The Synthesizer: Download
Here is a short teaser track made with Orion Platinum using two instances of Pitch Black: Download
I developed PitchBlack
as a side project of a bigger additive synthesizer.
The goal was to build a synthesizer with a not-so-usual synthesis
- the instrument should be intuitively usable even without
understanding the maths behind ;)
- simplicity of the controls, no-clutter user interface
- easy to tweak and many modulation options
- versatility of sound options
- "light on CPU"
Pitch Black is hybrid synthesizer. It contains elements of FM,
additive and subtractive synthesizers. According to the non-linear
behavior of the spectral shaper drastic sound changes are possible
with a minimum of parameter changes.
Please note: most controls can be cranked up to produce unpleasant,
overdriven, distorted sounds. This is by design and adds character
to the sound ;) Just in case: there is a panic button.
What is Spectral Waveshaping?
The shaper modifies a signal so that the signal is enriched with
additional frequency components.
The amount of the frequency components (bins) can be controlled
using the bars of the shaper control.
This modules defines the basic signal before fed into the shaper.
Basically it's a two operator frequency modulation (or rather phase
modulation to be precisely) -oscillator.
Operator A or B can be individually fed into the
shaper. A and B are able to modulate each other and
to modulate themselves.
When using A > A (or
B > B) -modulation the
A (or B) -operator's signal is morphed from
sine (at zero) to saw (at one third) to white noise (at full
A and B can be detuned using the ratio and
offset controls. The controls have three areas with buttons and
drag and drop abilities for coarse, medium and fine control. Hold
the SHIFT-key for more fine
control. BTW: the longer a spin buttin is pressed the faster the
The Exciter can be tuned according to octave, semitone or fine -tuning
The Spectral Shaper
The leftmost bar (the orange one) controls the amount a of the original signal. So if only
the orange bar is shown and all other bars (the red ones) are zero,
only the original signal is passed through the shaper.
The n-th bar (starting with leftmost red bar) controls the amount
(a[n]) of the n-th
Lets start with a simple example:
Feed the shaper with a single cosine wave signal (all modulations
off (A > A, A > B, B > A, B > B), B feed zero, A feed at max).
Start with the only the 1st bar (orange), all other are zero (and
filters open of course).
We hear a*cos(wt)
Now add additional frequencies by clicking and dragging the mouse
and adding red bars (alternatively hold the SHIFT-key to move a single bar)
We hear a*cos(wt) +
a*cos(2*wt) + a*cos(3*wt) + .... +
This formula works for perfect cosine waves.
Now things get more exciting: Due to the nonlinear behavior of the
shaper the sound drastically changes, even producing inharmonic
frequencies, when the cosine wave is distorted. An easy way for
this is to add a little self modulation to the operators, add more
modulation or mix and detune both operators using the ratio and
The spectrum control can be
used to quickly switch off higher frequency bins.
The raw material from the shaper can be "substractively" processed
by using two multimode filters (each supporting lowpass, highpass,
bandpass, band reject and peaking modes). The filters can be
env controls the amount of
the filter envelope,
- f1 alone
- f1 in series with
- f1 and f2 parallel
trck controls the
modification of the filter's cutoff related to the played note on
There is also a formant filter with tree formants (frequency
peaks). The filter offers a couple of vowel presets or can be used
freely as 3 independent bandpass filters.
Pitch Black has three chained effect sections, each offering a
reverb, delay, chorus/flanger, saturation and overdrive effect.
Each effect can be individually switched on or bypassed (button in
upper left corner)
There are two envelopes (filter and amp) and four modulation envelopes
- the amp - envelope is
- the impact of the filter envelope is controlled by the
env control of the
- right clicking on the background of the filter opens a menu
with the following options:
- enable/disable sustain section
- display section times
- switch on/off re-triggering of envelopes
- specify number of sections (up to 16)
- polarity (positive, bi-polar, negative) - only me envelopes
- reset envelope
- right clicking on a envelope control point opens a context menu
where the control point can be specified as the start or end of the
- the scrollbar below the envelopes can be used for scrolling
(click and drag mouse left/right) and zooming (click and drag mouse
Four LFO's can be used for modulation. Specify frequency (either free-running or host
synced (also dotted or triplets)), waveform and modulation amount.
The modulation matrix has six slots. Specify source, destination and modulation amount
slot 1 - slot 4: source:
slot 1 - slot 4: destination:
- lfo1, lfo2
- me1, me2, me3, me4,
- modulation wheel
- aftertouch (channel pressure)
slot 5 and slot 6 are for the formant filter exclusively
- operator A: ratio, offset, feed
- operator B: ratio, offset, feed
- modulation A > A, A > B, B > A, B > B
- f 1: frequency, resonance, f 2: frequency, resonance
- stereo balance
slot 5 - slot 6: source
slot 5 - slot 6: destination
- formant filter 1: frequency, resonance, level, formant
filter 1: frequency, resonance, level, formant filter 3: frequency,
The program sections allows control of volume and balance.
For each patch/program a small note (50 chars) can be entered.
Use the rename button to
change a patch name.
The patch manager supports patch banks up to 64 programs. The
programs can be saved individually or together in a text file.
The programs or the whole bank can be loaded from a text file.
Of course patches and banks can also be managed by a VST host (fxp
or fxb files)
The enclosed sound are mostly made to demonstrate the abilities of
the synthesizer. Check the notes in the program section.
Starting from behind there are a couple of tutorial sounds.
The panic button stops and
restarts audio (just in case)
Clicking the help button
overlays a transparent help window. Note the controls are still
active. Close window by clicking the x-close button in the upper right
Clicking knobs/controls by holding the CTRL-key resets the control to a
Clicking and dragging knobs/control by holding the SHIFT-key adds fine control (smaller
changes on mouse movements)
The formant filter and FX sections can be bypassed (click the
"light" on left side of title bar to switch on/off)
Installation, System Requirements
Pitch Black is a VST instrument plugin. Platform: Windows. A SSE
capable processor is needed.
Pitch Black has been tested with Orion Platinum, FL Studio, Energy
XT 2, Traction 2 on Windows XP SP2. But it should also run with the
myriad of VST-capable sequencer programs or visual studios. To
install just copy PitchBlack.dll into your VST plugin folder and
follow the VST hosts's method of inserting plugins.
have fun tweaking...
VST is a trademark of Steinberg
Soft- und Hardware GmbH