Serum by Xfer Records is undoubtedly one of the most popular and most powerful digital synthesisers on the market at the moment. While it is one of the most versatile soft synths out there, it is also one of the most complex. With endless wavetables and thousands of features, it’s a sound designer’s Valhalla. However, with so many possibilities it’s easy to get lost. Unless you spend months exploring all the features, you’ll probably never discover everything Serum has to offer. To help you on your way we’ve gathered 5 very useful tricks, for both beginners and more advanced sound designers, that you probably didn’t know about.
Start & Loop Points Within LFO’s:
One of the great things about Serum is the detailed LFO section, which allows you to create any LFO shape you can think of. If you have the LFO mode set to ‘Trigger’ or ‘Envelope’, the LFO will always start from the beginning of the cycle whenever you play a note. You can, however, also select a specific starting point somewhere within the LFO cycle. To do this you simply right-click one of the nodes and select ‘Set Start Point here’. Now, the LFO will start from the point you selected every time you play a new note.
You can also set loop points within the LFO cycle (this only works if you have the LFO mode set to ‘Envelope’). With the ‘Envelope’ setting on, serum will cycle through the LFO cycle only once whenever you play a note, since it now acts as an envelope. You can however set a loop point anywhere within the LFO cycle. To do this right-click on one of the nodes and select ‘Set Loopback Point here’. Now, whenever you play a note the LFO will go through a complete cycle and then once it gets to the end of the cycle it will loop pack to the selected point continuously.
Copying LFO’s onto OSC’s:
So you’ve created a cool LFO shape and want to set up a second LFO with a similar shape. If your LFO shape is simple this is easy, but if your LFO shape is more complex it could be difficult. There is no obvious right-click feature to copy and paste LFO shapes, however it’s still very easy to do.
To copy and past an LFO, hover your cursor over the LFO you want to copy. Next hold down the alt-key (option-key on Mac), click, and drag the LFO onto one if the other LFO’s.
With this trick it’s not only possible to copy an LFO onto another LFO, but you can also copy the LFO onto one of the OSC windows. The LFO shape you’ve created now becomes the waveform, meaning you can design any shape using the LFO window and transform it into a waveform.
Saving/Locking FX Chain:
This might seem like an obvious one, but it does get overlooked. To save an FX chain within Serum you must click ‘Menu’ and on the drop-down menu select ‘Save Effect Chain…’. This allows you to load FX chains onto different presets in the future.
You can also ‘lock’ the FX chain. This allows you to browse through presets without the FX chain changing. This is useful for when you want to see how different presets sound with the same FX chain, without having to load the FX chain every time. To do this click ‘Menu’ and on the drop-down menu select ‘Lock Effect Chain’.
Resampling To Create Stereo:
This is a slightly more advance trick but it is quite useful in creating sounds that fill the stereo field. The easy way to make your sounds in stereo in Serum is by turning up the unison (# of voices) and making sure the ‘Random Phase’ is turned up. This can however sometimes lead to an unstable sound and undesirable auto panning.
There is another way which gives you more control over the sound and stereo image. With this method you basically create the same waveform in both OSC A and OSC B. First go to ‘Menu’ and selecting ‘Resample to OSC B’. Next you want to go to ‘Menu’ again and select ‘Copy OSC B->A’. Now you have the same waveform in both OSC A and OSC B. Finally, to create the stereo sound, pan each OSC right and left respectively, and slightly change one of the waveforms (by adding a bend+ for example).
Alternatively you can go to ‘Menu’ and select ‘Resample to OSC A+B (Stereo)”. You will still need to pan the OSC’s but one of the waveforms is already slightly changed automatically, so it will instantly sound stereo without you having to change anything on either of the waveforms yourself.
Multiband Compressor Tricks:
Serum’s built-in compressor (in the FX section) is a great tool to make your presets sounding thick. By selecting ‘Multiband’ on the compressor you switch to the OTT compressor which has a very distinctive overly compressed sound. The OTT mode can sometimes create unwanted artefacts in the sound, or overly loud reverb tails. To avoid this, turn the attack all the way down and set the release all the way up. This results in a less extreme compression and usually gets rid of artefacts, unwanted pops/clicks, and makes for a smoother sound. If you prefer the super squashed sounding compression you can turn the release all the way down, because this can also sound really cool! It really depends on what you’re going for.
Of course there are many many more tricks and hidden features in Serum but we feel these are quite useful in a range of applications. Try them out the next time you open up serum, and experiment a little. One of the best ways to stay creative and to create cool unique sounds is to keep trying new things and exploring features and tricks that are new to you. Let us know what you think of these tricks and which topics you’d like to see in our next blog post.
Check out our previous blog post here: 5 Essential Mixing Tips To Improve Your Mixdowns
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