Wavetables manipulated through distortion and modulation...

The story

I’m not very good at provenance. I don’t record using rare vintage ribbon microphones, and I record unusual things, then process them to make strange sounds. So, instead, I’m providing detail…

ALSCHMR started out as a recording of a sound made using Waverne, a Max For Live plug-in that I programmed (based on an original called Laverne, but that’s another story…). It uses a variant of wavetable called wave sliding, where the wavetable is treated as a sample, and the start and stop points are moved forwards and backwards in real time using an LFO. I created the wavetables used in the two Oscillators myself, using Audacity.

The output of Waverne was then processed using two Max For Live plug-ins that I programmed: Ironic Distortion, which adds aliasing, quantisation noise and other digital processing artefacts (in this case, simulating a mid-1980s, 12-bit digital synth), and then Ferrous Modulation, which uses balanced modulators to produce wow, flutter and various other tape-oriented ephemera. There was a lot of influence here from Christian Henson’s YouTube videos featuring various ‘Tape Emulation’ guitar pedals…

Octave samples were obtained at four velocities, and the resulting 20 stereo samples were then tidied up in Audacity. Finally, as if there wasn’t enough coding in this already, I wrote the scripting file for Decent Sampler to deal with the 4-Round-Robins, 4 Velocity layers, plus lots of tuning and velocity tweaking.

All told, there’s just over a month’s worth of programming, wavetable creation, and editing in this virtual instrument. There are two base sounds: ‘Slow’, which have a slow attack, and ‘Fast’, which has a fast attack. If you use the ‘Attack’ control, then you can over-ride the fast attacks of the ‘Fast’ sounds – but unfortunately this does not work as well on the ‘Slow’ sounds… Each of these has four variants and modified velocity mappings in the lower row (with reversed names). There’s quite a lot of high frequency content in the base samples, and so the ‘Tone’ control is useful for adding some (or a lot of) low-pass filtering.

Despite all of the processing, and my best efforts at humanising the detunes and other ephemera, the resulting timbre still has a synthetic quality, which, of course, reflects its origins. To me, it sounds like some wort of strange metal harmonium crossed with a xylophone. To you, it sounds like another of my free virtual instruments.

Reviews for ALSCHMR

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  • A sharp, dreamy sound

    At first, this is a very intimidating instrument in terms of both sound and GUI. Initially, the sound is very sharp and crispy, but it is also very dreamy with a smoother body. I found that with the included ModWheel Tone control you can kind of ease the harshness, or you can try messing with the tons of options that you will find.

    Definitely recommended, especially since it's completely free on DecentSampler!

    Alex Raptakis17 January 2022