Opening up to Envelopes
Knowing how to get to the sound you want is one of the most important parts of production, being able to design the sound you hear in your head for the project you are working on. Software instrument presets can be great to get you close to that sound but rarely will they get you exactly what you want, without many hours searching. This is why knowing how to manipulate the sound into what you want it to be can be a valuable tool for any producer.
To get you started in this I want to introduce you to a tool you will see on most software and hardware synths and samplers...Envelopes.
What are Envelopes exactly?
When you think of an envelope your mind probably goes to something delivered by the postman. You either pick it up and open it, to see whats inside, or you close it. In audio it works the exact same way. It affects how the audio opens and closes.
There are four concepts to know about when using envelopes:
Attack:This is how the sound opens, does it reach maximum volume quickly or slowly over a period of time.
Decay: This is how long it takes to get to the Sustain volume.
Sustain: This is where the sound rests if I was to just hold the note down.
Release: This is the time it takes for the sound to disappear after I release the note, also referred to as the tail of the sound.
Let's take a closer look
In the above image you can see each of the concepts and how they relate to each other. Each come into play from when you play a note till after you release the key.
How does this look in practice?
Below is a video explaining envelopes on both a synth and a sampler. The software I use is Propellerhead's Reason as it's so visual for sound design.
This is just the beginning for envelopes, there is a tonne of possibilities once you get past the basics. Reach out if you have any questions or if you came up with something cool using envelopes. I'd love to hear from you!