Modulation just got better: Learn how to use Kaleidoscopes’ unique dynamic modulation features for rich, beautiful effects that react to your playing and create musical cohesion.
By Craig Anderton
Login to download the free Kaleidoscopes presets used in this article.
Many musical effects are considered set-and-forget—you dial in a sound you like, and that’s it. If the music (or your mood) changes, your options are to bypass the effect or call up a new preset.
But effects no longer have to be that way.
With Kaleidoscopes’ triggering and dynamics tracking features, you get the feeling that its four effects are listening to you, not the other way around. Finally, you can control how effects happen (and when they happen) by your playing or from other audio signals—not just by hitting a footswitch or moving a foot-pedal. We’ll provide some examples and give you the presets as a FREE download for you to experiment with.
Kaleidoscopes does have a lot of onboard features and functions, but remember, it’s a toolkit. You can achieve great sounds using only one or two of its tools…or dive deep into a wealth of modulation and routing options. So, in that spirit, we’ll start simple and then cover some more complex possibilities.
1. Dancing with Drums
Everyone seeks to achieve a sense of “glue” in the mix and cohesiveness in a production. There is actually a rather simple and musical way to do this with FX—using one sound to modulate another to fuse the sounds together. Vocoders are a good example of this—the instrument takes on vocal qualities, and the voice takes on instrumental qualities. Kaleidoscopes has the ability to do something similar by taking the profile of one instrument and have it pulsate based on the performance of another instrument or vocal. This can be taken anywhere from subtle to extreme.
A great application for Kaleidoscopes’ ability to modulate one sound with another is fusing melodic sounds with rhythms. For example, if you modulate a sustained sound like a string pad with drums the pad becomes more animated and less static. This is particularly useful with an EDM genre like trance, which often uses pads. Modulating a pad selectively with drums, so that the pad sustains in sections that are meant to flow smoothly but then becomes modulated in more energetic sections, adds variety without having to change the basic timbre or alter the part.
In rock music, sustained guitar “power chords” are a strong sonic element, but they can also overpower other instruments because their thick, full character doesn’t leave a lot of room for other sounds. Modulating power chords with drums during verses pulls back on the guitar’s intensity, but when the vocals stop, then the guitar can re-enter at full force.
Audio example 1 below involves two parts. Starting with measure 5, you can hear that the organ sound isn’t continuous but reacts to amplitude changes from the drums. This “animates” the organ more. Meanwhile, there’s flanging applied to the Morphoder voices singing “angel” near the beginning and just before the end. Because the effects blend in with the drums, it’s not easy to hear the effects distinctly—they become part of the overall sound, and that’s the idea! (Even though for the sake of the example, I did make the modulation a bit stronger than I would normally).
In audio example 2 below, everything except the organ and Morphoder “angels” is in dim solo mode. This way, you can hear the rest of the music faintly, but the effect on the organ and “angels” is prominent. Bear in mind that the organ sound is continuous; the volume variations (including bringing the volume up with the cymbal hits, after which it fades) are caused by the drums. Also, you can now hear the flanging on “angels” clearly. They’re being flanged with the drums, as described in the next section.
You don’t need complex Kaleidoscopes setups to animate a sound in this way—the “Dancing with Drums” preset simply uses a single Tremolo effect and doesn’t need the Trigger section.
2. Flanging with Drums
This is similar to Dancing with Drums but uses flanging to provide time-based animation. Although you can turn up the Feedback and Depth for crazy sci-fi sounds, setting these parameters (and Sens) conservatively can add an almost subliminal feeling of motion to a mix.
You already heard this applied to the Morphoder voices in the previous example, but the audio example below isolates just the organ and drums, and in the second half, the drums flange the organ rhythmically. This way, the effect is obvious.
Rhythmically synchronized effects aren’t only for dance music. For example, insert a bandpass filter in parallel with bass, and modulate the filter cutoff with drums. This provides a funky envelope follower effect, but the envelope comes from the drums, not the bass.
3. Series Tremolo Burst
For EDM effects with sustained sounds, I often insert two tremolos in series. The first one runs at a fast, rhythm-related rate like 16th notes, while the second runs at a slower rate, for example, quarter notes. The second tremolo then “gates” the pulses generated by the first tremolo.
If we fold in the tremolo burst, the effect becomes much more interesting—the gating may let through the tremolo burst or the sustained sound, depending on your playing style and the sustained sound’s duration. In audio example 4 below, the effect on the synthesizer is such an important part of the song it doesn’t need to be isolated. However, also note that there are subtle amplitude changes applied to the guitar as well.
The Drumbender effect combines two flanging effects. Effect 1’s envelope-controlled flanger tracks the incoming drum audio’s level, so attack transients push the flanging frequency higher. Meanwhile, Effect 2 uses a very slow sine wave to modulate the other flanger.
In example 5 below, the slow, regular flanging from Effect 2 contrasts with Effect 1’s flanging, which is tightly synchronized to the drum’s envelope. This preset lends itself well to customization—try less Feedback to create a more subtle flanging effect, or go crazy with out-of-control Feedback and tempo sync in Effect 2. Audio example 5 applies the effect to mixed drums.
Kaleidoscopes is full of surprises. The Notebender preset is a variation on Drumbender, but compared to drums, the end result is wildly different when you apply this preset to guitar or other melodic instruments. Like the Drumbender, Effect 1 provides envelope control over the flanger, but it’s used to bend the pitch. When a note from a percussive instrument like guitar attacks, the pitch bends up instantly before settling down to pitch. Meanwhile, Effect 2 provides a slow, rolling chorus effect.
Audio example 6 combines two tracks – Notebender with guitar and Drumbender with drums – and the guitar sound somewhat recalls plucked ethnic instruments that bend strings upon plucking. You can dial back the settings for more subtlety, and the result is a chorusing effect with an uncanny ability to follow your instrument’s dynamics. With heavier bending (turn up the Depth in Effect 1), playing single-note lines gives novel bending effects.
Overall, Kaleidoscopes is definitely not your standard multi-effects unit. Although the Trigger functionality will probably be of greatest interest for those into highly rhythmic music (like EDM or hip hop), the envelope follower and extensive modulation options, coupled with routing flexibility, can give results that are useful with almost any musical genre.
Login to download the free Kaleidoscopes presets used in this article.
Want more on using Kaleidoscopes? Learn the difference between phaser, flanger, chorus and tremolo HERE.
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