Noisevember 2020

30 days, 30 noises. My plan for November 2020 is to make 30 patches for the Yoshimi software synthesizer, and post them along with audio samples.

Yoshimi is a fork of ZynAddSubFx, and exports patches in a compatible format, which I'll include here. (I have nothing against the slightly more famous ZynAddSubFx, but the two projects are still pretty similar, and Yoshimi has the pronounceable name and the pink robot icon. Winner.)

The Noises

  1. Hang drum

    A pretty tuned percussion sound. The demo MP3 uses Wendy Carlos's Alpha tuning.

    Yoshimi patch | ZynAddSubFx patch
  2. Nostalgia

    A worn and faded kind of sound.

    Yoshimi patch | ZynAddSubFx patch
  3. Mysterious Planet

    Kind of a tribute to Bebe and Louis Barron's music for The Forbidden Planet, the first movie to have a synthesized soundtrack. Plenty of randomness in the patch, so you can't really play a melody, just slowly mash the keys and see what emerges.

    Yoshimi patch | ZynAddSubFx patch
  4. Fireworks

    Here in Britain, the 5th of November is Fireworks Night. We commemorate the closest anyone ever came to setting off a massive pile of explosives under Parliament and the King; some of us celebrate that the plotters failed, some that they tried.

    (This is the first of my Noisevember MP3 files to have an external effect on it: a limiter, because this patch, like real fireworks, has an extreme dynamic range.)

    Yoshimi patch | ZynAddSubFx patch
  5. Resonant Pad

    If your thing is slightly creepy ambient music, here's another patch you might like.

    Yoshimi patch | ZynAddSubFx patch
  6. Radioactive

    OK, back to basics. Here's a synth that sounds like a synth, and you can play a tune on it without accidentally creating a soundscape. Not actually radioactive.

    Yoshimi patch | ZynAddSubFx patch
  7. Drum Kit

    Here we are on the 20th of Noisevember, and I'm only on number 7. That's because I've been working on a drum kit, and it now has 14 sounds in it, so I am actually keeping up. This kit may change (I plan to add a ride cymbal, at least).

    Yoshimi patch | ZynAddSubFx patch
    1. Subs

      Keys 17-34 (to B♭0). Not really a standard part of a drum kit, but fun to throw in occasionally. If you're listening on little speakers, don't even bother.

    2. Kick Drum 1

      Key 35 (B0). This should be the Acoustic Bass Drum, according to General MIDI. Acoustic is not the word, though; it's fully synthetic like everything else.

    3. Kick Drum 2

      Key 36 (C1).

    4. Side Stick

      Key 37 (C♯1).

    5. Snare 1

      Key 38 (D1). Like the kick, this is supposed to be the "acoustic" one.

    6. Hand Clap

      Key 39 (E♭1). Nice stereo spread.

    7. Snare 2

      Key 40 (E1). This is supposed to be the "electric" one. General MIDI being an '80s standard, it's considered normal to have a synth trigger pad on your snare drum.

    8. Toms

      Key 41 (F1) to 54 (F♯2), where not used for the other instruments. I'm proud of this one. I even made it into a separate patch, in case you need a full chromatic set of toms: Yoshimi patch | ZynAddSubFx patch

    9. Closed Hi-Hat

      Key 42 (F♯1)

    10. Pedal Hi-Hat

      Key 44 (A♭1)

    11. Open Hi-Hat

      Key 46 (B♭1)

    12. Crash Cymbal

      Key 49 (C♯2). I made a crash, then decided it was more of a splash. Then I made this instead, and wonder whether I should swap them back again.

    13. Splash Cymbal

      Key 55 (G2). Splash or crash?

    14. Cowbell

      Key 56 (A♭2). This is not going to please the Blue Öyster Cult's producer, you know, in that sketch, the one you have to metion every time there's a cowbell? This could be a lot more cowbell. But it's a good (or at least potentially useful) sound.

  8. Robo Lead

    Another synth that really sounds like a synth. It has a formant filter, which gives it that robot-voice effect. I had my new (pink) robots sing a version of one of those mysterious Bulgarian tunes, for no particular reason. I can't remember what it's called.

    Yoshimi patch | ZynAddSubFx patch
  9. Reverse Harmonics

    Of Yoshimi's three synth engines, the "Add" one is the most complex and versatile, and I get the most use out of it. The "Pad" engine can make some really good weird noises. The official documentation is full of "We're not really sure what this knob does, just try it", which is always a good sign. But I'd never got my head around the "Sub" (subtractive) engine. It just seemed to make drawbar organ sounds for me. But I had another go, and here's a patch that sounds a bit like a reversed guitar, or maybe an electric violin crossed with a tanpura.

    The demo MP3 is just a QWERTY-keysmash, with Yoshimi tuned to "ji12" just intonation.

    Yoshimi patch | ZynAddSubFx patch

The End

November ended here, but Noisevember lives on in our hearts... or something. I made and posted approximately 25 sounds over 10 patches, which I'm going to round up to 30 and call a success. I certainly learned a lot about Yoshimi's capabilities and how to use them.

I've continued to develop patches since, and I've contacted the Yoshimi developers about including them in the default set. So tidied-up versions of these sounds may be coming soon to a Linux repository near you.

By Hugh