In this lesson, you will find out how to make fat leads with ONLY one plugin, using Sylenth1 in FL Studio. Nevertheless, you can use any synthesizer or D.A.W. for that matter.
Making a fat lead with Sylenth1
First, open Sylenth1 by going to the FL Studio menu and click “Add”. Then, find Sylenth1 and select it. That is, if you have Sylenth1 installed. On Sylenth1, click on “Menu”, select “Preset” and click “Insert”. This will give you a new unmodified sound that you’re going to use to make a fat lead.
Before you can make any high quality sound, you first need to understand the essential basics of synthesis and sound design. That’s why, if all the knobs, buttons and sliders on Sylenth1 overwhelm you, start by reading the Sound Design for Beginners guide now by clicking this link.
Building fat leads: Oscillators
To build your fat lead, go to the oscillators section and select a saw wave for both oscillator 1 and oscillator 2. Then, disable the “Retrig” (retrigger) option for both oscillators and set their voices to a higher number, e.g. 8. More voices allow for a fatter lead to arise.
Next, give both oscillators a medium amount of detune. Preferably, create a slight detune difference between the two oscillators. Then, set the octave of the least detuned oscillator to “-1”. This will lower the pitch of one oscillator by one octave.
Building fat leads: Amplitude envelope
After that, go to the amplitude envelope and open the “Release” a little bit based on your own taste. Also, consider opening up the “Decay” and/or “Sustain” parameters. Lastly, close the “Attack” function or at least, give your lead barely any attack.
Listen to your lead during the creation process
If you want to hear your sound, go to the Channel Rack in FL Studio, right-click on the “Sylenth1” block and select “Piano Roll“. Then, draw some notes to make your melody. When you’re done, click the “Play” button in the FL Studio playback bar.
As for now, keep in mind that the sound is still quite weak. Stay tuned, as the lead will be powerful at the end of this lesson…
Building fat leads: Effects
Continue with your sound design by going to the effects section in the center of Sylenth1. There, enable the “Chorus”. The chorus functions to give the lead a slightly more detuned sound and added movement. Base the chorus settings on your own preferences. However, for this type of lead, use the chorus very mildly. In fact, you don’t really have to use it at all.
Next, enable the “Equalizer” (EQ). Use the EQ to add some higher frequencies around 3000 to 8000 Hz. In this case, disable the bass boost by closing the “Bass” knob. Then, set the “Treble” around 6 to 8 dB. The added higher frequencies enhance the perceived quality of the sound.
Again, base everything on your own taste and don’t take these specific settings too literal. This lesson serves as an example. Nonetheless, read until the end, so you will see how everything falls into place perfectly.
Next, enable the “Delay” and use its settings based on taste. For this lead, create a timing difference between the left and right speaker. Also, remove some lower frequencies below ~250 Hz and remove the higher frequencies above ~10,000 Hz.
Additionally, optimize the stereo panorama of your sound by opening the “Spread” and “Width” options. Lastly, change the delay duration with the “Feedback” function. To get the illusion of a bigger space, set it to a slightly longer duration than the default.
Next in line is the “Reverb”. Enable it and again, set it how you like it. Typically, remove some higher frequencies by opening the “Damp” knob. Also, use a medium to large(-ish) size, but don’t go overboard. For a wider reverb sound, keep the “Width” around 100%. Lastly, a “Dry/Wet” level of around 50% works well in most cases.
P.S. I’m not the biggest fan of Sylenth1’s reverb. Usually, I prefer using a different reverb plugin. Nevertheless, you can definitely use it to produce a good quality lead sound. Besides, we’re aiming to build a fat lead with solely Sylenth1. Thus, external Mixer effects are not part of that.
The last effect in line will be the “Compressor“. Enable the compressor, set the “Ratio” around 2.0 to 3.0 and the “Threshold” around 10 to 16 dB. Then, set a relative short attack and decay time. For the “Attack”, somewhere between 2 and 50 ms would be good. For the “Release”, somewhere between 50 and 200 ms would do the job.
Building fat leads: Volume
When playing your lead, it could be that the sound is a little bit quiet. So to make it louder, simply open the volume slider on the Sylenth1. A (slightly) louder lead also sounds slightly fatter.
Your lead still sounds weak
When you’re done, feel free to play your lead. As you probably notice, it doesn’t sound that fat at all. So, do you usually end up with this weakish types of leads? If this is what you usually end up with, you miss the essential ingredient of making it very powerful…
How to make a powerful lead
Introducing: the power of chords
Chords are a stack of 3 different notes playing together, resulting in a much bigger sound. To play some chords with your sound, open the Piano Roll again and simply draw them. Shoot for a basic chord progression to hear your weak lead transform into a fat one.
Important: Don’t forget to increase the “Polyphony” on Sylenth1 to at least the amount of notes you want to play simultaneously. If you play 5 notes at the same time, set the polyphony to at least “5”.
For all details about the polyphony setting, as well as all the other essential synthesizer functions, grab the Sound Design for Beginners guide today by clicking this link.
How to make a powerful lead more powerful
Furthermore, you can use the power of chords and push it to the next level. You can play more chord notes and get an even fatter sound. For example, instead of playing a basic chord of 3 notes simultaneously, add an additional 3 notes to bring the total to 6. You can easily do that by copying the original chord, paste it and place these 3 notes one octave lower of higher.
Again, if you want to play more notes at the same time, adjust the polyphony setting on your synthesizer accordingly. Now, when you play it, your sound will be twice as powerful and fatter.
The process of sound design and melody making
When you designed a pleasing chord-packed melody, you can play it while tweaking your synthesizer. Tweak it to find a sound that fits. The “feel” of your sound and melody will also change when you play different notes, durations and intervals.
The crucial benefits of chords
So, one great way to make a powerful lead with only one plugin is to use old-fashioned chords. However, you now have to figure out how to make those musically pleasing and exciting…
That’s why today, you can grab The Ultimate Melody Guide and discover how to make awesome chord-packed melodies quickly, even if you don’t know anything about music theory. Start now by clicking the link above and discover all the strategies I personally use to get powerful and professional melodies every time again.
(Music producer, author & creator of Screech House)