In this Access Virus tutorial and the related video you'll find ten tricks to use your Acces Virus synthesizer more effective.
- These methods work with any kind of Access Viruses, including the TI series.
- Re-create the steps on your Virus from the Init patch, or just download the 10 Access Virus patches showcasing the settings of each scene. You will find the exact patch name below the title of each section.
- I strongly recommend watching the video below (either multiple times or in parts) as it explains the topic in greater details, using in-depth examples.
- Listen to Osc 3 in isolation
- Additional hidden gain
- Recursive modulation
- Osc 1 detune
- Multiplied modulations
- Infinite rhythmic patterns using just an LFO
- The "hidden arpeggiator"
- Simulating the delay without a delay
- Simulate separate attack and release sounds
1. Listen to Osc 3 in isolation
You'll always hear the Osc 1 or 2 or both in Virus, as you can only set the balance between them. At first sight it seems that you can not hear the Osc 3 in isolation, only together with Osc1/2 blend, as the main Osc Volume knob affects all the three oscillators.
But you can apply a little trick which allows hearing Osc 3 in isolation, which is just three simple turns of knobs:
- First Set Osc 1/2 Balance fully to the left, so you can hear the Osc 1 default ramp sound.
- Now turn Osc1 Shape to the right, which changes the Ramp to the Square waveform.
- When you turn the pulsewidth modulation (PW) knob now fully to the right, the square is essentially muted at maximum setting.
In any Virus you have essentially two kinds of signal distortions:
1. The first one is the Filter Saturation, there are three things to remember about it:
- Filter saturation always takes place after Filter 1 in all filter configurations, as the last item in the Filter 1 chain
- Saturation always turns up per voice, so it separately affects each pressed notes. Consequently, it means that if you play a chord it does not get messed up, the overall sounds stays relatively clean, only the single notes are saturated.
- The amount of Osc Volume is vital in saturation, because it sets the volume up to 0, and above 0 it always adjusts the saturation intensity or character, not the volume anymore.
2. Virus has a Global Patch Distortion in the Effects section that affects all played sounds simultaneously. This is obvious, as the per-part effects (Distortion, Phaser, Chorus, etc.) and the global Reverb / Delay are the last items in the Virus signal chain.
Using just an Init preset, just insert e.g. a Rectifier algorithm in the Global Effect > Distortion section. Play a single note first, then keep playing and holding more and more notes – distortion increases with the number of hold keys, drenching the sound into a cool total grunge.
3. Additional hidden gain
When you create a more complex patch, you may discover that Virus will automatically adjust its volume level to avoid heavy clipping, sometimes resulting a drop in the overall volume level. This can be too quiet even at maximum Patch Volume, so you would like to regain some loudness (especially in live situation).
Here is the trick: a special setting of the Chorus effect will do the job. If you want to boost the level of the patch then
- first locate the Chorus settings,
- make sure Rate / Depth and Delay Time are all set to zero,
- then increase the Feedback to around 2 o'clock,
- and gradually increase the Mix settings of the Chorus until it becomes louder.
It works because Rate / Depth and Delay Time are all set to zero hence will not change the stereo image at all, just increase the apparent sound level.
4. Recursive modulation
The classic Viruses have two identical ADSTR envelopes, one for the filter and one for the sound level. The Attack shape of the sounds are always linear, but can we somehow mimic the different attack behaviors of other analog synths? Yes, its absolutely possible in Virus by using the so-called "recursive modulation". This may sound a bit serious, but all you have to remember that recursive means "something that affects itself".
But for now, just remember these recursive modulation examples below:
- The Amplifier Envelope affects its own Amplifier Attack or
- the Filter Envelope affects its own the Filter Attack.
We can always set these type of connections in the modulation matrix, by selecting the Amplifier / Filter envelopes or any of the 3 LFOs' in the source list. All the rest, like Pitch Bend, Modwheel, Foot Pedals are all external modulators that can not affect themselves (it would be a bit pointless anyway) and you can target only internal sound parameters of course.
Recursive modulation sources
Just follow the examples in the main video, but here are the general rules: any time you modulate the Amp / Filter Attack with the Amp / Filter Envelope,
- with positive modulation amount > you get an increasing concave,
- with negative modulation amount > you get an increasing convex attack.
You may try this recursive modulation not just with the Attack, but also with different segments of ADSR (like Decay or Release), making the Virus envelopes much more flexible than they look for the first sight.
Also remember you can use the recursive modulation using LFO 1 / 2 / 3, modulating for example its own LFO Rate or LFO Contour to create even more grainy and unpredictable modulations, which are second to none in Virus.
5. Osc 1 detune
Looking at the oscillator section a bit more, you'll see that there are detune knobs for Osc 2 and Osc 3… but there isn't one for Osc 1.
You can still detune the Osc 1 using a little trick:
- in the LFO1 section, select the destination LFO1 > Osc1 Pitch and
- set the LFO waveform to square.
- Now increasing or decreasing the amount a bit we get a nice steady detune of Osc 1!
6. Multiplied modulations
Sometimes you may want to create stronger modulations that appears within a smaller range of any controller than it is originally designed for. Keyfollow is probably the best controller to demonstrate this issue.
What is Keyfollow? A controller, which originally is being hardwired to the filters in Virus. Positive keyfollow values will cause the cutoff frequency to increase as you play the keyboard upward. The problem with Keyfollow is that it is not really adjustable in-depth on Virus, you can define its center point, but you can not define the range it affects the filter cutoff while playing upward / downward on the keyboard. E.g. after playing two octaves in the higher register the sound may still be too dark, and does not provide enough variations.
There is a way to get rid of this limitation by applying the Keyfollow > Filter 1 Cutoff connection in the modulation matrix multiple times. Just look at in the video how applying this modulation four times will impact the opening of the filter within a single octave!
What's even more interesting, you can use this method to emphasize nearly any kind of modulations with different source - destination connections.
Also, the feature of connecting Keyfollow not just for the Filter, but for nearly every Virus synth parameter in the modulation matrix can be a treasure island…
7. Infinite rhythmic patterns using just an LFO
You can create exciting rhythmic patterns using the multiple LFOs in Virus:
- In the LFO section, set the LFO1 to modulate the main Patch Volume with negative amount
- Set the LFO1 clock to quarter pulsation (it should automatically sync to the host tempo)
- Let's select an LFO waveshape from the list and zoom-in with the Symmetry (on the hardware Virus it is called Contour) by turning it always to left. This will zoom-in the LFO waveform, so as we shift the Symmetry, the rhythmic patterns will change accordingly.
Just imagine how much variation it allows you to create some really organic modulations.
8. The "hidden arpeggiator"
Does Access Virus have a hidden arpeggiator? Well, not really: it is very simple thing, you can not control it particularly well, but sounds like a very basic random arpeggiator, can also be a great source of special effects.
It is a special setting of the Chorus effect again:
- select the Chorus Shape to S&H (sample and hold),
- set the Rate to near maximum value,
- both the Depth and the Delay Time to around its maximum value.
- Finally adjust this Chorus Mix to a bit beyond of its half setting.
You can fine tune the effect:
- adjust Rate to set the speed,
- but Depth and especially Feedback has also an audible effect, just experiment!
9. Simulating the delay without a delay
Just follow the steps in the video: you'll be using only the hardwired settings of LFO1 and LFO2.
- LFO1 modulates the Filter Gain
- LFO2 affects the Frequency Modulation Amount
- LFO1 set to 1/8 note, clocked, Saw waveform
- LFO2 set to 1/4 note, clocked, again a Saw
Tips to set them further:
- If you want that each voice has its own delay, then leave the LFO Mode on Poly, but you can reduce the possible chaos by setting the LFO Mode to mono.
- Change the LFO waveform and Symmetry / Contour to create rhythmic variations.
- Set the oscillator unison to Twin to make the sound somewhat wider.
10. Create separate attack and release sounds
Most musical sounds work fine with only two oscillators, so we can utilize the third oscillator just to create something interesting: a separate attack!
Steps to create the Attack from the Init patch:
- Set Osc3 to any wave, and use a semitone that's quite different from the overall pitch of the Osc 1/2, so transpose it now to +24 semitone.
- In the Mixer section set Osc3 Volume to 0.
- In any LFO (e.g. LFO1) set the LFO Shape to Saw, Rate around 81.
- Let's change the LFO1 to one-shot envelope mode.
- In Assign Destination, select "Osc3 Volume".
- Set the Assign Amount full to the right.
- the length of the Attack with the Rate (the faster the rate, the shorter the attack),
- the envelope of the Attack with the Symmetry (Contour) parameter - we know from the earlier tip that it becomes convex with negative symmetry to make it more plucky and sharper.
Now let's see what are the steps to create a Release sound when we release a note:
- Let's continue with the preset using the separate Attack created in steps above.
- To create a release sound, we have to apply one of the Virus filter. Let's use Filter1 now, so turn Filter Balance full to the left.
- Set the Filter1 Cutoff at around 100, Envelope Amount to maximum 127.
- Set the Filter Envelope: Attack to 40, Sustain to 127 and Release to 0. Nothing can be heard yet...
- The first important thing to achieve the release effect: set the Filter1 Envelope Polarity to Inverse.
- The second important point is to set the right ratio between the Release of the Amplifier and Filter Envelope: the filter release has to be much shorter than the amplifier release.
- Now play a note... hold it... still hold... now release.
Experiment now by fine-tuning all these parameters:
- Decrease the Envelope Amount when playing chords to get an instant vintage vibe of early digital synthesizers.
- Increase the Filter Envelope Release from 0 to a higher value to produce a nicely faded release sound instead of the abrupt release.