5 Reasons Why This Is Flume’s Favorite Synth 🌱

Synplant is a unique synth. Quite simply, there is no other synth like it.

Don’t take my word for it. Flume has repeatedly praised it, and written dozen of tracks with it.

In a nutshell, “Synplant is a soft­ware syn­thes­izer with a ge­net­ic ap­proach to sound cre­ation”. Curious to learn what this means? Keep reading! In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • What makes Synplant unique
  • The basic sections of Synplant
  • How to design your first sounds
  • 5 more tips to create insane sounds 👀

Ready? Let’s get started! 👇

So… What is Synplant? 🤔

Before going any further, make sure to grab your demo version of Synplant. It will be fully functional for 3 weeks before “withering and dying” 😅

Let’s start with an observation.

Most synths look the same.

Massive synth
Massive synth

Sure, they all have their particularities. But broadly speaking, they work in similar ways.

Enter Synplant. The first edition was introduced in 2008, so you’ll have to forgive the somewhat outdated layout:

The Synplant synth
The Synplant synth

I think we can all agree this looks quite different 😅

As you can guess, Synplant takes a radically different approach to sound design.

At its core, Synplant takes an organic approach to sound design.

Instead of choosing waveforms, you choose a seed. Instead of tweaking knobs and faders, you grow branches. And forget advanced controls like ADSR and LFO: you get DNA manipulation instead 😎

Let’s take a quick look. Sound generation in Synplant starts with a seed:

Sound generation starts with a seed in Synplant
Sound generation starts with a seed

You can then grow different branches, resulting in different sounds:

Growing branches in Synplant
Growing branches

Here, I’ve grown the branches G, B, and D#. Listen to what they sound like:

They all sound different in random ways!

Don’t worry if this sounds a bit confusing. Synplant is surprisingly intuitive to use. But before going any further, let’s look at some of the sounds it can create:

Now, let’s dive deeper into the world of Synplant 👀

How Synplant Works Under the Hood ⚙️

As mentioned, generating sounds in Synplants works with seeds and branches. Let’s look at this in more detail.

Synplant’s Seed and Branches

Every sound in Synplant starts with a seed. This is the DNA of our sound. We can then grow different branches to create unique sounds:

Growing branches to create unique sounds in Synplant
Growing branches to create unique sounds

Each note triggers a different sound. But don’t worry. Once you find a sound you like, you can assign it to every single note 👀

However, when the branches are closest to the seed, they will sound similar. The more you grow them, the more different they will sound.

Check out these 2 examples:

Before growing any branches in Synplant
Before growing any branches

This is what it sounds like:

And with every branch full-grown:

Every branch fully grown in Synplant
Every branch fully grown

Once you find a sound you like, you can cut off the branch and re-plant it. To do this, select a branch, then click on the central seed to plant it. Synplant will now use this sound as its new seed:

Cutting off and re-planting a seed in Synplant
Cutting off and re-planting a seed

Then we can start growing new branches all over again 🤩

Key Ring and Mod Wheel Ring

Furthermore, surrounding our plant is the key ring. This is where the 12 different notes are displayed, triggering different sounds:

Synplant's Key Ring
Synplant’s Key Ring

Using the Mod Wheel, you can grow all branches at the same time:

Using the Mod Wheel to grow branches
Using the Mod Wheel to grow branches

Synplant’s Sliders

In addition, the main interface features 4 different sliders:

  • Tuning: lets you tune the entire plant. You can fine-tune in cents up to a full octave up or down.
  • Atonality: makes your sound more playable, or more effect-like.
  • Effect: adjusts the effect mix and panning amount. Turn up for a drowned-out reverb sound.
  • Release: controls the release time of the sound.

Macro Sliders

Finally, we have 3 sliders at the bottom of Synplant:

Synplant's macro sliders
Synplant’s macro sliders

In order, we have:

  • wheel scaling: controls how much the mod wheel will make the branches grow
  • velocity sensitivity: determines how much MIDI velocity affects the sound. At 0%, every note will have the same velocity
  • master volume: your basic output level

One Step Further: Gene Manipulation 🧬

Now, if you’re familiar with sound design, this might sound limiting. For example, it all seems a bit random, and out of your control. It can be nice to create “happy accidents”, but what if you want more control?

This is where the Gene Manipulation comes in 🔥

Gene manipulation in Synplant
Gene manipulation in Synplant

Basically, this is where you can control advanced parameters such as attack, LFO, modulation, and more. By clicking the little “?” icon, you get additional info on each gene:

Getting more info on each gene
Getting more info on each gene

I’ll admit, it isn’t the most friendly interface.

And although the idea is cool, the naming and general display could be improved.

Here are some of the controls I find the most useful:

  • vol_atk: controls the attack of the sound
  • vol_dcy: controls the decay of the sound
  • vol_sus: controls the sustain of the sound

If you need a refresher on all things ADSR, we have you covered here 🔥

  • a_form and b_form: control the shapes of oscillators A and B
  • flt_freq: controls the cutoff frequency of the filter
  • fx_mix: controls the amount of effect (a chorus-type reverb)
  • fx_chors: controls the amount of chorus effect in the sound

Note that gene manipulation only affects the seed! This means that growing branches will still result in different sounds.

5 Tips to Get the Most out of Synplant 💡

Hopefully, you now have a basic understanding of how Synplant works. To close this guide off, let’s look at 5 tips to bring your sound design skills to the next level 🔥

#1: Automating the Branch Lengths

My first tip is to automate the branch lengths to create incredible variations.

To do this, I like to automate the mod wheel so all branches change together:

Automating the mod wheel
Automating the mod wheel

This can create cool variations in an otherwise boring loop:

If the sounds get too different from each other, use the “wheel scaling”:

Adjusting the wheel scale
Adjusting the wheel scale

This will decrease the amount of growth in each branch.

#2: Creating Slightly Different Branches

Along the same lines, don’t be scared to use different branch lengths within the same preset.

This way, you can control the character of each note separately:

Adjusting individual branches
Adjusting individual branches

By the way, this also works great within chords. If you don’t feel like layering different synths, grow branches! This will give a “layered” feel to your chords:

#3: Automate Tuning to Create Risers

Another cool trick is to use Synplant’s “Tuning” and “FX” to create risers:

Synplant's Tuning and FX
Synplant’s Tuning and FX

For this, we first need to find a good sound to start with. You can either experiment with branches or click “New Random Seed”:

Generating a new random seed
Generating a new random seed

I found this sound I like:

Next, we are simply going to automate the “tuning” and “effect” sliders. This is what we get:

Nice! 😍

The cool thing is, you can now switch out seeds. This way, you can experiment with different risers, and see what fits your track.

Changing seeds, I found this one that would work great in a techno track:

Pro-tip: try adding some to oscA and oscB to create even more tension 🔥

#4: Creating Glitchy Pads

Remember the Gene Manipulation I was telling you about?

At the very end is the fx_size slider:

The fx_size control
The fx_size control

If you automate it while playing a sound, you’ll get a really cool glitchy effect.

Let’s listen to an example. First I have my dry synth:

Now I am going to automate the fx_size. I’ve also added some radio-style EQ and vinyl crackles with Izotope’s free Vinyl2:

A great way to make anything lofi 😍

#5: Create Your Own Presets

When playing with Synplant, I often find a lot of cool sounds. That’s why I like to dedicate time specifically to sound design.

I would recommend doing the same and creating your own presets with Synplant.

For that, just click on “Save Patch As” so you have easy access to it in the future!

Saving your own presets
Saving your own presets

That’s It For This Synplant Guide!

That’s it for this guide! Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of Synplant’s unique capabilities.

Did I miss out on anything? Want to get in touch? Drop me a line over at [email protected]

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