MASTERING ENVELOPES, Part 2
 Envelopes   Quick Reference   Tutorial 1   Tutorial 2  Timings

 Enveloped in luxury:

 A wealth of sonic options with advanced envelopes!

 

 

Two recording engineers go into a bar...

 Stop me if you've heard this one.

 

One engineer records in stereo while the other one records in Mid/Side format.  "But I never monitor BOTH the Mid and Side channels during playback.  I throw away the Mid and only listen to the Side mix," he says.

"You're kidding?" says the first engineer. 

"No really.  In fact I only listen to everything inSide."

"Why's that?"

"Because it’s too damn cold out Side."

 

  1. If this joke is too geeky for you—warning: this article contains mildly challenging technical content.  —Piece of cake for smart people like us.
  2. If this joke is too stupid for you—warning:  the level of humor in this article will not improve.  In fact, it will actually fade away…like the release of an envelope.  See what I did there? Writing!
  3. Finally, this “joke” about monitoring mixes by listening to the Side channel is not as kooky as it might seem.  Assuming you’re hip to M/S recording and processing, here is an article by Dave Moulton about the advantages of analyzing a mix by listening to the Side channel. 

And if you are new to the miracles of M/S, the internet is full of great resources to get you started.  Here’s one to begin with:  “Front and Center” by Brian Heller from Electronic Musician magazine

Mid/Side doesn’t have a lot to do with the topic of this article (envelopes), and M/S processing may start you down a path of enlightenment that could take a lifetime to master.  —Unlike advanced envelopes, which you should be able to get a handle on in a single evening (see how we bring it around?).

 

The Envelope, please!

 This article is your Online Graduate Degree in Envelope Sciences.  Like any advanced degree, it doesn’t just give you a punch-list of empirical definitions. You can find those in the manual. 

Unlike the manual, this article has the editorial freedom to discuss the broader role of envelopes and other modulators in shaping your sound.  This article is not simply intended to explain parameter details: it encourages an expanded frame of reference for thinking about how envelopes fit into sound design. This article also discusses some advanced applications for constructing the most responsive envelopes possible. 

Please note that some of these extended envelope parameters (such as reverb) are available only on the SQ80.

 

Why the manual didn’t work for you:

The ESQ/SQ80 manual is great —possibly one of the best I’ve ever read.  But if the correspondence to the old Transoniq Hacker are any indication, people were hoping for something more.   The problem, as I see it, is that the manual was DEscriptive, instead of PREscriptive.  The manual explained envelopes (and everything else) in suitable detail with a breezy style.  But it did not make “recommendations”. 

The manual told you what the parameters mean, but it did not tell you how to make a flute patch…much less what collection of methods to use to perform general classes of sound design. This is understandable. It was (and is) an excellent hardware user’s manual —not an introduction to synthesis techniques or the philosophy of sound design.

 —But in THIS article, I have taken every opportunity to be PREscriptive as well as DEscriptive.  I don’t just tell you what something is, but WHY you’d want to do it, HOW to do it, and WHEN would be a better time to just make a cup of coffee and think about your place in the universe.

 

Organization of this article

  1. The “TED talk” on Envelope-ology
  2. An envelope is more than volume!
  3. Universal envelopes-three specific cases
  4. SMART envelopes: The "if/then" envelope
  5. The Extended Envelope Parameters (What’s all this LV, TK, and T1V stuff?)
    • Also, sometimes after I enter a value, the letter “R”, “L” or “X” appears. That has to be a bug, right?
  6. The diagram explained
  7. Reverb?  For free? Well, sorta... 

The story so far:

 In the previous article you learned techniques to decimate the simple ADSR envelopes on today’s soft synths, just by using simple time and level parameters.  Isn’t that enough? 

The road ahead:

 Nope.  Too much is never enough.  This article will teach you how to design and use envelopes that respond dynamically based on your performance.  This will also illustrate how envelopes aren’t just for volume control (as if you didn’t know already).

Making great envelope generators even more powerful

 So Level/Time parameters are everything you need to control an envelope, right?

 Well, that's good enough for an ADSR MiniMoog, Prophet 5 or even the DADSR of an Oberheim Xpander, but I want more. 

I want envelopes that control more than volume.  I want to be able to control filter amount and pitch with the same envelope at the same time(!).  I also need envelopes that hit crazy values that an amp envelope never could.

 I also want the envelope to be SMART.  I want it to behave differently and dynamically based on my performance.  —Like a computer is controlling it, sending different instructions based on different circumstances. I want "if/then" envelopes!

 Finally, I want my envelopes to be flexible.  I want them to easily simulate reverb and ambiance.  But just because they behave like a computer is controlling them, I don’t want them to sound that way! I want them to organically swoop up and down in graceful, natural-sounding curves, not just rocket from stage to stage in mechanical straight-line ramps.  

If the amplitude of a sound falls in a forest....

 It seems like the synthesizer media is obsessed with filters and waveforms.  But the world of subtractive synthesis only opened up to me once I understood envelopes and LFOs. Specifically, how they are similar, how they are different, and how they commonly affect a sound.

One way to think about the different elements of synthesis (not only LFOs and envelopes) is to compare them to your computer’s office suite.  Many of the applications perform similar tasks, even if they’re not specifically designed for them—You could type a business letter in PowerPoint or Excel and it would kinda work!  I bet your mom is probably doing something like this right now. 

Likewise, Microsoft Word and the Access database can perform mathematical calculations, just like a spreadsheet.  But if you use the wrong tool for the wrong job, you’re not playing to the strength of the suite, and you’re missing features designed to simplify specific jobs.

Similarly, many synthesizer modules can be “tricked” into behaving like other modules.  A filter can become a final volume envelope (try this instead of ENV4 sometime), damping or increasing the amplitude by carving or boosting harmonic content.

A LFO is like a very simple envelope that keeps repeating and repeating and repeating (…).  Conversely, an envelope could be compared to a super-complex LFO that only triggers one time per keystroke.

Factoring in the “Factory” Factor

 Here’s how I think about LFOs vs. envelopes:  A LFO is like a robot turning a crank in an “LFO Factory”.  The LFO can be a relatively simple cycle, or it can have enhanced capabilities, like the ESQ/SQ80 delays, modulation routings, cycle restart modes and more.  But generally the LFO factory is a highly automated “set it and forget it” operation.

 The LFO robots do not have a good benefits package and the guy that programs the LFOs is not invited to the really important meetings. Sometimes the robots will walk off the job, live on my sister’s couch, and work at Taco Bell for beer money.

 


The Envelope Factory, on the other hand is a more specialized operation.  Each envelope is stamped separately by a template machine and launches a complex “laundry list” of sequential instructions after every key press.  Constructing the best envelope “templates” is more complex than setting an LFO.  There is room for customization for each “stamp”.  Furthermore, the envelopes must have flexible capabilities to allow them to work for filters, amplitude and pitch. 

Other low-tech operations (e.g. other synthesizers) have limited “bench-top” mini-envelopes dedicated to single filters or volume only.  They are one-trick ponies. 

—But you have access to the world-class ESQ/SQ80 envelope factory that can not only generate a flexible envelope for anything; it can also be patched across multiple modules at the same time

You’ll be glad to know that the envelope factory robots (1) behave according to Isaac Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics. You are unlikely to be horrifically slaughtered while using them. They (2) also have a nice corporate matching plan for their Robot Retirement Accounts, and (3) the guy that programs the envelopes is under constant threat of being poached by corporate headhunters, which sounds scary, but it’s actually a good thing.

 

Let’s bring this robot factory metaphor back to the ESQ/SQ80.  If you’re coming from an older analog perspective—or the world of soft synths—one of your first questions was probably “how do I get the envelopes to (fill in the blank)?” 

What you quickly learned was, in the semi-modular ESQ/SQ80 world, AN ENVELOPE IS AN ENVELOPE IS AN ENVELOPE. There is very little “hard wiring”.  You are free to route any envelope (or LFO, for that matter) to any module.  You can use all of the envelopes.  Or only one.A Different Kind of Sampler

This brings us to Envelope revelation number 1.  You’ve figured this out already, but:

AN ENVELOPE IS FOR MORE THAN VOLUME CONTROL.

 

An Envelope for All Seasons

 Many old synths had dedicated envelopes at certain stages of their signal path.  If the manufacturer hard-wired a particular stage without an envelope, you were stuck.  You’d need to invent a “trick” to achieve the effect you wanted.  Eventually, this sort of limitation began to seem like the natural order of things.

I remember magazine reviews of the ESQ-1 where grown men actually published comments like "I don't get it.  Where’s the pitch envelope?" (mind you, this was in a favorable review!). They were fooled by the flexibility of the architecture.  In fact, ALL of the envelopes were pitch envelopes.  Or, it would be equally true to say (as we pointed out), that the magazine reviewer was right: The ESQ doesn’t have ANY pitch envelopes...  The decision is left up to YOU, not some draughtsman in Malvern Pennsylvania. The ESQ/SQ80 overcomes the limitations of synthesizers with hardwired signal chains by allowing you to insert a “universal” envelope anywhere the routing can be sensibly modulated.

This flexibility is the reason we call the ESQ/SQ80 architecture “Semi-Modular”.  It resembles rack-mounted modular synthesizers where specialized modules can be connected at any point of the signal chain with patch cords. 

I call this method of flexibly “patching” envelopes and other modules “Lego Synthesis”.  With all the flexibility of Lego blocks, you can construct almost any signal path you desire.  The ESQ/SQ80 is not as “open” as a true modular synthesizer, but you get much of the power of a modular in a compact, polyphonic package.

Which way is up?

In the same way that a lot of older synths had hardwired envelopes, another common “feature” was the envelope polarity switch.  Polarity allowed you (for example) to make the pitch RISE-and-fall (switch “up”) or fall-and-RISE (switch “down”).  Envelope polarity is essentially an electrical engineering trick that helped limited envelopes become a bit more flexible.  The ESQ/SQ80 is flexible enough that it doesn’t need polarity settings:  It fully supports both positive and negative envelope values (where they are technically valid), so you don’t need the “envelope polarity” kludge.  This explains why the envelope diagram on the front panel shows negative.  Negative values:  Useless for volume-vital for pitch and filter effects!

Providing a universal envelope that is usable everywhere adds another advantage:  You only have to learn how to use a single envelope screen.  There are no “specialized”, limited or expanded envelopes with different parameters for you to learn.  No parameters that result in nasty surprises when you patch the wrong envelope to the wrong module.  In the ESQ/SQ80 world, there is only one kind of envelope, and it works for everything.

 

Universal envelopes: 3 Specific cases

And “The Wynkoop Effect”

For you people who only skim articles, I’m going to specifically present the three common applications of envelopes.  We’ve been dancing around them long enough.   Get used to them, because we will be revisiting each of them as we power through the extended parameters (foreshadowing!).

I’d also like to throw in a little trick that the architecture allows us to perform. I’ve named it after myself, in a pique of jealousy over the Rainer Buchty Ratio and the Slinkard Maneuver.

 

Case 1—Amplitude (volume) Envelope (the standard case):

Using an envelope to control volume is *the* standard trick.  The entire first article in this series was based on that case.  The manual covers this topic pretty well.  Most Internet resources also seem geared to explain this application. And on the ESQ/SQ80, we can even add multiple amplitude envelopes (or any other two modulators) at the same time on the DCA page to exaggerate the effect of the envelope generators. I call this technique “The Wynkoop Gemini Effect”, named after me, Mark Wynkoop, even though I didn’t make it possible and don’t claim to be the first person to use it. See, I really am like your college professor.

“The Wynkoop Effect”:  Duplicate redundant modulation results in exaggerated (but not geometric) augmentation of the effect.

 

Case 2—Filter Envelope:

Modulating the Filter Cutoff Frequency is the second area of envelope usefulness, and it is a very significant topic.  We’ve already discussed how a filter itself can kind of act like an amplitude envelope.  Here, we cut out the middle man and allow the envelope to directly sculpt the behavior of the filter.  We can design any crazy envelope landscape we desire.  And, just like the DCA,  we can even add multiple envelopes at the same time.  On pages such as DCA and Filter, where two simultaneous modulation sources are allowed, look at the capability to duplicate the same envelope as a special-effects trick, not something you’d want to try every time. Try an A-B comparison of the double modulator trick (I mean, “the Wynkoop Effect”) on a filter, and see if you like the result.  Its not the first technique you’ll reach for, but its a good extension of the capabilities that can add surprising flavor to the filter when used judiciously. 

 

Case 3—Oscilator (pitch) Envelope:

Here’s a technique that doesn’t get a lot of love in the manual, but becomes more useful the more you experiment.  Its not news to synth old timers out there, but if your just getting started with envelopes, the power of pitch envelopes will become one of the best “professional” tools in your automated modulation toolkit.

By modulating and oscillator with an envelope, you can cause the pitch to do everything from a subtle dip to a grand swoop like the famous THX Deep Note.  Exercising a little more restraint, you can imitate the behavior of many real world instruments.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are two modulator sockets in the OSC pages as well, to allow you to double up the ahem-effect.  

More about the specific cases

Case 1—Amplitude (volume) Envelope (the standard case):

Wait a minute!  I set my volume level manually with DCAs! [example DCA screen mockup] How is volume affected if I have an envelope assigned to a DCA as well as a manual level?

The Manual Level can be thought of as a Volume Floor.

 

Try it this way…

Or do this instead!

Set a DCA volume level with no additional Modulator.

That level (e.g. “LEVEL=20”) will be the only volume you’ll get.

Add and envelope to the previous example (with a depth other than Zero), and the envelope’s effect will be added to the Manual Level (or subtracted, depending in the values you provide).

But here is a cool and useful special application: 

If the Manual Level is set to Zero, and an envelope (or any modulator, really) is used, the depth of the Modulator alone will determine the volume of the Oscillator. 

The original manual does a great job describing a use for this “special” configuration:  “This last combination (LEVEL=00, Envelope selected as a modulator, modulation depth greater than Zero) is the best way to "fade in" the Oscillator(s) playing the Sustain portion of a sound when a Transient Attack Wave is being played by another Oscillator. Usually we use ENV 2 for this purpose. Set the Envelope's TIME 1 to a value around 10. This will cause the volume of the Sustain Wave to fade in as the Transient Attack Wave fades out.” Boom!  You now have the recipe for waveform cross-fading!

 

Case 2—Filter Envelope:

Like Oscillator Volume, the Filter Cutoff Frequency depends on a cumulative value:

1)   The setting of the base, or Manual FREQ Level on the FILTER Page,  and

2)   The effect of any Modulators applied on that Page (in our case, and Envelope).

Try it this way…

Or do this instead!

Set the Filter Cutoff FREQ manually with all Modulators OFF, and the Filter opens up to the level specified upon keypress.  Frequencies below the Cutoff point are allowed to pass. The filter automatically throttles back to Zero when the key is released.  

Select an Envelope (or any other source) as a filter modulator and its effect is added to the manual FREQ Level.

 

Of course, since two Modulators can be selected, you could apply both of modulators to the Filter Cutoff Frequency, and their effect is added together (do you spot a useful trick here that also works in other places?).

If you’ve set a manual FREQ level, the sum (there’s that word!) of those two modulators is added to the FREQ value.

As with Oscillator Volume, if the FREQ amount is set to 00, then the Filter Cutoff Frequency depends entirely on the depths/settings of the envelopes (or other modulators) applied on the filter page.

Case 3—Oscillator (pitch) Envelope:

The manual itself gives its longest nod toward pitch envelopes by describing a specific example:

“You can, for example, imitate the way Horns often "slide" into a note, rather than beginning right on pitch. By setting TIME 1 to Zero, LEVEL 1 to some negative value, and LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 3 to Zero, you now have an Envelope which, when used to modulate Oscillator Pitch, will cause the pitch to "slide" up to the proper note in the amount of time defined by TIME 2.”

 

“This could be a rather long, dramatic "slide", or an almost imperceptibly short one, depending on the value you assign to TIME 2. How much the Pitch is altered will depend on the value of LEVEL 1 and the Modulation depth.”

My new example patch “SPOCK” takes this idea to extremes.  On each non-legato keypress, this monophonic ethnic flute plays a little octave trill, like a shakuhachi ornamentation.  The magic that makes this possible is locked up here in ENVELOPE 1:

 

 

 

And are triggered here in OSC1:

 

OSC1

OCT=+2

SEMI=01

FINE=03

WAVE=

SQUARE

MODS=

LFO1 *

+04

ENV3 *

-08

 

The Mystery Parameters

You understand the Level/Time parameters in the diagram below from reading the previous article in this series.  Now let’s take a look at those spooky mystery parameters.  As a bonus, each little write-up includes a mnemonic device that will help you remember what the parameter does and how to use it.

LV: The LOVE Parameter

 

 

 

 

If you were an American teen in the 80’s, you heard Ernie Anderson’s voice everywhere.  He was the promo announcer for Star Trek: the Next Generation and the ABC television network.  He was the original horror host Ghoulardi from Shock Theater.  But most of all, he was the guy that talked over TV credits to tell you what was coming up next on The Love Boat.  But he didn’t just say “Love Boat”. He said “The L-o-o-o-ve Boat” in a way that let you know exactly what Gofer and Julie were up to on the poop deck.  In fact, here’s a  clip of him saying “The L-o-o-o-ve Boat” (among other things), easily ranking as the greatest thing on YouTube since Kirk Slinkard’s last demo.

Exciting and New

Well, the LV parameter is the L-o-o-o-ve Parameter.  Go ahead and say it like Ernie Anderson.  “LV” stands for “level velocity”, and it allows you to sculpt the level of whateverthe envelope is modulating based on how hard you strike the key.

Huh?

Let me explain this another way, and then give you three examples.  The LOVE Parameter (see how that mnemonic works?  Sorry non-English speakers!) makes all three Levels (L1, L2 & L3) respond to Keyboard Velocity.

Because of this, the LV parameter may work the opposite of what you expect:  High LV values allow soft key strikes to decrease the L1 through L3 Levels!  We are accustomed to higher parameter values having more extreme effects, but you’ll see that the same thing is happening here.  It’s just that in this case, the extreme effect is that the soft level is exaggerated.  The greater the value of the LOVE Parameter, the more the “L” Levels are lowered as you play softer.

 

Because the LV parameter defines the exaggeration of soft keystrokes, the levels set by L1, L2 & L3 become maximum levels.  LV simply subtracts from those maximum levels!

 

Audio Examples

Case 1—Amplitude (volume) Envelope (the standard case):

Since we are used to thinking of envelopes as controlling volume(amplitude), then the LV control will control the loudness of the amplifier.  For example, if the envelope is set to modulate a DCA (amplifier), the LV parameter controls the volume based on how hard the key is struck. 

 

--If you hit the key lightly the envelope will only slightly modulate the amplifier.

--If you strike the key firmly, then the DCA will receive the maximum envelope modulation.

 

Specific example:

(I supply a patch with only OSC 1 sounding.  ENV 1 is modulating DCA1.  I give it ZERO LV and strike the keys progressively harder:

 

[example soundcloud]

 

I Give it LV amount of "63" and it sounds like this as I strike the keys progressively harder.

 

[example soundcloud]

 

 

·        Keep in mind that the L1, L2 & L3 in ENV1 are now the maximum levels

·        The LV amount I have set here simply subtracts from those maximum levels!

Case 2—Filter Envelope:

--If the envelope is modulating a Filter, LV will control the amount of BRIGHTNESS (based on how hard the key is struck).

 

Specific example:

(I supply a patch with only OSC 1 sounding.  ENV 1 is modulating FILTER.  I give it ZERO LV and it sounds like this as I strike the keys progressively harder:

 

[example soundcloud]

 

I Give it LV amount of "63" and it sounds like this as I strike the keys progressively harder.

 

[example soundcloud]

 

 

·        L1, L2 & L3 in ENV1 are the maximum levels the filter will reach. 

·        The LV amount subtracts from those maximum levels.

 

 

Case 3—Oscilator (pitch) Envelope:

--If the envelope is modulating a OSCILLATOR, LV will control the amount of Pitch shifting the oscillator undergoes (again, based on how hard the key is struck).

 

Specific example:

(I supply a patch with only OSC 1 sounding.  ENV 1 is modulating OSC1.  I give it ZERO LV and it sounds “this way” as I strike the keys progressively harder:

 

[example soundcloud]

 

I Give it LV amount of "63" and it sounds like this as I strike the keys progressively harder.

 

[example soundcloud]

 

 

·        L1, L2 & L3 in ENV1 are the maximum level the oscillator is modulated up to. 

·        The LV amount subtracts from the maximum levels.

 

 

Ramp versus curve

If you’ve been playing along at the home game of the LV parameter, the more observant among you will notice that the values of LV aren’t simply Zero to 63.  LV has two ranges: 00-L to 63-L and 00-X to 63-X.  What’s up with that?

Well, computers like to jump from value to value like, well, like a machine.  The robot in the “LV Factory” would gladly zip between levels in robotically equal increments, all angles and sharp edges.

But the real world doesn’t work that way.  We’re accustomed to smooth curves and easily easing from place to place.  These nice logarithmic slides may have complicated your high school mathematical career, but they are very comfortable, naturalistic and musical.  In a word: human.  It’s all the same to the LOVE parameter.  It can accommodate either kind of math: robotic or human.

Values between 00L and 63L cause the envelope levels to be affected by velocity in a linear fashion (like our robot).  But values between 00X and 63X cause the effect of velocity to respond in a slow curve.  In other words, exponentially.   —Let’s pretend that the “L” stands for “Linear” and the “X” stands for “Exponential”, because, this is exactly what they stand for.   

 

 

The Last Word on the LOVE Parameter

 

The LOVE parameter is great for painting with a BIG brush.  It applies velocity level to the entire envelope.  But what if I want some kind of specific, targeted magic vortex that applies velocity to just the attack of the envelope, not the entire thing?  Such a wormhole vortex exists, so read on fellow traveler…

The T1V Parameter: The Stormchaser

 

T1V IS A BIG DEAL

 

Speedy Attack!

 

This vehicle is a TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle).  It is a storm chasing camera truck that can "attack" a tornado by driving at speeds up to 62 mph (100 km/h).  That’s pretty nimble for a vehicle that weighs 16,500 lb/7,500 kg!

 

This Parameter [highlight on ENV diagram] is T1V.  That's a Numeral 1, standing for "Time 1 Velocity", but you can pronounce it "Tiv", just like the surprisingly speedy TIV.

 

TIV takes IMAX movies inside a tornado, and costs upwards of a million dollars.

 

T1V (Time 1 Velocity) on the other hand, intensifies or reduces the attack value (i.e. Time-1) ...based on how hard you strike the keys.  And you get T1V for free. 

 

This is even a better deal than you might suspect, for what T1V buys you is the power of real-world dynamic expression based on keyboard velocity.

 

[T1V IS A BIG DEAL ICON!!!!}

 

For example, in the case of ENV4, T1V controls speed of the attack of the volume envelope you've set.

 

If you strike a key quickly, the attack will be quick.

 

If you play a key slowly, the attack will be slow. 

 

In other words, instant Vangelis expression control!

 

T1V allows for great expression on pads or strings.  If you’ve come across presets that seemed to include both punchy marcato attacks AND long, smooth legato (depending on velocity), you have discovered the value of T1V.  The greater the value of T1V, the more T1 time is shorted in response to velocity. 

Of course, it T1 already equals Zero then, either nothing will happen, or spacetime may loop back on itself and you’ll be sucked into a vortex. 

—Then you’ll need to call the guys with the actual TIV vehicle.  They may not be able to get you out, but at least your reverse-aging corpse might appear in some cool IMAX footage!

 

Many methods

Other synthesizers usually have a single brute force method to control keyboard tracking.  The ESQ/SQ80 has a few, but T1V is one of the best, and least utilized.

Go ahead and call him "Tiv". Tiv is your best friend now, so he deserves a nickname!

 

 

 

The TK Parameter: Audio Telekinesis

Intellectual under-appreciated comedian Emo Philips had a terrific crowd-pleasing line: “How many people here have telekinetic powers? Raise my hand.”

TK stands for “Track Keyboard”.  It also stands for “Telekinesis”. Why would I want to do either of those things with my synthesizer?  Because "TK" also rhymes with "decay"!

Try this little experiment: With all apologies to T. Rex and The Power Station, bang a gong.   No, I mean, really.  Hear that gong sound?  The deep, low ringing of the gong will continue to fulminate for a good long time.  A lot of energy went into creating the sound, and a lot of energy is coming out, in the form of long, low frequency sound vibrations.

Now hit the upper notes of a baby xylophone (try to do it telekinetically, if possible).  The miniature “klang” is inaudible after mere milliseconds.  Not a lot of energy, and much higher frequency acoustic vibrations...Easy come, easy go.

Synths without Keyboard Decay Scaling, or key tracking (or whatever you want to call it) were powerless to replicate the effect of real-world instruments.  The envelope of a bell sound would ring unnaturally, impossibly prolonged at high registers.  The decay of sounds in the upper octaves need to be shortened somehow. 

Back in the 70’s, you might wish that you could somehow damp the effect of envelopes played higher on the keyboard, but unless you had some kind of audio telekinesis, this was impossible.  (Although some say Keith Emerson was able to accomplish it once….)

Well, with the Keyboard Decay Scaling parameter "TK", your synth will telekinetically change the envelope--as if by magic--simply based on what part of the keyboard you play.  Raising the TK value causes both TIME T2 and T3 to decrease as you play higher up the keyboard.

Stated another way, TK allows higher notes to decay faster than lower ones, thereby "modeling" real-world acoustics. With high TK values, decay time decreases as you play the upper octaves of the keyboard.  Of course if the T2 and T3  values are set to zero, TK will lose its reason for living, become despondent and use its telekinetic powers for evil, like some kind of TK super villain.  And you don't want to be responsible for that.   

 

Rated "R"

For some people, onboard synthesizer effects are a dirty word.  And enough dirty words will get you an “R” rating [*].  In that case, you’ll be sorry to hear that the SQ80 is rated R for “reverb”.  It’s just another case where the ostensibly effect free architecture includes another effect. Of course you could just fiddle with release parameter to achieve a simulated reverb, but the SQ80 gives you a second release parameter.  That way you can set a realistic release that you want, and still create the effect of subtle reverb without unrealistically long envelope settings.  Fake reverb from envelope release is a time-honored way of simulating reverb, but the addition of a second release designed specifically for sculpting ambient effects is a great bonus.  The only other comparable synth that provided a simulated release envelope is the Yamaha TX81Z.  Of course you are always free to buy an old Alesis Microverb and Velcro it to the chassis.  But the SQ80 gives you this parameter for free.  Reverb? More like FREE-verb! (see what I did there?)

 

[*Rated “R” footnote]:

     Of course, if I'd grown up in the UK I might have made a comparison between the British ”X Cert” and the  "X"-value for the LV parameter’s exponential curve. Of course, all the best horror movies of a certain era earned X Certificates.  —But I don’t think the system is used anymore.  The reference would probably be wasted on the kids today! —With their text messages and their swing music and bobby socks! (“Bobby socks” are what policemen in the UK carry instead of firearms, right?)

Summary

 

LV Parameter

The LV parameter spreads some extra love on your envelope by making the whole thing respond to velocity.  High velocity keystrokes? you get a whole lotta envelope love.  Low velocity keystrokes?  Then whatever the envelope is modulating will be affected very little by the envelope.  —Dynamic expression: Coming up next on The L-o-o-ve Parameter!

T1V Parameter

T1V is a direct vortex to the Attack parameters.  T1V allows you to control attack with velocity.

TK

TK Tracks the keyboard, almost telekinetically!  TK rhymes with "decay", and that’s good, because TK shortens the decay of sounds in the upper octaves in a realistic and natural fashion.

 

 

Construction stuff:

From SQ80 manual correlate USING MODULATORS stuff from pg 45 with “UNDERSTANDING THE ENVELOPES” section on pg 59 and the ENV functions of the MODES PAGE starting on manual page 68.

 

A good explanation of how cumulative volume works is in the “USING MODULATORS” section.

 

FAQ

Q:setting something to 0 is that same as turning it off.

A: not always.  See additive SUMmation averaging in DCA and Filter sections.