A Noise Generator is an oscillator that creates electrical noise. While in theory this is usually a "random" oscillator that triggers a wide range of different frequencies at the same time. In Reason we have different noise oscillators. You have the Noise Oscillator (containing Bandwidth Noise, Static Noise, White Noise, Color Noise and Sample and Hold noise). In the malstrom there are a few wave tables containing game noise, resonating noise and pink noise. There are some rack extensions out there in the shop of Propellerhead that uses a noise oscillator. And then there is the Subtractor Noise.
It is the last one I am going to write something about. Since the Thor Noise Oscillator as pretty straight forward to pick up and use. While the Subtractor Noise oscillator on the hand needs a bit of a manual to fully understand how it works, when it works, how it relates to the oscillators and so on. You might think to yourself "but the noise oscillator is just a noise oscillator? right?". Yeah, part of it is true. But there is more to just that.
Enable the Noise Oscillator
To enable just the noise oscillator you simply click on the "Noise" button. This turns on the noise oscillator. While by default you will hear the oscillator 1 playing next to the noise oscillator. If you set the mix knob all the way to full (127) you only hear the noise oscillator. Noise is by default connected to the output port of the Oscillator 2. This is one of the reasons why noise can be played "solo" when turning on the mix knob.
The Settings of the Noise Oscillator
To control the Noise you have 3 major parameters:
- Decay (like an additional Amp Envelope to control the Decay amount)
- Color, ranging from pink noise to white noise
- Level, how loud the noise will be. This is a separated level control
Setting up a Noise Sweep
While by default the Noise oscillator sits next to route of the Oscillator 2. The only thing that the noise oscillator does NOT listen to is the Pitch. This means there is no FM amount in the noise oscillator. It doesn't track the Keyboard (it plays the same noise on every note) and it will not listen in to the Ring mod (that is the only exception that has nothing to do with the pitch).
While in theory it does listen in to the envelopes like the filter envelope and the amp envelope. Only exception in this case is the mod envelope. Since the noise oscillator will only respond to the Mod Envelope Filter 2.
This is partially the reason why most people who I speak to will use the noise oscillator of Thor, instead of the noise oscillator of the Subtractor. While I find the noise oscillator a nice little gimmick to add an additional warmth / analog element to the sound. Or just use it as a straight forward noise sweep.
To set up a noise sweep effect, we'll need to route the subtractor the way I posted at the beginning. Since we'll only be using the noise.
The mix knob goes all the way to 127, while the noise oscillator gets enabled. Next up, I will be using the HP Filter to sweep through the different frequencies.
The filter frequency will go somewhere half way there. The filter type will be set to HP-12 (High Pass Filter). Since we'll move the frequencies to the higher frequencies (cutting the lower). The filter envelope will have a high attack. Which means the filter frequency of the high pass filter will rise up first. Then the decay takes it over to make the high pass filter go down again (to the sustain). It kind of depends on the direction you want to take it towards. If you want to make the noise go down faster, simply drop the decay. And if you want to make it rise faster then drop the attack.
Noise as an Analog effect
Noise effects are often applied to mimic the character of playing an analog synth. These type of noise effects are just faking analog orgasms. And they usually sit in the background. To make it a background noise, you could easy sort this by setting the level to create a balance between the oscillators and the oscillator.
To add an additional Analog touch to it, I love to play with a setting like LFO2 > Phase, while the LFO2 is using Keyboard tracking.
The settings are (from reset device) to create this analog patch
- Noise oscillator enabled
- Noise level around 72
- Osc 2 enabled
- Osc 2 to subtractive mode (-)
- LFO2 connected to Phase
- KBD to full (127)
- LFO2 Phase amount set around 64
The nice thing about these type of setups is that you will notice the difference once you take either the LFO 2 away or the Noise away. Since these 2 will compliment the whole analog feel to it.
Noise oscillator an Frequency Modulation
A different technique to use the Noise Oscillator as an oscillator is in terms of Frequency modulation. In this case the Noise Oscillator will act as the Modulator. Best recommendation is to disable the Oscillator 2. In theory we are using a complex wave form as a Modulator. Normally in terms of Frequency modulation this is not ideal. The outcome using a complex wave form will result in to noise. However, when it comes to the subtractor we have 2 different controls to reshape the Frequency Modulation amount:
- the FM Amount (which determines the pitch changes amount of the carrier)
- the Noise Level amount (which determines the FM Modulation amount, thus determining the pitch changes amount of the carrier)
So in this context we have 2 different parameters to control the Frequency Modulation Amount. Which is quite awesome when you make changes rather subtle.
Also make note, when applying FM like this (using the noise oscillator as a FM Modulator) this will also mean that the noise oscillator will still play. Yet sometimes this acts as a nice compensation of the weird behavior from the FM Amount. Also make note that color in this case has a rather big impact on how FM will act like.
In this context, you will notice the "effect" once you start increasing the Level of the Noise. Since it does 2 things at the same time:
- alter the pitch of oscillator 1 even more
- increases the noise level
There for it is wise to have the level of noise pretty low in this type of set up.
Noise Oscillators in a Combi
If you really want to go "wild" on this whole matter, we can turn our previous set up in a spaced out Combinator using 2 different subtractors that do the same thing, yet the noise artifact varies. This can be done by a simple twist on the color knob. The color changes the contour of the pitch of the oscillator. So if you have 2 of them with different colors, the pitch variation will alter in a total random state. Noise random...
To create this setup you will need the following steps
- Create a Combinator
- Create a Mixer 6:2 in the Combinator
- Create a Subtractor in the Combinator
- Reset the Subtractor (initialize patch or reset device. Depends on the Propellerhead Reason version your using)
- Turn On Noise Oscillator
- Set the level pretty low (18 / 20 ish)
- Set the mix to 0 (optional, I just do it for visual presentation so I know oscillator 2 is not used)
- Set FM amount around 10-ish
- Create another subtractor
- Copy the previous subtractor
- And paste the patch
- Alter the color settings from one subtractor to another
- Hard pan the mixer 6:2 channels left / right
This will result in the following patch
So it the subtractor is the same patch, only difference is that the color is different yet this creates a pretty wild pitch altering effect over left vs right. For those who are mixing in mono, you will probably don't want to use this effect at all (since there is a lot of phase cancellation taking place with this set up).
You can find the patch on the following link:
Most likely there are tons of limitations you will be getting from the noise generator of the Subtractor. Sometimes I still go for the subtractor just because it feels right as a bass line, or as lead type of thing. And when want to have that little "analog" touch on top of it, I often go for similar ideas like I have addressed in this article. If everything fails, I usually go for Thor as an Noise oscillator.
Have a nice evening!
Written by hydlide