Shaping epic, noisy synth crescendos

I’d love to hear your thoughts on shaping epic, noisy synth parts.

I am really into post rock bands like Mogwai that build to crescendos of epic walls of guitars.

I like to explore this but with synths (and sometimes in an ‘epic ambient’ context. However, I can’t seem to get it as epic as I’d like. It seems to flatten out as a gentle wash of tamed noise and lacks the sheer intensity of a band like Mogwai. Also, the end of ‘Gone’ by M83 seems to achieve this with synths.

I was wondering if you have any EQ or other tricks in doing this with synths. I have a feeling that I may need to cut a bunch of mid frequencies to try to accentuate some of the harsher frequencies for more epic feels but I am open to any thoughts.

Some tricks I am already doing:
Putting a fuzz pedal effect AFTER the reverb
Sometimes adding filtered swirling noise that moves between frequencies to create some noisy chaos
Adding a shimmery FX chain for faintly modulated octave shift of another synth sound, in crescendos in a song.
Sometimes adding tremolo to noisy parts to make it more obvious in the mix.

Some examples of me trying to achieve this are in two of my tracks (near the end) from different projects…

Keen to hear any thoughts or tips.

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Just a few quick thoughts (listened a bit to your two tracks and Gone), it’s very late here so take everything with a grain of salt pls:
In Gone, I hear three elements that are clearly separated by frequency spectrum: a low bassline playing very slowly with not much upper freq content, a soft piano-like melody, a bit faster, but still slow, dominant in some mid freqs without much high freq content and the synth thing playing faster repeated notes with a lot of high freq content (before that sets in, there is another pad also with some higher freqs, maybe it gets replaced or tranformed or just isn’t that noticable later on). In your tracks, I can hear the deep bassline, but everything above becomes kinda mushy - imho there are too many elements at similar volumes and frequencies, too much reverb and too much distortion for too many elements. So yeah, I would say you are on point with your thoughts on EQing, I would start by lowering the high fregs on everything but the fastest driving elements that you got at any one point and either fading out some elements as new elements come in or put them into the background in terms of volume and frequency. Cut out all the stuff you don’t need and don’t hear, keep the bassline low (this already works imho), the soft melodies in the middle and one dominant sharp element in the high frequencies. The dominant elements in these frequencies can change when you bring in more stuff, but other elements gave to “step back” imho, in volume and/or frequency content. Compare the frequencies you got in your elements visually and take that into account, at least for a start. YOu might also try some plugins such as Trackspacer, lowering frequencies by the amount of frequencies in other elements, but I don’t know if that is even necessary. I would just try to make the single elements you have clearer, like, not overwhelming the listener with a wall of noise but instead with your clever arrangement of multiple elements if that makes any sense. Maybe try limiting the reverb and distortion to a few elements or lowering the send values (if you are using sends) for these effects for elements, at least as more dominant elements com in. Maybe limit the reverb to the mid freq melodies and the distortion to the most dominant driving element with the strong high freeq content. Panning could also help, but I think mixing the volumes and making some more room with EQs and reducing some effects might be more important. That said, I like your tracks, but at least right now (my ears are a bit fatigued atm), the frequency phalanx that is hitting my ears in the mid and high frequencies is just too much. Maybe try out some things and post some alternative version of a track? I would be happy to listen again with fresher ears.


Wavetable synth, sequenced as an arpeggio, Waveshaper distortion, compression/limiter, reverb, waveshaper distortion, eq, and panning hard left and hard right…

Then layer it and mix it with a clone of the same patch and effect but without the distortion.

Then mix and eq.

Be mindful of your sound choices because it will affect the mix…remember every sound sits at certain frequencies so make room for each sound in the overall frequency spectrum in the track.

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Love wall of sound, noise, and disorientating types of approaches!

1 of the big things to keep in mind that you may already do is to use sends, either automation of the level of each send, ride the fader if using a console, and always make sure you’re doing gain staging of elements/sources. As it is UBER important to remember to not overload the master bus with amplitude levels created by the artifacts created at each stage of post-processing a source. In other words, each time we layer a new effect over a source be mindful of the amplitude gain created to not allow the source to be replicated over -.9 dB. Some people like to use limiters to get this controlled, but if you make sure that you keep the sound at say -6dB, and then you’re total summed value of all sources peak at -.9dB at the master bus, you’ll have a powerful overall sound.

Another thing I’ve been having fun with that I somewhat stoled from a few other producers is this method when working with modules/fx pedals/analog gear/and in digital:

  • Send source through a channel, create sends with fx/etc.

  • Send all sources to another channel, and then send this channel to a multi-banded processor…

  • The processor should have some sort of upward compression, we want to slam the sound into the compression so it is loud in the compressor, but it squashes the sound.

  • Send all of the sounds to a tape, have the tape be doing a bit of biasing, then send the tape to a limiter that it with a high gain stage, but also at a -2dB output (could vary if you want it to be REALLY loud maybe at -.9dB) .

  • Send this Through to a channel and set the gain either at max, or if the sound already has a lot of artifacts or washed-out sounds that you are happy with, add a clipper to taste to get the top end to sizzle, use a limiter on this send to control the whole sound.

Sometimes this method gives me/us an insane amount of “artifacts” to play with, which can be later sent through granulizers or spectral fx or guitar pedals to further alter… some people like to chop this stuff up and layer it for tunes, some like to just use it in noise shows, and then whale on a guitar over the top of it…the worlds your oyster I suppose…

ON the matter of equalization:
For me in regards to equalization it comes down to getting all sources down, and sounding the way we want… ie being creative, before being all technical!!!

It’s often harder to separate the 2 when you’re doing all of it, versus someone who is an artist and has engineers to do the engineering!

Take a few days to just be creative, and decide which days you’ll put on your engineer hat. This will allow you to come back to an idea/sound/whatever and determine what needs to be processed in what way after being creative.

Equalization should be considered in the basic formula: Do we need to subtract from our source to carve out frequencies that create fatigue? Are some dynamics peaking and creating a harsh tone?

After subtracting, do we need to consider the phase of our equalization, and how we didn’t already consider our instrumentation/sources in the arrangement/composition while writing the song? Then we may need to do some notching, or filtering (lowpass/highpass/bandpass) to allow other sources spaces to breathe.

Are any further subtractions needed? No ok now let’s boost the fundamental of the sources slightly.

Finally, do we need to do any dynamic equalizing of any source? I’ve always enjoyed replicating the funky worm sound on my moogs, and trying to control the harsh upper/mid frequencies can be a pain to deal with! But with modern equalizers, it’s a breeze! Fabfilters Pro Q3 is great for this sort of thing, will just include this link instead of ranting on about it, but will say: dynamic equalization can be a great tool for controlling harsh noise types of stuffs, but should be after being creative, not in the process of being creative! EDIT: It can be used in the creative process as well, but really helps when doing edits…

hope this helps, and if you know everything I’ve said please disregard it!

best of, and be a great day!


Thanks everyone for your thoughts. Great ideas. Looking forward to trying this out.

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I push everything into a limiter and just drive it super hard for that type of outro.