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Quick Patch: Creating gigantic orchestral percussion with Desmodus Versio and BIA

I love percussion. In fact, most of us here at NE love percussion. When we think about synthetic drum machines like the TR-909, we usually think of a rock-inspired kit: kicks, snares, hats, cymbals, and the like. However, there’s a whole world of orchestral percussion that can be synthesized, too: timpani are gigantic tuned drums used to dramatic effect in orchestras, and they have an incredible sound. Today, we’ll create some timpani-inspired (timpanic?) sounds with just a BIA and a Desmodus Versio.

Concept: the THWANG and the rumbles

When synthesizing a sound, it’s usually best to break it down into all of its individual parts. In the case of timpani, we have two elements to look at: the THWANG, for lack of a better word, when the stick hits the drum skin, and the resulting rumble as that initial hit echoes through the huge body of the drum. 

In our patch, we’ll create the initial hits with the BIA. I’ve kept this initial sound harmonically simple: a short sine pluck with just a bit of wavefolding and noise.

Basimilus Iteritas Alter configured to play noise and a folded sine. All params are down except Fold, and Noise is at 11:00.


While this sound is pretty cool on its own, it’s not quite the orchestral vibe we’re going for. 

Enter Desmodus Versio

I’m a huge fan of using reverb as a sound design element: reverb is just as good at emulating small echoing chambers like guitar and drum bodies as it is at emulating rooms and halls, and Desmodus is no exception. While Desmodus was created specifically with creative sound design in mind, you’ll probably be able to achieve something cool with any reverb processor. 

Here’s what my Desmodus was set to: note that I’m using a bit of random modulation via Index to give the rumble some character, and I also have Size quite low to give us a reverberant sound instead of a series of echos.

Desmodus Versio configured for a short tail. Size near minimum, Dense all the way up, Regen, Index, and Speed at 11:00, Tone centered, and Blend at max.

Pair that with the BIA impact we made a moment ago, and we’ve got some pretty cool drums:

And that’s it! A simple trigger and pitch sequence and we’ve got some drums. We could get more complex with some CV -- for instance, we could emulate a performer muting the drums with their hand by CVing the Regen on Desmodus -- but I like to keep things simple when I first start a patch. 

Try it out

This is just one of a huge number of orchestral patches we could create -- and just one set of instruments and timbres. There are always new sounds and instruments to explore, and emulating them with our synths can lead to fascinating new tricks and techniques for our patches, and new inspirations for song and sound design. 

Check out the modules we used in this patch:

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Basimilus Iteritas Alter

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Desmodus Versio

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