Brass & String (-ish) Sounds on a Digitone ...any Idea how to make 'em? (:

So, there’s not much to add to the title… Have any of you an idea how to go about building brass type sounds and sortof-strings with the Digitone engine, and actually could tell me a bit about the why?

Yah yah I know, ‘find a preset near your target sound and tweak it’ or ‘buy XYZ sample pack’, …don’t worry, I’m not too daft to have thought of that, still interested what you guys & gals have to say about it. (:

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@Ess once explained how to dial a Saw (and a Square) sound out of two operators.
What you have to do is to add some (medium level) Feedback on the second operator (ratio of 1 for saw, 2 for square).
See factory presets B001 and B002 (Saw and Square) and analyse the parameters (algo config, feedback amount, operator B ratio).

Once you have a saw, it’s a matter of tweaking to get a Brass sound : unisson to get thicker, slight LFO on pitch…

For strings, one key point is the very slow attack. Some detune as well, I guess, and some chorus.
But I have no idea how to dial the heart of this with an FM synth. Not really the kind of sound I’m after, usually. I should give it a try, though.


If you have some time to spare, there is the pdf “Fm Synthesis of Real Instruments” by Thor Zollinger. Thor shows how to use FM to imitate real instruments using DX7 algorithms.

Me, I find a preset near my target sound and tweak it.


Just to add to @LyingDalai

Since you are asking for a “brass- or string-ish” sound, you seem not to need a “best imitation”. Most old-school synths, which have been used for this, have been subtractive synths. So we can start like this too.

Algorithm 2 or 1 could be a good starting point.

  • The DN does not support sine-waves only (like the DX-7). The HARM(onics) on Synth Page 1 include waveforms, which are similar to saw-tooth or square waves. Depending on the button, those harmonics are available on the C-Operator or A/B1.
  • It’s even possible to thicken-up the sound by modulating the HARM parameter with a LFO. It’s not PWM, more of Wavetable like sound, but worth a try :wink:
  • Additionally the feedback (FDBK) parameter can add more characteristics to the timbre. If used as a hot spice, it can just make the difference between nice and excellent. If used too much we get into grit-territory :wink:
  • Brass sounds have a short noisy bubbling phase at the beginning. This can me emulated by either having a short FM-burst from the modulator to a carrier (which is producing a saw tooth already) or use just a second pair of modulator/carrier only for this particular sound effect.
  • Some brass sounds raise or fall at the beginning (or at the end … depends on the player). This can be emulated with a short detuning using DTUN. An exponential LFO wave in single shot mode can deliver a kind of envelope for this.
  • Make use of the filter and it’s resonance … we have it … and it makes much sense :wink:

This wasn’t intended to be a tutorial to re-built a great sound, but I hope it’s a starting point to explore the rest by yourself.


I strongly recommend this to anyone who already has a basic understanding of FM synthesis. It gives examples for Yamaha FM synths but it shouldn’t be difficult to translate to the Digitone’s voice structure.

You will also learn something about the science of acoustic instruments.


Yah I’ll defo give that a go.

Thx for alle the awesome replies!

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(: Noticed those presets, the saws, but haven’t tinkered with them for brass.
Strings, still not happy with my efforts, but tinkering with unison helps beefing them.

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I almost agree … but this …

should not be taken too literally. The DX-7 and other full-blown FM synths provide more operators, more algorithms, and more flexibility of modulation. This gives us much more options for sound design, which - IMO - doesn’t quite compare with the Digitone.

Having had some experience with MOD-7 and FM-8 I honestly had to “re-learn” FM synthesis on the DN, because some methods I am used to apply simply don’t work. There is a lack of flexibility, which on the one side is great for having a lot of sweet spots on the fly, but is limiting on the other side too :wink:


To beef-up a sound on the DN, you can try to use a LFO and modulate:

  • the intensity of the FM modulation itself
  • or the harmonics
  • or the detune
  • or the feedback
  • or the chorus

I got some nice results …

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In the abstract, this is true. But many of the examples in Thor Zollinger’s document (linked above) are for 4-op synths and make use of a limited number of algorithms and mostly integer frequency ratios, and point out that the use of highly-stacked operators is rare for the purposes of emulating the harmonic structures of the chosen acoustic instruments. So it’s not unreasonable to adapt the examples in the document for Digitone.


I agree, but we should consider that the DN has this combination of B1/B2 using this joint envelope function. In praxis this has a quite different behaviour compared to four operators, which can be controlled by independent envelopes.

Nevertheless, a good description of sound structures and synthesis is always a good read :+1: