardware and software technology and techniques, unparalleled advice, in-depth interviews, sensational free samples and so much more to improve the experience and outcome of your music-making.