In this lesson, you will discover the foundation for making excellent EDM pads in FL Studio, using the 3x Osc. Thereby, you will first learn the basic sound design of a pad. In the second part, you will learn the basic musical chord structure of a pad.
Before you start…
When you create a pad, it’s a good idea to make it sound balanced first. Only when it does, you can apply a filter or other effects if needed. This ensures the sound easily fits your mix, even with buildups and automations.
As a quick tip upfront, using a low pass (LP) filter on a pad usually sounds excellent in the break of a song. It gives room to other instruments and creates an anticipated feeling.
Now, pay close attention to discover the foundation of making EDM pads yourself. Thereby, focus on the bigger picture and not the exact settings.
How to make a pad in FL Studio with the 3xOsc
Start by using a synth like the 3x Osc and give the oscillators a saw wave shape. You can disable the third oscillator. For the other two, apply a medium detune. Detuning a saw sound is one of the best practices for EDM production.
Furthermore, you could separate each oscillator by one octave with the “Coarse” setting (12 semitones). This fills out the musical spectrum a little bit better.
Lastly, turn open the “Phase rand” (phase randomness) knob. Phase randomness gives the saw waves random phases. This means, they all start at a different point of their oscillation.
If you don’t know what these important settings mean, it’s best to start first with the Sound Design for Beginners guide by clicking this link.
Shape the movement of your pad with a volume envelope
Then, go to the envelope section to enable a volume envelope. Thereby, open the attack a little bit, fully open the hold and open the release a bit. The attack and release produce a fade-in and fade-out sound. This fits perfectly with pads, as they have a smooth and slow progression.
Now, the pad in the video has a slight pitch vibration, but you don’t have to do that. It’s merely relevant for the current dark character of the pad’s melody.
Filter your pad for a great atmosphere
On the other hand, applying a filter can be very important, especially when you go with a low pass (LP) type. It will make the pad more anticipating. Moreover, it works really well in a buildup, as well as giving other instruments that subtle musical support.
As mentioned, a low pass (LP) filter is always a good idea, but experiment with different types and modes. Some LP variants are more aggressive than others are.
So, go to the filter section on the 3x Osc, select one of the LP types (SVF LP types work really well) and play with the Mod X (cutoff) knob. Cutting off higher frequencies gives the pad that dampened down feeling.
How to make your pad fat and full
Next, go to the fat mode or unison section on your synth, located under the miscellaneous functions. Then, enable the fat mode by clicking its checkbox and give your pad multiple voices/echoes (e.g. 4). Thereby, fully open the feedback amount, set the delay time to zero and very carefully off-center the pitch.
Using all these 3x Osc settings are essential to get that typical supersaw sound. A supersaw is at the foundation of EDM production and that’s why you can now get the Supersaw FL Studio instruction guide. The guide will give you an ultimate step-by-step template to design your own professional supersaw lead in FL Studio.
If you’re reading this post after its release date, the Supersaw FL Studio instruction guide is already available. Just click the link to get started.
Use FL Studio’s mixer to boost the power of your pad
Reverb: an essential EDM effect
Next, route your pad to a free Mixer Track (e.g. Insert 1) by giving the “Target mixer track” a number. Then, open the Mixer (click View > Mixer), select the correct Insert Track (e.g. Insert 1) and add some effects by using the empty slots.
One essential effect is a reverb. You can add it by clicking an empty slot and selecting the Fruity Reeverb 2. Generally, give your pad a big, long and wet reverb. However, always go by taste.
Equalizer: another essential EDM effect
You may also want to add an equalizer effect. With the equalizer, you can balance the pad’s frequencies to make it fit your mix. For example, use an equalizer to add some higher frequencies and remove some of the pad’s lower frequencies.
Make your pad unique by using special effects
Of course, you can use any other effect to shape your pad, but they’re not as essential. However, to make your pad unique or to give it a certain atmosphere, it’s important to experiment with different effects you may want to add, like a phaser, flanger, chorus or even a bitcrucher. Be creative!
Everything until here forms a great foundation that you can use to design a pad. But now it’s time to find out how to make a melody and how to create chords with your pad.
How to build a melody with your pad
You can build a melody and chords by opening the Piano Roll of your synth on the Channel Rack. On the Piano Roll, you typically want to draw longer notes. This gives a pad that slower, calm movement. A good starting point is to draw notes that are 4 beats long. After 4 beats, the note(s) change(s).
How to make a chord progression with your pad
Also, you may want to create a chord progression by drawing multiple different notes at the same time. Thereby, each note needs to be part of the musical scale you’re working in. Moreover, they typically have to be separated by 2 notes, e.g. A, C and E in the A minor scale.
How to make your pad fit a melody
To make that work, your pad has to play in harmony with all other musical layers, like your melody. Of course, it depends which musical piece you have first, but generally, always match the pad’s chord notes with the main melody.
The pad and melody use the same musical structure
The main melody typically follows one of the chord notes of the pad’s progression. At the moment each chord changes, the current note of the melody has to match one of these chord notes.
For example, the pad’s first chord can play the notes A#, G and D in the G minor scale. Thus, your melody has to start from one of these notes as well. Or, you can also flip it. The first note of the melody is an A#. Thus, the first chord needs to have that note as well.
This way, at each time you want the chord to change, the corresponding note of the melody has to fit onto it. Then, build from there until the next chord-change.
Powerful melody-making strategies
To make your melodies highly professional, you simply have to know all these powerful melody-making strategies. That’s why you can now easily follow The Ultimate Melody Guide by clicking this link. It will take you step by step through the only music-theory tactics you will ever need to make impressive tunes fast.
EDM pad summary
Now to recap, first build a pad with a synthesizer like the 3x Osc. Then, use detuned saw waves with multiple voices and give your pad a volume envelope. Additionally, play with a low pass (LP) filter to create an atmospheric effect. Lastly, add some effects, like a reverb and equalizer to finalize the sound design process.
As far as the musical structure goes, play longer notes (e.g. 4 beats long) to give your pad that slow motion. Also, it’s a good idea to build a chord progression with your pad that fits your main melody. Again, learn more about that in The Ultimate Melody Guide.
Stay tuned for more valuable videos, posts and books in the near future.
(Music producer, author & creator of Screech House)