Look, up in the sky! It’s a trumpet! It’s a saw wave! No, it’s the FM synth pad from Toto’s “Africa!”
I tasked myself to recreate this iconic sound with nothing but Arturia’s Pigments, and while this wasn’t easy, it was surely the most fun I’ve had designing synth patches in quite a while. Let’s take a look at how we constructed the pad, step-by-step:
Two instances of Pigments’ wavetable engine are used here, with simple sine waves serving as FM carriers modulated by saw waves. Phase distortion and unison detuning add some 80s-inspired flavor to this patch, while a short attack and long sustain in the ADSR envelope achieve the brassy articulation. We’ll turn to the filter cutoff to add some pluck and wow, while the same envelope will also modulate the amount of FM working on the principal oscillators. For a nice touch, I’ve added a little movement using the “Function” modulator. Some chorus, overdrive, and compression put a nice little bow on this patch.
PS: Weezer and Weird Al – if you’re reading this and need synth programming for your next Toto cover, call me.
March 11, 2019