If you haven’t done it yet, read this page about the Monolith architecture to get an idea of the principles behind the synthesizer.
Monolith is programmed like any monophonic synth so if you are familiar with the Octatrack and if you have used a substractive synthesizer before you should have no trouble getting started with Monolith.
Each oscillator of Monolith consists of a wavetable oscillator (FLEX machine) that runs into two serial effect blocks. This extends on the concept of oscillator, for example by letting you add a sample rate reduction effect on your waveform before it hits the filter, pre-filter it, and do many other interesting things.
To change the waveform of an oscillator, change the assigned samples in the FLEX sample list. Get waveforms from the Monolith directory in your audio pool. There are thousands of waveforms there to select.
Press [cue] + [track button] to activate or deactivate an oscillator, and use the VOL parameter of each track to adjust the volume of the corresponding oscillator (since we send them to CUE outputs, LEVEL has no effect).
The Octatrack pitch setting can only go one octave up or one octave down. To overcome this limitation, I transposed waveforms and concatenated them in the same waveform file that I pre-sliced. Changing the SLICE parameter of a track will hence transpose the corresponding oscillator.
Detuning of oscillators can be achieved using static LFOs. There are a few static LFOs in the LFO-designer waveforms of each track. Assign a static LFO to the pitch of the oscillator, and if you have several oscillators running you will start to hear the typical pulsating sound of detune. Yes, the Octatrack can do super-saws using Monolith.
Filters and other effects
Track 5 is a dual filter track. Effect 1 is a filter, Effect 2 is a filter, so you can do anything from simple low-pass to serial high-pass to band-pass, etc.
The remaining tracks are not configured by default, but if you set Track 6 and onward to neighbors machines, they can add additional effects to your synth sound.
Playing the synth
There are several ways to play Monolith. The first three options will trigger the filter envelopes and transpose all oscillators automatically, so they are more convenient for users looking for a classic synth experience. The fourth option is for the hardcore users.
- Use an external keyboard, connected to the MIDI IN of the Octatrack, sending on Channel 1. Because of limitations in the Octatrack sound engine, only notes between C5 and C7 will be recognized and will play Monolith. Transposing the oscillators must be done using the slice parameter of each oscillator track.
- Hit the MIDI page, select track 1 and use the chromatic mode of the Octatrack as a mini-keyboard to play the synth. Same as above, you’ll need to send notes between C5 and C7.
- Use the Octatrack internal MIDI sequencer, have it send data to channel 1
- Hardcore mode: directly program your sequences using the Octatrack audio tracks sequencer.
Scenes, LFOs, sequencer
The true force of a synth lies in its ability to self-modulate, and Monolith has plenty of modulation sources. First, the famous Octatrack crossfader and its scenes can be used as plenty of macro controls to affect all parameters of the synth engine at once.
Then, never forget you have 3 LFOs per oscillator, and 3 other LFOs for the filters. If that’s not enough, use the MIDI tracks to add even more LFOs. Also remember that on the Octatrack, LFOS can also be used as envelopes.
Still craving for more modulation? Well how about using the on-board sequencer? Use P-locks and slides for even more automation and control over your sound.
Having the ability to make new sounds is one thing, but recording them is also a nice option. Because Monolith runs on a sampler, you can use all the Octatrack recording power to save individual notes or whole phrases of synths you made with Monolith. Everyone likes to sample differently so I haven’t setup any records in the framework, but feel free to do so.
If you want to go further, why don’t you go synthception and resample the drone note you just programmed to use it as a new wavetable for a custom oscillator for another synth? Monolith can do that.