Today we will continue our exploration of patch design in Serum and create a typical one-key chord sound of the “soft-keys” variant. Typically used in modern underground deep/house tracks and other similar-sounding genres, such sounds first became popular in the early '80s, with the advent of sampling and, later on, house and techno music in Chicago and Detroit. They were mostly used for creating groovy riffs and hypnotic hooks, with one of the most famous examples being that well-known chord-riff from the Inner City's classic track, the “Good Life”. As things progressed, these kinds of sounds stopped being (almost exclusively) made by sampling chords from old tapes and vinyls and were now created with synthesizers, which is the approach we will take today.

It is important to have at least a three oscillators available in a synth in order to create this type of a patch, because we have to tune each oscillator as a different note of a chord. Four to six oscillators are desirable for more complex chords, or at least a chord-type unison mode (as available in e.g. Reveal Sound's Spire VSTi).

Unlike the somewhat sharper-sounding classic-house chords of the early days, the ones used in current deep-house tracks are usually soft and display a timbral character reminiscent of vintage organs and mellow electric-pianos.

Our patch will also be like that; soft and mellow, yet solid and “housey”. So let's begin.


1) Open an instance of Serum and select the “Init Preset” from the Menu and set the voicing mode to MONO.

2) Then go to the SUB oscillator, switch it on and decrease the LEVEL to 69%.

3) Now go to OSC A and select the “Analog_BD_sin” wavetable form the “Analog” submenu. Since we are making a minor chord, we'll set the semitone to +3 (for the major chord, set it to +4).

Now set the PHASE to 287, RAND to 0 and the LEVEL to 64%.

IMG 01


At this early stage, we have already created the first interval of our chord which now sounds like this:



4) As our next step, we will set the second oscillator to add the final note/layer to our chord patch.

Choose the “Basic_Wrd” wave from the “Analog” submenu and set the semitone to +7.
Increase the value of the WT PST knob to 44, set the rest of parameters as follows:

PHASE: 147
RAND: 4%


IMG 02


5) We will now add some movement to the sound and set the LFO 1 to modulate the warp for the second oscillator. Choose the “Bend +/-” warp mode and then go to the LFO 1 and drag'n'drop the modulation handle onto the Warp knob. Decrease the modulation intensity to 21% and then put the warp knob up to -21%.

Now set the LFO 1 to oscillate at a rate of one bar, as shown in the picture:


IMG 03


6) Now drag'n'drop the control handle of the LFO 1 again and use it to also control the WT POS of the first oscillator, and set it as follows:

Intensity: 48
WT POS knob: 1


IMG 04


At this point, our raw chord-wave is created and it should sound like this


7) It is now time to set the filter and the envelopes to give some shape to the sound.

As we already know, ENV1 controls the volume by default, so proceed to set it as shown in the image (for a longer release, put the value to 916 or so):


IMG 05


We will use the second envelope to control the filter, so first set it like this:


IMG 06

...and then drag'n'drop its control handle onto filter's CUTOFF knob and set the intensity to 15.

8) Once done, turn the filter on, apply it to A, B and S and set as follows:

Type: (Multi) LP12

Cutoff: 99/88
Res: 10%
Drive: 6%
Freq: 2%

Now drag'n'drop the VELO (velocity) control handle onto the filter's CUTOFF knob and set the intensity to 47.


IMG 07


We have now achieved the sound's final shape, and it should sound like this


9) Now we have to make it all “come to life” a bit more and put some effects on. We'll just add some Hyper/Dimension widening and a bit of compression to firm it all up.

First turn on the Hyper/Dimension module and set it as follows:

RATE: 14%
MIX: 41%

SIZE: 37%
MIX: 29%


IMG 08

Now switch on the Compressor and set it like this:

RATIO: 3:1
ATTACK: 92.7
GAIN: 0.7


IMG 09

Our patch is now done. If you wish, you can add some reverb and delay to taste. We added some reverb and our patch finally sounds like this

Tip: For a sharper-sounding “classic-house” chord, simply choose some edgier-sounding wavetables with this same patch structure.

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