A quick start guide to making cutting-edge leads, chords and basses with UJAM’s pop powerhouse softsynth
APRIL 28TH, 2023
There's been a huge resurgence in '80s-style music over the past decade, and to get a true synth-pop sound you'll need to add a little bit of this throughout your mix. Usynth 2080, another addition to the Usynth line, is a great way to get that authentic '80s sound, but it's a bit on the nose for synth-pop ... still, Usynth CORE is a bit too cutting-edge. We created Usynth GLAM to be the ideal blend of these two qualities, delivering you exactly what you need to make contemporary music of the highest quality!
How do you get a melody stuck in listeners’ heads? A catchy hook and a solid understanding of music theory are a great start, but without the right sound to sell it, even the best melodies will fall flat; that’s why we made this a huge focus of Usynth GLAM, and in moments you can create a powerful, sweeping synth melody that carries the music forward and ties in naturally with even the most highly produced synth-pop. Have you ever heard a synth-pop song and felt it even sounded expensive, it just immediately evokes a professional quality? GLAM gets you there from the very beginning, saving you hours of back-and-forth preset diving and tweaking.
Let’s say you’re looking for a lead for your chorus and want something huge with plenty of dimension; in a conventional sense, this might mean playing around with wavetables until you have something that sounds close-ish, adding some filter movement, making it respond to velocity, adding unison detuning, layering on another oscillator, then carefully stacking a suite of effects one by one ... but with GLAM, you can simply pull off the Chart Stormer preset, play with the Dark/Bright control until you get the frequency balance you want, add some additional thickness with the Fatness control, and choose the Finisher option that perfectly suits what you're looking for. That’s it!
Now let's try another example: a warm, gentle lead that weaves through the verse, providing a soothing melody or supporting the vocals. The Tesseract preset is a great option for this as-is, but if you want some extra character you can tweak the Multiplier setting for additional movement and drag down the Dark/Bright knob to pull everything back a bit. You can use a similar process for nearly any preset in GLAM, so try a few out and see what sticks out to you!
There are tons of different angles you can take with chords, from harsh and biting to smooth and vintage — they all have their place, so we'll cover how to get a range of different sounds to fill in your cords and set the tone for your songs. One of the easiest ways to control this is using the Fast/Slow knob on GLAM’s UI. This allows you to control the speed of each note’s attack and release, changing its contour and moving it more toward a pluck or a swell. Its behavior is slightly different for each preset, so you'll always get a different flavor depending on what you start with ... and of course, the Dark/Bright knob is there to shape the frequency balance.
For something wide and rich, you can start out with the Fuzzy At The Edges preset and play with the Isolator setting if you want some engaging modulation throughout the song. Don’t overthink this part too much; a little movement goes a long way, especially if you automate a few parameters between different sections. Another great way to fill out a song is by using plucked chords — something most modern synthpop could never survive without. There’s a whole section of plucked presets inside GLAM under ‘Stabs And Chords’, and you’re bound to find something that integrates smoothly into what you’re writing; plus, these built-in parameters make it super easy to make a few modifications, each of which affects multiple aspects under the surface!
Dive deep enough into synth-pop and you’ll inevitably run into strong bass music influences, so it's essential to cover some bass design and how you can give your mixes a larger-than-life low end. One of the most important aspects is adding just the right amount of bite and drive, but not so much that it becomes a distraction from the melody or vocals. However, the real killer for basses is a lack of life. The bass doesn’t have the sole goal of supporting the low end and filling out the mix; it needs its own shape and character and to add something more to the arrangement, just like with a live bassist. They’re not there simply to play the root note of each chord, but to play off the other instruments and evolve with the song.
A great place to start is the Storm Cloud Drone preset — this should give you a solid base for a lush, full bass sound you can use in verses or even choruses to help carry the chords and fill out the stereo field without becoming muddy or unfocused. If you decide to add a drop or a bass-heavy chorus, chances are you’ll want something on the drier side as it will be far easier to process and mix to your liking. Great bass design is often just a mixture of simple waveforms, a healthy dose of distortion (often different types in sequence), filtering, and very light reverb if any ... the exact type of sound you can get with the Kick In The Butt Bass preset!
At this point, all you need is some sweet and edgy drums to tie everything together. Beatmaker KANDY is the perfect way to get clean, cutting edge drums to bring your synth-pop songs to life, with easily editable MIDI grooves and Finisher effects to shape your drums exactly the way you want. Plenty of different Beatmakers can get the job done, but KANDY was specifically designed to handle the needs of contemporary pop music and really sell the grooves you create. It truly is a perfect match with Usynth GLAM!
There are countless options available to you for synth-pop leads, chords, basses and more inside of Usynth GLAM. These are just guidelines, and there’s no end to the number of pro-level patches you can create from the deep list of presets available inside — so have fun, get creative and make some cutting-edge synth-pop with GLAM!
About the Author
Harry Lodes is a copywriter, marketing consultant and content writer for audio and ecommerce brands. He lives in the Philadelphia area, releasing Eastern/Western hybrid EDM under the artist name KAIRI hearkening back to his roots in Berklee College of Music.