Basics: Setting Up a Song Template in Synapse Audio Orion 8.5
Users of Synapse Audio’s Orion software have an opportunity to make their work far more efficient. This article shows how this can be accomplished.
by Ginno Legaspi, Nov. 2014
Synapse Audio’s Orion started out as pattern-based sequencer, but over the years has morphed into capable, powerful music creation software. I have to admit that I’ve always liked this software since it first came out. In the early 2000’s when I was introduced to this software studio by my friend, I was just blown away with the sheer quality of the built-in effects, synthesizers, drum machines and other generators it offers. Not to mention the program is affordable and super easy to use.
One of the best things about sequencers like Orion (or similar DAWs) nowadays is that you can customize your blank projects to your own specification. The ability to save blank projects and song templates is one nifty feature because it gives you a basic framework to work with. I think we (musicians/producers) should embrace this. A song template basically contains anything that can be saved as a .sfs or an Orion file. People should practice this approach more often as it can give you a starting point, helps you become efficient, saves time without having to go through creating it every single time and just the convenience of knowing it’s there for instant recall makes producing much faster and easier.
When using Orion, my projects do not vary too much. I always use the same template saved on my song folder over and over again. This is simply because I just want a file that is ready to go after firing up the program. My intention for this article is to spotlight Orion when setting up a template for ambient music. So here goes …
1. STARTER FILE – When I launch Orion, the first thing I used to do is go to File>Open>Ambient Starter.sfs, double click it to open up my saved template. But with the new version, and as you can see in the image below, the quickest way to bring in a template is to go to Insert, choose Template and left click on the file. My template is called “Ambient Starter” simply because as the name suggests, it will be used in composing experimental, dark ambient, ambient and all sorts of drone music. The name describes the type of music that’s going to be produced in Orion. If I was going to produce a trance tune, I would simply open up a saved file called “Trance Starter”.
2. PLAYLIST POPULATED – Rrather than having to go through and build it every single time, the convenience of bringing in a template will populate my playlist with tracks. Now, I have basic framework to work with. For now, the tracks are empty, but the playlist is automatically populated with an initial of 8 tracks.
The first two main tracks are software synthesizers; Synapse Audio’s Toxic FM synthesizer (built-in with Orion) and the Absynth 5 synthesizer by Native Instruments. The rest of the empty tracks are reserved for audio, into which I can bring WAV files or record audio in Orion directly using the audio tracks.
3. TOXIC AND ABSYNTH SYNTHESIZERS ARE KEY – When I mentioned above that the two main tracks are the software synthesizers, I meant to say that these two synths will be the ‘driving force’ in my song. They will be the ‘featured’ sound in my song mostly – the others are just there for backgrounds or fill-ins. In composing ambient music I think it is important, especially the pads and atmospheric parts, that you need excellent sounding and versatile synthesizers. These two are just that, have been very reliable and can perform the job more than fine.
I like layering a lot and countless producers have been practicing that process for decades. I believe great results can be had from layering synthesizers. It can make your track sound fuller, wider, lush and not bare. So needless to say, Toxic and Absynth has been set up to play the same notes and receive MIDI note messages from the generator called MIDIOut #1. Think of Toxic and Absynth as sound modules triggered by the MIDIOut generator – a virtual MIDI controller, so to speak.
Toxic is good for straightforward pad sounds, as well as bright FM pads that can pierce through the mix. Toxic comes with plenty of cold digital pads, too, which I like.
I use Abynth for crazy, otherworldly sounds. Absynth has always excelled at soundscapes and atmospheric sounds since version 1. So if you layer that with Toxic’s lush, full sound you get a new layered sound that is unique and inspiring. They both compliment well each other.
4. MIXING DESK and MASTER SECTION – As you can see in the images below, the mixer is pretty bare with no EQ or effect plug-ins inserted. Only the low cut filters are inserted automatically in this template to remove low end rumble from the synthesizers. Remember, I’m working with pads and atmospheres here so it’s better if I deal with the low end first as low frequencies can get out hand sometimes. The six audio channels have 0 gains and the panning on them have been set temporarily. I’d like to take advantage of the stereo field so I have tracks that are panned in different positions. The Master Section shows its default setting. No compressor or limiter has been inserted (in the master section) as some are in the habit of doing. I’ve also skipped adding reverb or delay effects in the Return channels as that can be done later. There are no routing and busses assigned, but it’s only a starting point and I can adjust those accordingly as I move along.
5. THE PLAYLIST WITH ACTUAL TRACKS – Although not a complete song, I want to show what the playlist looks like when it’s populated with tracks. So I started noodling around and recorded a 3-note chord pattern in the MIDIOut #1 (that triggers Toxic and Absynth) generator. This long evolving chord will be the highlight of the track. It will have plenty of modulation, filtering and automation in the synth parameters going on. I’ve also brought in synth loops, glitch drum top loop, a one-shot noise and a horror string sample for starters. When it comes to my compositions, I incorporate a lot of “fade in and fade out” in the arrangement and inject “tension and release” in different sections of the song. That’s my ambient kind of style.
One thing that I encourage producers to do, and they should practice this more often, is to label the channel tracks properly and group them in the same area. So if you have three bass guitar sounds or samples in your song, place them next to each other for quick referencing. Color coding the tracks of the same sound group (e.g. synth sound, drum and percussion sounds, etc.) will immensely help you identify what they are and for easy ‘pinpointing’.
Constructing a song template containing audio tracks and empty instruments laid to your own configuration is the way to go. You just don’t know when inspiration strikes or you have that sudden urge to record that musical phrase you’ve been humming all day long. It’s convenient. It’s there for instant recall, plus can save you time.
Ginno Legaspi: www.facebook.com/ginnolegaspi