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Building a Synth Pad

Generally, a synth pad is defined as a sustained, textural tone or chord, often used to add atmosphere and background harmony.

While there are practically infinite ways to build a synth pad, one common approach explained in this guide is the supersaw synthesizer, first used in the Roland JP-8000 synthesizer.

Here you go: https://www.audionodes.com/s/tbXgny

This is a complex synth pad with multiple effect chains and arpeggiators. It took about 1 hour to build this sound.

Dev note: we are actively working on a new feature that will let registered users create and save snippets for themselves, as well as reuse existing snippets created by others.

Supersaw — Oscillators

There are 3 oscillator types in AudioNodes, doing the same thing, but with different capabilities and settings:

  1. Oscillator Node — a standard oscillator that outputs a single wave during playback, with optional frequency and detune automation
  2. Melody Controlled Oscillator Node — same as the standard oscillator, but with MIDI control instead of frequency control, as well as a built-in ADSR envelope editor
  3. LFO Node — same as the standard oscillator, but for lower frequencies, comes with an additional phase shift setting

While the first 2 can be both used to build a basic synth pad, this guide will be using the Melody Controlled Oscillator Node, as it allows controlling the oscillator from a piano roll or even a MIDI keyboard.

Basic Supersaw Synth

The common starting point of a supersaw synth is 3 sawtooth oscillators, slightly detuned from each other.

To set this up in AudioNodes:

  1. Create an Oscillator (Melody Controlled) Node
  2. Right click on the Node and choose Properties
    • Touch devices: tap the Node, then tap the gear button in the header
  3. Set Wave type to Sawtooth
  4. Close the settings panel by clicking on the Patcher, or hitting the back button at the top of the panel for small screens
  5. Right click on the Node and choose Clone
    • Touch devices: tap the Node, then tap the Clone button in the header — touch-and-hold buttons in the header to show their tooltip without using the button
  6. Repeat step 5 with the new Node — you should now have 3 oscillators
  7. For each oscillator node, apply a slight random detune of about 8-10 cents
  8. Create a Constant Base Node and connect it to all 3 oscillators
  9. Create an Add (Audio/Control) Node, open its settings, and set the number of inputs to 3
  10. Connect all 3 oscillators to the your Add (Audio/Control) Node
  11. Create a Gain Node, and connect your Add (Audio/Control) Node to it
  12. Set the Gain Node’s gain setting to something around 0.1
  13. Create an Audio Destination Node, and connect your Gain Node to it

Play your project using SPACE, or the play button in the header to see the result. You can make changes during playback, and they’ll apply immediately. Warning: this may result in loud audio — make sure the Gain Node is used and is set to a low enough value, as shown on the screenshot above.

On a PC or notebook:

  1. While on the Patcher, right click on empty area — this opens the node browser
  2. Either start typing to search for a Node, or browse through the list of categories (tip: the Piano Roll Node is under the Melody Sources category)
  3. Click on the Node you want to create — this will create the Node on the Patcher

On touch screens:

  1. While on the Patcher, touch and hold on empty area until the circle indicator completes — this opens the node browser
  2. Browse through the list of categories to find the Node you want to create (tip: the Piano Roll Node is under the Melody Sources category)
  3. Tap on the Node you want to create — this will create the Node on the Patcher

To connect 2 Nodes, first click on an output of one Node (small dot on its right), then click on an input of another Node (small dot on its left).

You can also drag an output to an input on a desktop PC.

Adding Effects & Depth

A key component of making a good synth pad is audio effects. These are applied to the produced audio signal (blue in AudioNodes), after your oscillators.

There are plenty of effects available, some of which are:

With synth pads, a common technique to quickly produce very convincing results is duplicating notes (or voices) in the melody source, with a change in pitch. For example, also playing a note one octave up and one octave down will massively increase its depth:

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