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VRC7 tutorial

Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:10 am
by renegade723
Hey i make most of my songs using vrc7 and i want to make my own instrument now. Can anyone explain how to make an instrument in VRC7?

Re: VRC7 tutorial

Posted: Sat Mar 24, 2018 3:03 am
by Teuthida
In my opinion, the best way to learn VRC7 instruments is through experimentation. Start with the default custom instrument (or copy one of the preset patches to a custom instrument), mess with the settings, and observe how each setting affects the instrument. Over time, you will not only discover interesting sounds, but also develop your own, independent sense on how the VRC7 works.

Of course, many people prefer to be taught how to use the VRC7, so I will also give you an overview of what each setting in the editor does:
A VRC7 instrument is made up of a carrier frequency that is modulated by a modulator frequency. You can edit the settings for each frequency, and, except for the obvious modulator-carrier relationship, the two frequencies can be edited completely independently of each other; this is why the VRC7 can have such a wide range of sounds despite being a very basic FM chip.

I'll start by going over the Carrier section on the right of the instrument editor. This allows you to control the 'core sound' of your instrument: volume, pitch, etc. The most important parts of the Carrier editor are the Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release (ADSR) sliders at the bottom, which allow you to control the instrument's volume envelope. Each slider goes from 0 (the leftmost value) to F (the rightmost value).
Attack controls how fast it takes for the instrument to reach peak volume when first played. A larger value indicates a faster volume slide; 0 disables the instrument altogether (do not set the carrier's attack to 0!).
Decay controls how fast the instrument fades outs to the Sustain volume after it reaches peak volume. Like with Attack, larger values make the slide occur faster, and 0 disables decay (ie the instrument will reach peak volume and stay there).
Sustain controls what volume level the instrument will stay at once the Decay phase is complete. Oddly enough, larger values will actually make the sustain level lower, so 0 keeps the instrument at full volume and F causes the instrument to decay all the way to silence.
Release controls how quickly the instrument fades out after a note cut or note release. The larger the value, the faster the slide: F causes the instrument to cut out instantly after being released.
These settings will usually be the most useful when making instruments with the VRC7. You can use low attacks to simulate woodwinds and strings, low sustains and high decays for a percussive sound, or something completely unique. You may notice that these envelopes are a lot more basic compared to FamiTracker's other chips, but they work fine in most instances.
Besides the ASDR sliders, there are a few other options you can use to edit the Carrier frequency (from top left of Carrier editor, left to right):
Amplitude Modulation enables tremolo on the instrument, making it lightly lower and increase in volume.
Vibrato is self-explanatory (if you don't know what it is, I highly recommend looking it up).
Sustained causes the instrument to use the Sustain envelope. Unchecking it makes the instrument skip over the sustain phase and decay all the way to 0.
Wave Rectification alters the timbre of the instrument to a more 'organ-esque' sound. It's a little less soft than the un-rectified wave, which can be useful for certain sounds.
Key Scaling causes the ASDR envelope to speed up proportionally to the note's pitch.
Level is a volume slider for the carrier. The farther to the left the slider is, the louder the carrier frequency.
Multi. Factor controls the frequency's pitch. In my opinion, the default setting for this works well enough for me, but feel free to change it up if you want. Be aware that not all values for this are in-tune.

The Modulator editor (left) is identical to the carrier editor. However, because the modulator has a very different function compared to the carrier frequency, its settings have a very different effect on the instrument's sound:
The ADSR sliders control the modulator's envelope in the same way as they do on the carrier: the instrument first ramps up to peak modulation during the Attack phase, then Decays down to the chosen Sustain level, and then lowers back down to no modulation during the Release phase. Setting Attack to 0 disables modulation entirely, setting Decay to 0 keeps the modulation level at its peak after the Attack phase, and setting Release to F instantly stops modulation when the instrument is stopped. These sliders are just as important to defining the sound of a VRC7 instrument as the carrier's. For instance, a rapid Attack and Decay value simulates a pluck, a slow change in modulation can act as a mock filter sweep, and a consistent sustain works great for woodwinds and brass.
Amplitude Modulation makes the modulation shaky and unsteady, which works well for synthy instruments but, in my experience, not much else.
Vibrato , to me, applies a subtle, phaser-like effect to the instrument. I've never used it much, to be honest...
Sustained and Key Scaling both work the same way as they do for the carrier.
Wave Rectification changes how the modulator, well, modulates the carrier. It produces a cleaner, somewhat brassier sound compared to the unrectified wave.
Level affects how powerful the modulator is. Sliding it to the left makes it more intense, while sliding it to the right makes it have a subdued, electric piano-like sound.
Multi. Factor is a bit more interesting. On the modulator editor, it changes the ratio that the modulator alters the carrier at. When the two frequencies 'align', they sound consonant and clean; otherwise, they partially clash, producing overtones and strike tones that work great for bell sounds and percussion. I highly encourage you to play around with this.

The last two settings, on the far right of the editor, are fairly straightforward. Modulator Level is mostly identical to Level from the modulator editor, but with a smoother range of values. Feedback adds distortion to the modulator; at its highest level, it produces white noise.

One last thing to mention is that you can only use 1 custom instrument at a time in a song.

Re: VRC7 tutorial

Posted: Sat Mar 24, 2018 3:31 am
by Titan of Plasma
That's an excellent tutorial.
One detail only: what I've observed with Key scaling is that it works together with Level.
Key scaling, when checked in the carrier, decreases the volume of the sound as the pitch gets higher. Level controls the intensity of this Key scaling.
In the case of the modulator, instead of the volume, Key scaling will decrease the modulator level as the pitch goes higher. Level also corresponds to the instensity of this effect.

Keep working on those good tutorials, they're extremely useful.

Re: VRC7 tutorial

Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 4:04 am
by renegade723
Thank you! Also when I used the VRC7 back in 2015 i could only use one custom instrument but when i used it for a newer song i was able to use three instruments with no trouble.

Re: VRC7 tutorial

Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2018 9:54 pm
by Teuthida
Can I see that module? I remember that there was one way to use multiple custom patches at once, but I forgot how it worked.

Re: VRC7 tutorial

Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 1:07 pm
by renegade723
Here's an example with a custom instrument and bass patch

Re: VRC7 tutorial

Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:19 pm
by Xyz
That's not quite correct. Key scaling specifically turns on "make the ADSR faster as you go up the scale"

Re: VRC7 tutorial

Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:10 pm
by Teuthida
Thanks xyz! I never really figured out that feature.

Re: VRC7 tutorial

Posted: Wed Apr 04, 2018 2:05 pm
by Drillimation
I want a video tutorial for that.