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How to build perfect synth arpeggiator parts

Apple Logic Pro X
(Image credit: Apple)

Arpeggiated synths have been a staple of electronic music since the earliest days of the scene. The characteristic sound of ascending and descending broken chords is everywhere, from techno and trance to pop and trap.

In this walkthrough, we're going to take a basic arpeggiated sound in Native Instruments Round and turn it into something special with the help of some tasty effects…

Step 1: Our backing track starts with a dark filtered pad from Omnisphere and a supporting sub bass. Both parts are being fed into Valhalla’s VintageVerb, which is set to the Dirty Hall algorithm, the detuned pitch modulation and low-sample rate of which provide grit and unpredictability.

Step 2: We open Native Instruments Rounds, browsing the ‘Created For Arpeggiator’ patches before selecting Tangereen Arp. We switch off all but the ‘A’ bank, so that the arpeggiator cycles only between those segments. We set the pitches of Analog modules 1, 2 and 3 to 0, 0 and 12 semitones respectively.

Step 3: We Sync Oscillator 1 to Oscillator 2 for all the Analog engines and add detune using the ‘Fine’ tuning dial. We add a touch of X-Mod to further manipulate the pitch in each engine, and tweak the cutoff point for engines 2 and 3 to make the upper notes duller.

Step 4: We’re using Logic Pro’s Arpeggiator, set to the Up and Down pattern, so that the bottom and top notes are repeated. We put UAD’s Moog Filter in the first Insert slot to add further resonant filtering, using a low-pass 4-pole filter with the cutoff at 3kHz and some resonance dialled in.

Step 5: We want to manipulate the pitch further. We add UAD’s Eventide H910 Harmonizer, using an input envelope to change the pitch whenever notes play. Then we add the MXR Flanger-Doubler, creating a wide chorus effect. Both have a mix balance of ‘nearly dry’, so that the effect is relatively subtle.

Step 6: We send the Arp to Valhalla VintageVerb and a second auxiliary, which houses Waves H-Delay. This is sent to VintageVerb, too. Finally, we automate the Moog Filter’s cutoff point to create tonal variation as the arpeggiator sequence plays.

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