If you’re into EDM styles of music, you’ll have come across the riser and fall effects which are a staple sound of a lot of productions. The reason for the effect is purely to drive energy and expectation to the next phase of the track, usually progresses into a dynamic change in contrast. The riser / fall gives the listener a clue that a buildup is occurring, heightening tension and getting them ready to dance their asses off!
But what components make up the riser / falls? Well it’s a multitude of sound layers, not just a singular sound part (although it could be but that may sound dated by todays standards)
The key components which can help out are:
Noise: This can be white noise filtered in, level controlled, lfo controlled, color ‘toned’ (more about this later), and noise style (again more on this shortly)
Single note: This can help to create a sweep effect so rising or falling in pitch to create motion upwards / downwards.
Chord notes: This can create added tension as a third layer, usually super-saw style or unison sounds.
Delay / Reverb: Can help add depth, space and size to the overall sound, for a more dramatic effect.
Ducker: This might be used to help create a side-chain style effect of making the overall sound pulse in time to the music.
Time: When we say time we mean the length of time your riser / fall lasts for, and how each of the components react with each other over a set timeframe. This could be an 8 bar measure or a 16 bar measure (common lengths in EDM, to coincide with the tempo and each progressing section of the track). Within this timeframe you can control all the other components to work with each other in sequence and/or a compounded sound, to really make your effect pronounced.
Putting things together.
Working in Reason for this example, we’ll guide you through a possible option using the smallest chain of devices and sound modules.
1. Create a Thor – reset it to default (if it loads up a factory preset)
2. Set the first Oscillator to Analog (square or saw), or Wavetable and pick a table that’s harmonically rich sounding. This will help cut through the layers as our ‘siren’ style tone
3. Set the second Oscillator to Multi, this would play as our chord notes. You can use the Fifth Up, OctUpDn, Fifth or Octave to help make chorded style sounds and tweak them during the effect playback, to help add more tension & character.
4. Set the third Oscillator to Noise, and choose the Color mode.
5. Set all 3 oscillators to route into Filter 1. Set filter 1 as a LPF12 or LPF24 (low pass filter) – this can help control the high end ‘energy’ over time. The higher the slope (the ’12’ or ’24’ part) the more severe the filter will cut the signals. Set cutoff to 39.4Hz (lowest possible value) – this will cut everything above 39.4hz making the sound ‘duller’ by removing the high end. Leave resonance as is for now. Turn all ENV, VEL and KBD knobs to 0 (zero). We won’t be using these.
6. Change the filter routing so that Filter 1 is directed into Filter 2.
7. Set Filter 2 to SVF mode (state variable filter), and set it to HPF12 and also set the frequency to 39.4Hz. This will cut everything below 39.4Hz removing low end information. Being at the lowest value to start with means that little to no audio signal will be removed. Again leave resonance for now. Turn all ENV, VEL and KBD knobs to 0 (zero). We won’t be using these either.
8. Now set the ADSR AMP envelope to the following: A = 0.2sec, D = 0sec, S = 0.0dB, R = 0.5sec. This will tell Thor that we want the sound up full volume, and slightly remove any clicks when we strike our MIDI key, plus do a minimal fade out when we release our MIDI key.
So now we have our base sound ready. Time to start creating our sounds.
1. In the sequencer draw in a single long 8 bar note. This is our timeline we’ll be working with.
2. On Thor, we can right click (Win) / CMD+click (Mac) controls to employ automation lanes to work with our riser / fall effect. Setup lanes to automate the following:
Filter 1 Frequency : Filter 1 Resonance : Filter 2 Frequency : Filter 2 Resonance : Mixer 1/2 Balance : Mixer 1+2 Level : Mixer 3 Level : Osc 2 Detune Amount : Osc 3 Mod Amount : Pitch Wheel : Master Level.
3. Now in the sequencer we have all our parameters we want to automate over the length of our note. We can start with Pitch wheel, draw in two points, one at the start (around the middle of the lane for zero pitch change) and the second point at the end higher up, so we rise up in pitch over the length of the note. Do a similar setup for Filter 1 Frequency, where you open the filter up, letting more and more high end content through as we play the sound, making it totally complete by the time we get to the end of the key press.
4. Keep doing extra automations over the same time frame; adjusting the Osc 2 Detune will make the ‘chord’ dissonant for added tension and then open up into a more solid chord by the end of it; changing the color of the noise to give it it’s own filtering effect; Mixer 3 level to control the noise level (fade in / fade out); Mixer 1/2 balance to adjust the balance between simple and complex sounds of the two oscillators.
5. If you want to change the direction of the sound from going up to going down, edit the pitch wheel automation and lower the second automation point so the sound ‘falls’ through the pitches.
But we’re not quite finished – the sound is shaping ok but it’s missing something; depth. To help with this add a Reverb unit (RV7000 is a great one in Reason) on the end and set the dry / wet level accordingly, to give a larger size effect and to give it some spacial recognition. You could go one further and turn on Thor’s Delay, which would insert between the Filter 2 output and the RV7000, giving a more echoing style effect with the reverb smoothing it out, all while the effect is changing over time.
Once you get used to this, you can introduce LFOs in Thor and connect them to filters or audio level controls via Thor’s Mod Matrix – automating the LFO rate from slow to fast can also create tension and excitement, giving your riser / fall effects even more pulsing warbling effects.
As soon as you’ve got a sound you like, you can combine all the rack units into a Combinator and save the Combinator effect. Additionally you can sample the effect to WAV / AIFF format so you can use in other programs or sample based units for even more audio ear candy – try playing the sample down 7 notes for a deeper effect, or play it in a higher key for a fast zappy sound. Even reversing the sound can bring unexpected results which may be your next awesome sound effect which it yours completely. Remember though – if you are recording to WAV and you want the full sound including the reverb tail AFTER the note has been released, extend the MIDI clip before rendering, so that you capture the full sound.
This is just one possible way to create a riser / fall effect, experiment and see what you can come up with