Unheard Music: God Rays

Picture of god rays streaming into a cave, lighting mossy rocks. Someone poses like a starfish at the top of the rock.

We all have unfinished projects in our archives, this is one of mine. God Rays belongs to an ever increasing list of tracks that may never fully unfurl into a true song. When listening to the back catalogue, ideas of what comes next, in the evolution of the track, become more clear. When listening to an idea over and over, sections become solidified and unchangeable, as the mind gains an expectation of repetition. The unwillingness to change often will halt progress towards great potential, dooming a bad song to only sound like a polished bad song.

God Rays (unfinished)

What makes a God Ray?

Listening back at this track, created in the summer of 2019, I start to recall it’s inspirations and asperations. This track was inspired by Knife Party‘s synth manipulation and hard hitting kicks. The lead synth of God Rays has a downward lowpass on the tail end of each note, which is a common technique used by Knife Party. Although in their tracks, many well crafted synths play one or two notes, before another synth comes in to continue the melody. This variation is sorely lacking in God Rays, leaving the main melody to sound repetitive, and simplistic after a few loops.

The fantasy of God Rays is of a track that inspires dancing and energy. As such, the beat comes in hard after a brief intro. Shortly after, the full array of synths and the synth pattern kicks in, with rapidly moving pitches and counter synths. Later on a mostly empty breakdown section comes in. This section would be filled out with an idea that’s yet to exist, but the structure is there as a placeholder, leading up to the next synth chorus.

The Synths

God Rays has 4 synths used throughout the track:

  1. There is a vocal chorus emulation, making an “aw” sound.
  2. The lead synth with it’s dynamic low pass filter
  3. A counter-synth to the notes played in the lead synth
  4. A supporting synth to the lead synth

Synth 1 – Vocal Chorus

Synth 1 – Vocal Chorus

The vocal chorus synth plays throughout the song to add ambiance and simulate the pressure and loudness of the other elements of the track. When this synth plays on it’s own, it’s interesting and relatively loud. But when the kicks and lead synth come in, the volume of this synth ducks hard, but can still be subtly heard between the notes and kicks. This technique is called Sidechain Compression, a technique used in most of my tracks.

Synth 2 – Lead Synth

Synth 2 – Lead Synth

The Lead synth is big and distorted, with a built in lowpass filter on each note. The lowpass cuts out all the high end frequencies and lets only the frequencies at the bass end through. The filter sweeps, allowing all frequencies through when a note is held, and closing the filter when released. This technique makes a buzzing and somewhat grating synth sound dynamic and interesting. Additionally, this synth has a 16ms delay that pans left and right to make it sound wider and larger than it is. This sort of delay is typical reserved for a leading instrument or vocal performance, found in tracks like Post Malone’s “Circles”.

Synth 3 – Counter Synth

Synth 3 – Counter Synth

The counter synth plays it’s notes when the lead synth is resting. This sort of lead and counter melody fills the space and keeps the energy of the track moving.

Synth 4 – Supporting Synth

Synth 4 – Counter Synth

The supporting synth adds extra bass and thickness to the lead synth. As well, this synth doesn’t have any of the dynamic low pass filtering or delay, which adds a lot of complexity when the two synths are playing at the same time. When the two synths are in the middle of a note, they don’t sound like two separate sounds. But at the end of a note, when the lead synth begins it’s low pass filter, but the supporting synth finishes the note normally, a stereo separation emerges. This separation may make you feel like the sound starts in front of you, then ends behind you.

Synth 2 and 4 played at the same time

What’s next for God Rays?

Most likely, this track will forever live in the vault of unfinished music. But perhaps the lessons used in this track will inspire future music to come. Keep an ear out for synth layering, the technique is used all over the electronic music world.

Thanks for reading ✌

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