Karma FX: Step 1

Making It Sound

Karma FX is a great modular synthesizer, that gives you a highly flexible access to sound creation. Flexibility also stands for complexity and for that matter Karma FX is not easily operated by beginners.

Since the manual to Karma FX is still in the making, we try to give you a quick access to it’s features here. For a complete user’s guide we all anxiously await the official manual.

Please keep in mind, that Karma FX is donation ware. If you like the thing, show some gratitude and support to the developers by donating on their web site.

1. Making a sound

Now, getting started we need to get rid of the preset modules first. Right-click somewhere on the Karma FX back ground wallpaper and choose “New Patch” from the context menu. Karma FX will ask you, if you are absolutely sure about this and I’d suggest, you are.

Before you lays an untouched white sheet of paper. (To be honest its not so white at all, but I guess you catch my drift.) Also the output module is already there.

Start by right-clicking the background and selecting

Add Component > Generator > Osc 1

A little box appeared? Good. It’s the Generator 1 module, which is going to produce the wave and therefore a sound.

Looks good, but we are not done yet. Let’s add some more components the same way:

- Filter > SVF

- Amplifier

- Controller > NotePitch

PRO TIP

Please note that there are not too many different modules. The second entry of the module creation menu just specifies the type of the module. Once created a module you can always change the module type by clicking into the highlighted window within the title bar and selecting a different type from the drop down menu.

The same goes for the little window on the bottom in the controller module, where you can choose between different wave types. I guess you now have good idea what the “mode” windows on the bottom of our filter and controler modules are for.

Don’t panic if you can’t hear anything, yet. We need to wire those components together. That’s how a modular synth works.

If you are used to wiring devices together in Reason, you will have to learn a new way. But it’s just as simple, you’ll only have to think backwards.

- right-click the title bar of your Output module

- select “Input > Controller 1”

- a little wire with an arrow indicating the direction of the routing should appear between Controller 1 and Output modules

- right-click the title bar of your Controller 1 module, select “Input > Amplifier”

- right-click the title bar of your Amplifier Module, select “Input > Filter 1”

- right-click the title bar of your Filter 1 module, select “Input > Generator 1”

There! We’re all set. Play a note: there should be sound.

Explanation:

The Generator1 generates (how else could it be) a sound and passes it on to the Filter module. The frequencies passing the Filter are being amplified in the Amplifier module. The Controller module is set to TonePitch and controls the pitch of the signal. (Well, actually it controls the number of oscillations per second.)

Not bad, eh? But I propose we’d make Karma FX sound a bit more vivid. But before we start, we better turn down the main volume on our Output module.

Pro Tip

When experimenting with a modular synth you better keep the volume low. You might unwillingly generate some uncomfortably loud signals. So for your ears’ and equipment’s sake, you better test your newest creation at low levels.

Done? Good. Now grip your Filter module’s Cutoff button, which should be turned to the maximum right, and slowly move it to the left without letting it the sound disappear completely.

Now grip the Filter module’s Reso button and turn it to the right. Be careful with that knob. If you haven’t turned down the volume earlier you’re about to ruin either your monitors or your ears – or probably both.

Leave the Reso button at a quite high position (not the maximum though), and turn the Cutoff slowly back to the right.

Explanation

Okay, what did we just do by twirling these knobs? The Filter (of course) filters the frequencies produced by the oscillator. Which means: the filter allows certain frequencies to pass the filter and hinders other frequencies from passing.

In other words: By using the filter we can select which frequencies of the original signal are heard in the end and which ones are cut away.

We use the Cutoff button to define the frequency where the cut begins. In Lowpass filter mode everything above the selected frequency will be cut off, allowing only the frequencies below that point to pass through the filter.

The Reso button enhances the frequency just below the cutting point.

Note: When the Cutoff button is turned completely to the right in “Lowpass” mode, the filter is open entirely and lets pass the entire frequency range.

But that’s not all to our filter module. Let’s set the filter mode from “Lowpass” to “Highpass”. If you don’t know how re-read the passage above or just have a look at this picture.

Now our Filter module lets only the high frequencies pass and cuts off the lower ones. In “Bandpass” mode, the Filter lets but a single frequency band pass, and in “Notch” mode, it lets pass everything except a single choosen band.

Time to save your work.

2. More Generators, more sound

Create another Generator module. By now you should know how. A second Generator will appear and be baptized “Generator 2”. (I love it, when things make sense). Route it to the Filter module.

You might argue that this doesn’t make any difference in sound, and you’re perfectly right, because the second oscillator produces exactly the same wave as the first one. So let’s attend to the “Detune” knob and turn it swiftly to the right until it rests at the value of 6.

Something seems to have happened to our signal. It sounds more vivid and somehow richer.

PRO TIP

Try detuning Generator 1, too. Turn it’s Detune knob slightly to the left, until it reaches exactly the negative value of Generator 2. (-6 in our case). When two Oscilators are detuned about the same value in opposite directions, a wavering pulsating sound is the result.

Now try Generator 2’s “Freq” knob and turn it to the right to just about 500 cents.

Sounds not too bad, eh? Okay. Now we’re set to create some basic bass lines with our Karma FX. Stay tuned for part two of our Karma FX turorials where we introduce the Modulator module.