The blog is being migrated and merged with multiple Imphenzia blogs so the format and content will be inconsistent for a while.

VSTi Review - LennarDigital Sylenth1

LennarDigital Sylenth1
I'm not sure why I haven't bought this VST instrument earlier because I remember trying the demo a while back and then I forgot about it for one reason or another. As I was engaged in a forum thread regarding good trance VST instruments at the trance.nu forums I saw it being recommended and I had another download of the demo yesterday and within a few minutes I was back at their web site and purchased it (€170 including VAT). Delivery of the Sylenth1 and license took a few minutes and unfortunately the 64-bit version of the DLL crashes Cubase 5 which is odd because the demo version in 64bit worked fine. I'll contact their support soon and see if we can resolve the issue. I can still use it by simply installing the 32-bit version for the time being.

To start off with you get a lot of presets (over 1300) with this synth spread across three factory banks to play around with. The quality of presets included is very high with a huge selection of ARP (arpeggiated and gated sounds), leads, basses, pads, sound effects, keys, and some sequences. I found it very entertaining to listening through the presets with some lead and bass lines I created for this purpose.

It may not be the prettiest GUI (graphical user interface) I've seen but saying this I must admit that it's very easy to understand and use. I'm usually a bread and butter type of guy who prefers to use presets and tweak them slightly. With the simple design of Sylenth1, however, I was instantly tempted to start creating my own sounds.

First of all, at the top of the GUI, you've got the global ADSR (attack, decay, sustain, release) settings for the instrument along with the sound emitting oscillators where you can set your waveforms, detuning, volume, etc.

Below you have a access to a window to perform stuff like basic I/O operations (load and save) and also enable the different effects that can be applied. The effects allow very easy access to add different forms of 1) Arp (arppegios and trance gates which in effect plays a sequence of notes automatically (ARP) and chops up the instrument by altering volume (gate); 2) distortion (like overdrive, bitcrusher, foldback, etc.); 3) Phaser for a pulsating and sweeping motions; 4) Chorus for added width to the sounds; 5) delay for nice echoing effects; 6) reverb for added atmosphere and spatial sense; and 7) compression to alter the dynamics. What's powerful about this control window is the simple approach and accessibility to tweak your sounds and this ease of access is what steps up the game for this VST.

In addition to the oscillators and effects you have control over some LFO (low frequency oscillators) that can be used to alter the sound where examples are sweeping the cutoff frequency, altering the volume, and applying phaser or chorus effects.

What does it sound like?
Check out this video tutorial I created on creating trance leads and melodies where I use Sylenth1.

Sound: 9/10 (fantastic)
GUI: 7/10 (looks outdated but very easy to use)
Value for Money: 7/10 (nicely priced for what you get)
Purchase Process: 10/10 Quick (I used PayPal and received the software and license in a matter of minutes)

Reference Tracks
* Imphenzia - Aura of the Alien (coming soon - check out this preview clip)

First Imphenzia Trance Tutorial - Layers (Video of Cubase)

Icon Trance Tutorial - Layers
After receiving quite a few questions regarding how I go about to compose my music I decided to start making some video tutorials on the subject. The other day I released my first tutorial which covers an important element of my music which I refer to as "layering". I'm not sure if there is an official term for this and I know that many artists consider layering to be over saturating the music and to some extent I may agree that it could be a way to "cover lack of skills by adding more stuff". At the same time I'm really pleased with what the result sounds like, which is a strong enough argument to keep doing it =)

I created this tutorial using my sequencer software of choice, Steinberg's Cubase 5, but it should be very easy to translate this technique into the sequencer of your choice (e.g. FL Studio, Reason, Logic, Alberton, etc). The VST instruments I use are Groove Agent ONE (native Cubase instrument) for drums, reFX Nexus2 for a selection of pads, basses, and leads; reFX VanGuard for virtual analog leads (great for transformations using cutoff and resonance filtering). As with the sequencer any VST instrument can be used in a similar fashion.

Layering is basically playing certain notes with multiple layers of instruments to give it a euphoric and atmospheric character. I can sometimes play the same set of notes with up to 4 instruments simultaneously, as seen in the tutorial. It may take some practice to not having it all resulting in a big aural mess - but with some trial and error you'll learn what works and what doesn't.

In the tutorial I first play a section from my recently released track "Imaginary Friend" and then I spend most of the tutorial playing each instrument individually and then together with previously covered instruments in order to position its place in the overall mix. The instruments covered are drums (percussion), main bass line, secondary rolling bass line, a dreamlike pad, two supporting and transforming leads, and 4 melodic layers of leads.

You can view the tutorial here (it's in HD (high definition)) so you might want to view it on YouTube in SD if it doesn't play smoothly:

Feel free to comment the tutorial, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and listen to all of my music (7 hours+) at my official site. You may also request a tutorial topic if you hear something in my music that you wonder about. Also, I'll be archiving all my tutorials HEREif you want to find out more.

About the new album release "Duplicate My Soul"

Duplicate My Soul - Album Cover
Another two years have past since Illusion was released and I was pleased, and somewhat surprised, as I unexpectedly decided to release "Duplicate My Soul". I should probably follow traditional marketing strategies and build up a hype well ahead of an album being released but when I have my creative periods I spontaneously do these things. At the same time I'm quite happy not to follow all the rules and I'd rather take the opportunity and take advantage when the spontaneous outbursts pay me a visit.

On the 19th of March 2010 I started working on a new track under the project name "Logic Surface" (I always have random names of my tracks until they are finished and I can name them appropriately depending on their character). I nearly completed the track on the 19th but on saturday 20th March I also managed to complete it fairly early in the day. As I named the track "False Awakening" I started to add tracks released after Illusion into my winamp playlist and as the total duration grew to 1 hour, 11 minutes, and 51 seconds (including 4 bonus tracks) it hit me - it's time for my next album to be released! By the evening on the 20th "Duplicate My Soul" was released and available for anyone to get as an mp3-album or as a physical album with artwork and the complete works.

So, in addition to creating "False Awakening" what did I do for this release during the 20th March?

  • Compiled the final track listing

  • Created the cover artwork for the jewel case and disc label (using a photoshop tutorial on the internet)

  • Changed ID-tags for all tracks included on album and re-encoded them in MP3, OGG, ACC, and FLAC

  • Uploaded all the re-encoded and ID-tagged tracks to imphenzia.com

  • Added album (artwork, zip-archive for mp3-purchases, and individual tracks) to imphenzia.com

  • Updated the web site to include the latest album

  • Created promo video for album demonstrating how I created the artwork (+ upload to youtube)

  • Sent out an e-mail to my mailing list regarding the new album release

  • Updated common social networking sites with album release (twitter, facebook, youtube, etc.)

  • Over all I'm very pleased with achieving all of this in one single day from spawning the idea of releasing an album to actually releasing it.

    What to expect from Duplicate My Soul
    Most of the tracks are of true Imphenzia character with a melodic and uplifting sound. The main 9 tracks are all trance styled with what most probably would refer to as a classic (or retro) styled Trance which was more popular in the late 90s. I haven't been on for following trends or releasing what is currently hot or not, I'd rather create the type of music I love as there are still quite a few out there who appreciate this style. The one exception is probably track number 9 named "Vapour Trail" which was a very experimental track incidentally enough also casually released in silence on imphenzia.com in retrospect 2 years after it was created =) Following the 9 tracks of trance is the first bonus track "Theme of Decimation X" which was originally created for the intense retro shooter game "Decimation X" by Xona games. It fits the over all mood and is very much in line with my normal music that it qualifies as a bonus track on the album. The last three bonus tracks are chilled out downtempo edits of some of the tracks featured on the album.

    The name of the album comes from the first track on the album with the same name. The name was selected for two reasons. First of all it is a tribute to my first child (a son) so it is in a sense duplicating my soul, and secondly because the track and all the music of Imphenzia really does reflect my soul and the music I create.

    For those of you who are curious of what type of equipment I used to create the music on this album I use the following:
    Quad Core Intel 2.4 CPU with 4GB Ram running Windows 7 x64
    Master keyboard:
    Roland FP-7 (88 keys hammer action) and an Evolution MK-226C
    Sound card:
    Motherboard's own soundcard believe it or not (with ASIO4ALL drivers)
    Steinberg Cubase 5
    VST instruments:
    Mainly native Cubase instruments, reFX Nexus2 (plus expansion packs) and reFX VanGuard (plus expansion packs)

    Finishing off this post, here is the promo video for the track featuring clips from the first four tracks and a quick preview of how the artwork was created:

    I hope you enjoy this release!

    Imphenzia Soundtrack Video Showcase

    Creating music for Imphenzia Soundtrack is great fun as it offers such a variety from my normal Imphenzia trance music. I've put together a new Youtube video to showcase the different styles:

    The music still targets independent game developers (indiegames) with very competitive pricing and it's royalty free ofcourse.