Sound Design: Synth from 'Dance Wiv Me' by Dizzee Rascal

Richard Lainhart breaks open Logic Pro's ES2 and shows how to recreate one of the synths from the Dizzee Rascal hit, 'Dance Wiv Me' featuring Calvin Harris.  

In this Logic Sound Design Quick Tutorlal, we'll be looking at how to create the chord stab sound heard in Dizzee Rascal's "Dance Wiv Me" (featuring Clavin Harris):

The chords we're going to recreate enter at 00:44 in the video. Here are the notes for the part as shown in Logic's Piano Roll:

The phrase

Step 1 - Set Up ES2

I suggest that you begin by entering the notes in the chord track first so you have something to work with while you program the sound itself. Logic's default EVP88 software instrument will work well for that, so create a new empty software instrument track and either play or enter the notes into it. After that, switch the software instrument to ES2, which is what we'll be using to create this sound. 

Next, choose the Analog Saw Init patch from the Tutorial Settings category in ES2's patch list ; this tutorial patch will be a good starting point for our sound design. 

[Ed. Check out G.W. Childs IV's excellent "Building Blocks of Logic's ES2 Synth" article for more on working with ES2's tutorial sounds.]

Now, if you play the track with this sound, you'll hear that we're already somewhat close to the track's original sound, which tells us that it's sawtooth-based:

Listening to the original track, you'll also hear that it has a short, sharp envelope with no attack or initial decay, a full sustain, and a very short release. The Analog Saw Init already has such an envelope setting, so we'll just go with that and move on to dressing up our sawtooth.

Step 2 - Add An Oscillator

It's often hard to tell in a fully mixed track what's going on in a part that's back in the mix, but it sounds like the original chord sound has a little flanging or other processing that adds some motion and thickness to the sound. One way to get that kind of sound is to add another oscillator, slightly detuned from the main oscillator.

With that in mind, enable Oscillator 2 by clicking on its On/Off number, set it to a regular sawtooth (not the Sync Sawtooth), and detune it up or down by a couple of cents by dragging on the '0c' under the tuning knob for Oscillator 2. 

Next, drag the little square in the Oscillator Mix triangle to evenly mix Oscillators 1 and 2. Your settings should now look something like this:

Settings for the first oscillator

Step 3 - Add Another Oscillator

To make this sound a little thicker, let's add a third detuned sawtooth: enable Oscillator 3, set it to a sawtooth, and detune it by the same amount as Oscillator 2, but in the opposite direction. That is, if you detuned Oscillator 2 up by 2 cents, tune Oscillator 3 down by 2 cents. Be sure to mix in Oscillator 3 in the Mix Triangle so that all three oscillators are evenly mixed:

Oscillator 3 settings

Your track should now sound something like this:

Step 4 - Add a High-Pass Filter

At this point, we're getting closer to the original sound, but ours is a little too thick right now. One good way to lighten it up is to run it through a high-pass filter to reduce some of the heavier lower frequencies. So, make sure your Filter stage is enabled by clicking on the Filter switch (it will turn green), set the Blend slider so it's all the way over to the left (so we only hear Filter 1) and set Filter 1 to Hi (high-pass). Now drag the Cut (cut-off frequency) knob to its middle point:

Filter settings

Preview your track; you should hear something like this, a somewhat thinner sound which is a little closer to the original track: 

Step 5 - Add a Low-Pass Filter

Now our sound has thinned out nicely, but still seems rather brighter than the original. So, let's remove some of that brightness with a low-pass filter. First, if you started with the Analog Saw Init patch, you'll notice that the Modulation Router is set so that the Cutoff for Filter 2 is being controlled with an envelope, which we need to disable before setting the cutoff manually. You can do that by either clicking on the Cutoff 2 target in the first Router slot and choosing Off from the menu, or by clicking on the little center circle next to the Modulation Intensity Slider to set the modulation amount to 0; it's up to you.

Next, set the Filter section's Blend slider to halfway, so both filters are active (the Filter section should already be in Series mode). Set FIlter 2 to 24dB and fat, then drag its Cut frequency knob down so it read about 0.8, which is about the 2 o'clock position:

Low-pass filter settings

Play your track, and you should hear something like this:

Step 6 - Add Chorus

We're very close now, but the original sound seems to have a little bit of stereo motion that we don't have in our version. One way to do that is to add some chorusing, which will both provide a bit more thickness for our sound as well as some slight stereo motion.

So, click the Chorus button in ES2's Effects section—if it isn't enabled already—then set Intensity to about the 3 o'clock position, and Speed to the 9 o'clock position:

Adding some chorus

Play your track, and you should hear something like this, which to my ears is close to the original sound:

And there you go. As always, you should experiment with all of these settings to see how they affect the sound. You may even find some variations you can use for your own tracks. Above all, have fun!

Learn more about the Logic's ES2 in Logic 206 - ES2 Exposed.

Richard Lainhart

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Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films h... Read More


Good one, Richard, Thanks!
You're welcome - glad you liked it.
i can't get it to sound the same as yours richard! i think it has something to do with the voices option at the top of the es2 because i have followed the tutorial correctly i think. what is your voices number on? and your in poly mode it sounds like? and unison is off? it sounds better more like the sound from the song with just the one saw oscillator on.
yes it sounds bad when i add the second and third oscillators but it sounds pretty close to the songs sound with just the one oscillator. however your sound is closer and you have three oscillators on. and yes i have detuned the 2nd and 3rd saw waves to plus two and minus two.
Hi - ES2 is set to Poly mode, with 6 voices (the same settings as the Analog Saw Init patch we started with.)

Try that and see if it helps; if not, let me know and I'll send you a screenshot of the entire interface with all the settings.

no it doesn't sound like your final sound still. when i add the oscillators 2 and 3 in and detune them appropriately it sounds different to yours, like a dirty sound compared to your clean sound. do you have some sort of flanger effect on your final sound because thats what I'm hearing? i would like a screenshot of your settings thanks. and you have no other effect plugins inserted on that channel? also is unison mode on?
vivid - there's the built-in ES2 chorus on the sound, as mentioned in the text, but no other channel effects. And ES2 is in Poly mode, as it needs to be to play chords.

Here's a link to a shot of the whole ES2 interface, with all settings displayed:

Some of these settings don't really apply, as they're neutralized or otherwise inactive, but as far as I know, all the other significant settings are mentioned in the text above. If I made a mistake somewhere in the settings or in my explanation, please let me know.
found the problem, i was detuning the two oscillators by two whole octaves instead of two cents. my mistake. great tutorial btw. sounds very close to the original, i keep comparing. good chance calvin used the es2 to make the sound considering he made the song using logic.
Great - I'm glad you were able to solve the problem, and thanks for your kind comments too.

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