How to create drone FX

Audiotent Tip #428 // How to create drone FX

An often-overlooked area of production is FX. A well placed and designed sound effect can really help set the tone of your track and offer another layer of complexity.

In this example, we’re going to design and process a drone/atmospheric sound effect. We will be using Sylenth1, along with the stock Ableton Live plugins. The same techniques can be applied within any DAW.

Here is the sound we are going to create:

Start with an INIT patch inside Sylenth1. For oscillator A1, choose a half pulse waveform, pitch it down -2 octaves and leave retrig enabled.

Osc 1

For oscillator A2, again choose a half pulse waveform, pitch it down -2 octaves and this time leave retrig off, apply 4 voices and detune to around 11 o’clock. The detuning will help thicken out the sound.

Osc 2

Next, we will shape the amp envelope. We want the sound effect to come up in volume slowly and have a tail. In order to do this we set a slow attack and long release.

Amp env

Next, we’ll apply a low pass filter, turn on warm drive and dial in the filter drive to around 11 o’clock.

Filter drive

Ok, so now the sound needs some movement. Using LFO1 we can modulate the Phase and with LFO2 we can modulate LFO1’s gain. The settings are:

LFO1
Rate: 1/128
Gain: 3.3
Destination Amount: 1.4

LFO2
Rate: 1/4
Gain: 10
Destination Amount: 3.4

LFO

Now onto the processing. First we use EQ to band-pass a select frequency range. Focussing the sound around 500-2kHz. Low cut at 347Hz and high cut at 1.53kHz.

Bandpass

Next is a simple delay to add a touch of space and smoothness to the tail of the effect. Using 1/8 on the left channel and 1/4 on the right channel.

Delay

A really good way to make unique sounding effects is to apply a ring mod. We can do this inside Ableton with the frequency shifter plugin. Set the mode to Ring, dial up the frequency to around 5.4kHz, apply a small amount of mix and engage drive to push the sound. This helps to add a nice metallic tone.

Ring mod

The effects of the ring mod can sometimes be a little over powering so we will add another EQ and tame some of those higher frequencies, whilst cleaning up the low end.

Final eq

The last step is to add a nice long reverb to push the sound back slightly in the mix. A nice 5sec or more hall will do the trick.

Reverb

Here’s how it sounds in the mix.

If you’re looking for more special effects to add to your library, check out Drone FX sample pack.

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