Programming An Evolving Pad With Moog Animoog Z

Moog’s latest app is deep, combining wave and vector synthesis in a 3D environment. We show you how to synthesize an animated, evolving panel sound.

Moog’s latest foray into software, Animog Z, is a sequel to Animog, the company’s flagship iOS app. The original wavetable and vector synthesis were combined together, providing a two-dimensional plane on which the wave tables would be laid end-to-end, with the operating head placed on top of it.

As the name suggests, Animog Z takes this in the third dimension, adding the Z axis to the X and Y planes. This makes it ideal for complex and sophisticated sounds. It also adds another dimension of complexity. Don’t worry though – once you can visualize how the play head moves properly through the wavetable environment, it really is like any other synthesizer.

In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through programming an advanced board.

Here is our pad in the context of the Relaxation Path:

Note: We recommend proceeding with headphones or studio monitors. As usual, click on any image to view a larger version.

Quick Overview of Moog Animoog Z

Animog Z is pretty deep so we don’t have time to go into every post here but a quick overview will be helpful before we dive in. Animog Z is an iOS, macOS, and AUv3 app. It can be played on recent iPhones, iPads, Mac OS, and DAWs that support the AUv3 standard such as Logic Pro X. (For non-supporting DAWs, you can download the AU/VST wrapper from Moog.)

The app is divided into seven home screens, five of which are for programming and two for store and settings (which we’ll skip). The first screen is Orbs View, and this is where you create your path through the 3D wave environment.

Inside the CRT-style TV screen viewer is a Tron-like grid of boxes called Wave Cube. The 16-column X-axis represents 16 waveforms within each Timbre or wave table. The eight rows are placed on the Y axis, with Timbre 8 closest to the screen and Timbre 1 farthest. The Z axis (not visible as a grid) is a repeat of the same eight Timbres stopping at the far point of the X/Y Grid. See the image below for a visual representation of this.

X/Y and X/Z networks.

Each celestial body or comet moves through the Wave Cube along a predetermined path. It can also go around this path. These two parameters are controlled via the Path and Orbit modules. As the comet moves along its path, it fades between four adjacent Timbres, giving us the vector tuning part of the tuning equation.

You can choose Timbre wave tables from the Timbre page. On the left is the arrangement of Timbres in use. Available Timbres are listed on the right. Clicking the right arrow lets you hear Timbre while pressing the up arrow button, then selecting a waveform on the right will change it. You can move Timbres up and down to change their position in the grid.

Timbre menu on the left; Stamps available on the right.

Additional screens include Env/LFO view, Edit view for setting edits, and Effects view.

It’s okay if you don’t have all of this yet. It will make more sense as you move through the steps.

Step 1: Default Correction

We start by opening an Animog Z instance on a new MIDI channel in an 80 bpm project and playing with a chord upgrade. Then we choose the default correction and turn off all effects and adjustments. Finally, we set the scale to Chromatic.

Here she is so far. Note that all Timbres are the same so there is no difference in sound:

Step 2: Stamps

The stamps are all the same, so let’s start by changing some of them. We go to Timbres View and choose a variety of those that look interesting. Additional Timbre wave schedules are available with purchase of expansion packs.

Keep in mind that you may need to update and change the order of Timbres after plotting a path for the comet, so think of this as a work in progress.

Now with the new Timbres:

Step Three: Draw the Comet’s Path

Next, let’s draw a path our comets will travel. Let’s go to the orbs view. We have a starting path, which is a basic triangle. We can use the Path module on the right to change this. Clicking the Edit button brings up the Add, Move and Erase mode buttons. Press a button and then click in the grid to draw points and expand the path. There is also a clear button to wipe everything clean.

Using the view buttons, you can see the grid from different angles. Use the axis buttons to help click and drag the entire path, whether from side to side (X/Y), up and down (Z), or anywhere (auto).

We’ve drawn a downward-sloping spiral. Here’s how it looks:

Step 4: Fine tune the trajectory and orbits

Next, let’s adjust how the comet moves through our path. To correlate the comet’s movement with the rhythm of the acoustic platform, we must press the sync button on the track unit. We also adjust the speed at which he moves through the waveforms in a musically fun way. You can also specify how the comet will move along its path. Let’s go with the episode.

Then, in the Orbit module, we can fiddle with how the comet rotates around the path. Once again, we synchronize it with the rhythm. We adjust the gear knob as well as all the different orbit controls, including the amount (or width) of the orbit per axis. There is also a Z Multit knob, which sets the rate of the Z axis axis to be a multiple of the rate.

Most important tip: Go back and forth, making adjustments to the comet’s rate, orbits, and shapes until you get the best results.

It’s starting to sound more rhythmically coherent:

Step 5: Envelopes and Filters

From now on, the tuning parameters are more in line with what you’ll find in traditional synthesizers.

On the Env/LFO page, we can adjust the shapes of the envelopes. We’re making a pillow so we want something with a slow attack. We give it a long, medium, and medium delay.

Next, let’s run the filter. It’s in the effects view, so we jump in there, play it at the bottom, and lower the trim (called frequency) a little bit so it’s not so bright. Could use a little resonance as well as some driving. Finally, we turn the Env handle to the right to give the envelope filter control over it. To further shape this, we go back to the Env/LFO view and set up the envelope, so the filter opens naturally with the plate.

Our current progress:

Step 6: LFO and Adjustments

Although there is quite a bit of buzzer tweaking all the time, our board could use more movement. Let’s use LFO to modify the filter cutoff.

First, we go to our view. Here we enable Mod 1. We choose LFO 1 for the source and the filter frequency for the destination. We use the Amount key next to the source window to request the amount of the mod to be sent to the destination.

Next, we need to adjust LFO 1. We go back to Env/LFO View, hit the Sync button under LFO 1, and use the mod knob to select a slow medium nice wave.

We can make sure that the filter pieces are adjusted correctly by checking the filter module on the Effects page. The little green M next to the frequency switch tells us that it is already modulating.

Now with the trim edit:

Step 7: Effects

For the last step, we add some effects. We run thick, chorus. A little Detune and some Drive should do what we hope it does: thicken the sound.

We also include the delay effect, using a Ping-Pong setting with the low time and high feedback settings to add some extra stereo exposure to our palette.

With effects:

Finally, we add some echo as well as some cooldown loops from the Splice pack, Future Electronics & Chill.

Final cushion in context:

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author Adam Douglas
February 3, 2022

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