by Anders Johanson November 24, 2018 5 min read
Medasin is the alias of Dallas-based musician Grant Nelson, who has quickly gained popularity for his impressive production work with his original songs and remixes. He is part of the Soundcloud collective Film Noir that also includes artists Oshi, Krs. and BNJMN. He characterizes his music as chill and happy, and incorporates jazz influences into his trap-meets-jazz sound; part of this signature sound is his use of mellow synth pads alongside huge supersaws. He also uses samples, frequently of saxophones, and uses jazzy chord progressions to make his remixes stand out. Medasin states that he developed his sound by first emulating his peers until he’d gained the knowledge to forge his own musical path. To grow as a producer yourself, it can be beneficial to imitate the sound of other producers, and learn to incorporate what you learn into your sound palette.
"Earlier I mentioned Galimatias, and honestly when I first started I sounded pretty similar to him. I was using a lot of his techniques, and I think most people start off that way. At a certain point, though, you have to develop the knowledge to be able to go off on a limb, try some weird shit, mold it, craft it, and perfect it until you have something that people enjoy that’s original. You can go off and make some super wacky shit that’s original, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people would like it.” - Medasin
You: "Before we start...Just cut to the chase and take me to the free download."
To create some of Medasin’s sounds in your own music all you need is a powerful digital polysynth. Some great options are XFer Serum, Native Instruments Massive and LennarDigital Sylenth1; I'll use Serum to recreate some of Medasin’s sounds and talk you through the steps to create them in Serum, although you’ll be able to program them in other polysynths with suitable sounding wavetables.
We'll start out with a straightforward patch that just uses a single sine wave oscillator. Open Serum and set oscillator A's wavetable to Analog_BD_Sin, a colourful sounding sine wave. Make it sound a little thicker by raising Unison to 3 and lowering Detune to 0.06, which will add two more voices of sine oscillators slightly detuned from the original one. Run it through some nice sounding reverb, and that's the patch finished! Listen to its use in the song California Heaven:
The patch is also used later in the same song in a more percussive way. Add some drive to this patch to make it more suitable for percussive parts; you can use saturation and light overdrive, and EQ in some high frequencies (around 1.53kHz). I’ve used Ableton Saturator and EQed in a 5dB boost at 1.53kHz.
Modulation plays an essential part in Medasin's synth patches; he gravitates towards patches with a swell affecting either the synths volume, pitch, or both. Create a new patch, use the default wavetable and set Unison to 5 and Detune to 0.04 to thicken it up. Lower oscillator A's fine tuning to -100, then drag Env 2 to the fine-tuning box to start modulating the tuning with the envelope. Set the modulation amount using the small blue circle next to Fine to 50 and Env 2's attack time 138ms. Now every time you play a note the pitch will rise to the desired pitch in time with the envelope. Check out the patch in Sunday Vibe, where Medasin automates the filter cutoff to make the patch rise in intensity throughout the song.
Organ-like synth patch appears in his mellower songs; these can be created in Serum using the wavetable Basic Shapes, a soft sine wave, for both oscillators. Raise the pitch of oscillator B by an octave and set it to 2 voices with detune to almost minimum, then set the volumes of oscillator A and B to 78% and 46% respectively to strike a good balance between the different octaves. Lastly, raise Env 1's attack to 179ms to make the patches volume swell in. Now we want to add some organ-esque vibrato to emulate the sound of a rotating Leslie speaker, and we'll do this by subtly applying a fast LFO to the oscillator tuning. Under LFO1 turn off BPM and Anch to switch the LFO to free mode, then set Rate to 8.4Hz. Drag LFO1 to both oscillators Fine parameter and set the modulation amount (the blue circle) to 18 on both. This applies a fast vibrato that sounds like an organ, check it out in the songs Daydream and Feel It Still.
Another instance of the mellow organ sound is used in Scared To Be Lonely; this is a complex patch that combines different oscillators with three different types of modulation. The wavetables used are DS Saw and Tri for oscillator A and an octave up Basic Shapes for oscillator B. Env 1 controls both the volume and pitch with an attack time of 220 ms, while LFO 1 applies fast, shallow vibrato to both oscillators, just like in the last patch. Combining different modulation types in the same patch is a great way to come up with complex, interesting patches.
To program some Medasin-style supersaw patches set both oscillators with the DS Saw and Tri wavetable and raise oscillator B an octave, then set both oscillators Unison to 5 and Detune to 0.08 to get a thick (super!) sound. Turn on the filter and lower the Cutoff frequency to 6520 Hz to get rid of some of the unpleasant high pitched noise. To get the patch to sound right, run it through some light saturation like Ableton’s Saturator plugin, and some massive hall reverb. The trick to using reverb with big supersaw patches is to keep the mix and size parameters high, but use the EQ controls to cut the low frequencies. This EQing keeps the bass notes dry and prevents any muddiness around the low e; I’ve set the reverb low-cut to 300 Hz. Listen to the patch playing the chords in the chorus of Scared To Be Lonely.
Wild Thoughts features a complex patch. Replace the default wavetable with Mellow But Instable, and set oscillator B an octave up with the wavetable Basic Shapes. Again apply unison and detune to both oscillators, and turn on the filter set process both oscillators. For modulation use Env 1 to modulate the volume, fine tuning of both oscillators and the filter cutoff with an attack time of 76ms. You'll find subtle modulations work best here, more exact settings. Check out the patch:
Lastly, a quick recap of the different wavetables used so far, be sure to experiment with the other wavetables in Serum or Massive to explore different sounds!
- Analog_BD_Sine (colourful sine)
- Default (standard sawtooth)
- Basic Shapes (simple sine)
- Mellow But Instable (complex)
- DS Saw and Tri (Sawtooth and Triangle)
To conserve time and space on our website we've packed the remaining Medasin tutorial in a free download. Add the tutorial to your cart, check out, and keep on jamming. We've included the serum patches, further steps, and the Ableton project file in a quick zip.
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