I spent a lot of time as a kid playing video games, and although it drove my parents crazy, I really loved the music and sound effects on some of those old games on the Nintendo. In particular I really enjoyed the music of the Mega Man games, Cobra Triangle, Bionic Commando, The Guardian Legend, and of course the Mario and Zelda games. This music has a strong nostalgic appeal for me and I really love a lot of those chiptune tones.
A while back I stumbled onto Adventure Kid’s single cycle waveform libraries. I really wanted to use his NES waveforms to make a synth that could produce chip tune style sounds reminiscent of those games from my childhood. At first I tried using Kontakt, and it was fine for just simply performing one type of sound at a time, but I wanted to dynamically blend them. I decided I’d have to use Reaktor to make it work. I used the structure of the included “Sound School Analog” synth and replaced the oscillators with samplers that play back the NES waveforms. I also designed the user interface to look a little like an NES controller. If you listen to “Pixelated” below you can hear my Pixelator synth in action.
I was asked to create some music for a computer game and as inspiration I was sent a number of songs from the Metroid series. They really liked the use of synthetic choir sounds in those games to create atmosphere. Super Metroid was another favourite game of mine, and I did really enjoy the music so I was right on board with that. The idea of having a choir synthesizer that lets you blend between different vowel sounds popped into my head and I decided to give it a shot in Reaktor. I actually recorded myself singing four vowel tones, just using the internal iMac microphone. I wanted it to have a more gritty lo-fi sound so I wasn’t going for high quality recordings. I also new that there was no way my voice would provide a great vocal take anyway.
The synth gives you an X/Y panel to let you cross fade between the various vowel sounds and you can shape them further with the LFO and filter. I also included white noise in the form of a recording of me saying SHHHHHH. Happy with the results I was getting from my Voxelator synth I thought I’d make a more robotic version using recordings of my voice through a modified toy megaphone and Robo-Voxelator was born. All the sounds in Voxelated were made using four instances each of Voxelator and Robo-Voxelator. And yes, that includes the drums.
Reaktor is a daunting, frustrating, and time consuming tool to learn and use, but the results can be quite enjoyable, unique, and satisfying. Luckily you can take advantage of the efforts of others by browsing the Reaktor user library. There’s some incredible instruments in there so I’d really recommend checking it out if you own Reaktor. Some of my favourites are Martin Brinkmann’s mmmd1, Hugo Portillo’s Solina and Eminent emulations, and the Synth in a Case by ZooTooK.
I’ve posted Pixelator, Voxelator and Robo-Voxelator on the Reaktor User Library but you can also download them from my dropbox link below.