SFX Machine Online Documentation


There are a number of ways to invent new effects using SFX Machine.

  1. Start with an existing effect and modify it
    Make it more subtle or more outrageous.
  1. Combine an existing effect with other effects
    For example, the Gliss Up + Filter Sweep Preset starts with a Delay Modulation pitch shift, then runs the result through a feedback loop so the pitch keeps shifting higher and higher. Then the output goes through a filter whose cutoff frequency is slowly being swept by a sine wave, bringing out different parts of the spectrum as the pitch spirals upward. You can use the modules left over to add even more effects.

    You can also try out composite effects by running SFX Machine multiple times with different settings. For example, process your selection using the Sitar Drone Effect, then call SFX Machine again and use the 2 to 1 Flange. You can make interesting noise textures by sequentially using one effect after another until the original sound becomes unrecognizable. If you find a series of effects that are useful together, try combining them into a single Preset.

  1. Add the Envelope Follower to an existing effect
    You can use the Envelope Follower to make almost any Preset less mechanical, so it breathes with the music.
  1. Use the Randomizer
    Click "Randomize" over and over until you get something interesting. If an intriguing effect is swamped by noise, try to isolate the interesting part by turning off modules or outputs one by one.

    Then analyze how the patch works. Turning modules off to see how they affect the sound is a good way to understand what's happening. Once you figure out the basic workings of a patch, simplify it and tweak it to suit your desires.

  1. Play "What If..." games
    What if you used the pitch of a sound to control its panning? What if the amplitude of a sound controlled the speed and depth of its vibrato? What if you became a total SFX Machine virtuoso?

  1. Let the material dictate the process
    Start with a sound sample and ask yourself what it wants. Listen with your mind's ear.
  1. Design a patch on paper
    It may be easier to design a complicated patch by drawing it out first, then translating the drawing to Edit Screen modules and settings.
  1. Debug a patch by selectively enabling outputs
    If a complicated patch is not giving the desired result, try disabling the outputs and outputting various intermediate control signals instead. For example, you could route the Envelope Follower's output to the left channel out and send the Raise to Power output to the right. Then click the Process button and view the waveforms from the host program. This should help you see what each section of the Preset is doing. Afterwards, use the host's Undo command to undo SFX Machine's processing. Then invoke SFX Machine again and correct the problem.
  1. Start with an idea and figure out how to implement it
    The idea could be for a musical effect, a sound effect, a simulation of a real or imagined acoustic process, or a purely electronic effect anywhere between music, sound design and noise.

Ideas for new Presets

Here are some ideas to start with:

  • Simulate ocean waves rolling in and crashing on the shore.

  • Simulate imaginary landscapes.

  • Implement a brightness follower (Envelope Follow the output of a high-pass filter). What could you do with this?

  • Make a set of commonly used test tones.

  • Implement additive synthesis by mixing sine waves in a harmonic series (e.g., 100 Hz, 200 Hz, 300 Hz... 800 Hz). Link some of the output amplitudes to sliders and try varying the proportions of the different harmonics. Look at the resulting waveforms after you click "Process." See if you can simulate a triangle wave or square wave using additive synthesis.

  • Make a Doppler Effect simulation (with changes in volume and pitch as an imaginary object passes by).

  • Pan a signal left and right using the precedence effect, in which the perceived location of a sound source is dominated by which speaker's sound reaches the ear first.

  • Make a Rotary Speaker simulation (using amplitude and delay modulation, with the rate of the modulation itself being slowly modulated).

  • Create pseudo-vocal sounds with random pitches of a harmonically rich tone and two to five modulated bandpass filter formants.

  • Pseudo-stereo. Use your host program to save a mono sound as stereo (same on both channels). Then use comb filters or alternate filter banks to separate the sound into two channels which, when added together, yield the original mono sound.

  • Simulate the frequency response of a car radio.

  • Simulate short-wave radio static and chirps.

  • Simulate a phonograph record's pops, clicks and background static.

  • Simulate the frequency response of a telephone (100 Hz -- 4 kHz). Then make separate Presets to imitate a phone ringing, a dial tone, various touch tones, and the "You have reached a number that has been changed or is no longer in service" tones. (U.S.)

  • Simulate the physics or imitate the sound of an acoustic process, such as a plucked string. The tutorial chapter gives the example of filtered white noise = blowing-across-a- bottle. What other physical processes can you simulate?

  • Simulate mathematical chaos/audio fractals.

  • Simulate guitar amplifier distortion.

  • Create short sounds suitable for use with a sampler.

  • Make techno/modular synthesis effects that slowly evolve over time, with changes within changes.

If you implement new Presets, send us a copy to put on the SFX Machine web page!

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