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FM8 Explained

Unleash the true power of Native Instruments FM8 virtual synth! FM8 master Al Swettenham breaks this monster synth down, step by step so you can grasp the amazing power and creativeness of FM synthesis. LEarn the ins and outs as well as how to create popular sounds using Native Instruments FM8.

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Introduction 2m:22s

Native Instruments FM8 is one of the most powerful and versatile soft synths on the market. It's primarily a frequency modulation synthesize,r but it can also be used as a subtractive and an additive synth as well. Over the course of these tutorial videos we're going to look in-depth at every page and every parameter leaving no stone unturned, so that by the end you are an FM8 expert!


Overview 8m:50s

In this video we'll launch FM8 in stand-alone mode and make sure the audio and MIDI settings are set up correctly. We'll then take a brief tour of the synth, examine every page and I'll explain in general terms what everything does.


The Browser & Attributes 7m:50s

In this video we'll learn how to navigate the browser effectively and find the sound we're looking for. We'll learn how to import SYSEX files (I'll explain what one of those is!) and we'll also look at using attributes to categorize our patches effectively and make them easier to find in the browser.


The Master Page 13m:07s

The Master Page contains a lot of global settings which will come in really handy when we come to designing our FM8 patches. In this video we'll go through every knob and button on the Master page so you know exactly what each one does.

Effects and Arpeggiator


Effects 12m:43s

FM8 contains a whole suite of effects which we can use to process our patches. In this video, we'll explore each effect and I'll explain what every parameter does. We'll also look and learn how to call up effect templates as well as saving our own templates.


The Arpeggiator 11m:43s

This is one of the most fun aspects of FM8. In this video we'll learn how to use the various perimeters of the arpeggiator to produce many different rhythmic patterns from melodic broken chords sequences to squelch 303 style lines to retro Chiptune riffs!

Hard and Easy


Introduction to Expert Mode 9m:35s

In this video we'll take our first look at expert mode. We'll establish the fundamental principles behind FM synthesis and learn how we can use operators as carriers and modulators to alter the timbre and amplitude of our sound.


Easy/Morph Page 10m:25s

In this video we'll learn how we can use the Easy/Morph page to radically change our patches as well as other peoples. By using the simple parameters in Easy/Morph, we can make changes to complex sounds in a matter of seconds. We'll also take our first look at the X Y morph pad.

Operators and Envelopes


Operators Pt. 1 10m:32s

In this video we'll return to expert mode and take a closer look at our operators. Explore in depth everything our standard operators, A - F are capable of, how we can route them using the FM matrix and we'll also take an in depth look at operator X.


Operators Pt. 2 7m:00s

Continued from Operators Part 1.


Envelopes Pt. 1 7m:14s

In this video we'll take our first look at FM8's very sophisticated envelopes. We'll see how we can use them to create innovative warping textures and looping patterns. We'll also have a look at the envelopes in FM8's Keyscale page.


Envelopes Pt. 2 10m:31s

Continued from Envelopes Part 1.

Advanced Synthesis and Routing


The Modulation Matrix & LFOs 15m:13s

In this video we'll explore the modulation matrix. We'll see how we can route modulation from a variety of different sources to our operators and how we can use LFOs to control parameters and give our patches a more natural performance feel.


FM8 as a Subtractive Synth 9m:43s

FM8 is not just an FM Synthesizer. in this video we'll take an in depth look at Operator Z and learn how we can use FM8 as a powerful subtractive synth.


Routing External Audio into FM8 8m:59s

In this video we'll see how by using FM8 as an effect plug-in within our DAW, we can use FM8's suite of effects to process external audio. We'll also see how we can use external audio to module FM8's operators as well as using operators to modulate our incoming audio.


The XY Morph Pad In-Depth 9m:13s

The XY Morph Pad is a feature of FM8 which allows us to morph between different settings and can be a fantastic tool for creative sound design. In this video we'll explore the possibilities of the morph pad and learn which perimeters can be morphed and which can't.

Sound Design


Boards of Canada-esque Pad 8m:39s

FM Synthesis is often associated with very harsh digital sounds, but FM8 can also produce very warm analog-like tones. In this video we'll use FM8 to create a warm, detuned, Boards of Canada-esque synth pad.


Synth Drums in FM8 11m:32s

FM8 is a really versatile synth. As well as melodic synths, FM8 can also produce percussive drum like sounds. In this video we'll create a synthesized Kick, Snare, Hi-Hat and Tom all using only FM8.


Dubstep Bass in FM8 Pt. 1 8m:55s

FM8 can produce some very hard, aggressive, abrasive and complex sounds which are perfect for Dubstep. In this video we'll make five devastating bass patches as well as a sub bass patch.


Dubstep Bass in FM8 Pt. 2 7m:45s

Continued from Dubstep Bass in FM8 Part 1.

Al Swettenham

1. When did you start dabbling in music?

I've been dabbling in music for as long as I can remember in one way or another. As a toddler, my Dad used to sit me at the piano while he played and I'd just bash the keys! But it was in my early teens that I first started trying to write electronic music and learning to program MIDI. I wasn't great at it then but I really enjoyed it and I knew from then on that all I wanted to do was music. When I was 14 I made a CD of my own self made house tunes and persuaded them to sell it in my local record shop down the road. The tracks were pretty basic but I sold all 20 copies!

2. What training have you had?

I did an A-Level in Music Technology, it was pretty retro; we were recording onto analog tape with a Tascam MSR-16 and there were usually only about 8 or 9 channels on the 16 channel desk actually working at any given time! Then I did a BA (Hons) in Popular Music Production at the University of Huddersfield, they were a lot better equipped! I also spent a year working as a trainee studio engineer at ICC Studios, a great recording studio down on the south coast of England. That was really where I cut my teeth, learning to use with Pro-Tools and SADiE. It was hard work but also great fun. ICC was also where I learned the people skills necessary to be a studio engineer. Helping musicians feel comfortable and relaxed so they can give a great performance is a vital part of the job and those skills have come in very handy when working with vocalists on my own music.

3. When did you get into recording?

I first got into recording when I did my A-Level, before that I was really just making crude general midi tracks using a really basic version of Cubase called Cubasis AV. That was a really important step on the road to becoming a producer, before then I didn't really know how to use EQs and compressors effectively. Given that most of my experience up to that point had been teaching myself how to use various bits of software to write dance music, getting some proper training in micing up guitar cabs and drum kits, all using analogue equipment was really valuable.

4. People you have worked with/for?

I'm one third of Rebel Sonix, audio visual bass merchants based in Brixton, London. I joined after having done a few collabs and remixes with them over the last year. I've also worked with Adam Freeland, most notably on a dubstep remix of the James Bond theme for the launch of the videogame Goldeneye Reloaded. I've remixed several tracks by FeralisKinky, the UK's first ever white, female raga vocalist, and I remixed Delirious' last ever single before they broke up, which was a real honour since I remember going to their gigs as a teenager! Other artists I've worked with include Whiskey Pete, Adam Fielding, Steve Leach, Tom+Olly and You And What Army. I get approached quite a lot to do remixes and collabs and I try to do as much as I can, with the inevitable consequence that I'm always really busy!

5. Why are you so good at training people?

I've spent more than 10 years now learning about studio recording, computer composition and sound design and music production. As a producer I never stop learning because I'm always trying to improve my own production skills. I'm comfortable working in a diverse range of genres as well as a diverse range of software and plugins. I also believe I'm clear, concise and articulate (a trait I've absorbed via osmosis from my parents who are both teachers.) But most of all I'm really passionate about this stuff, music production is my life and when I discover something new I get really excited and want to tell people (just ask my wife!)

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