Saturday, April 23, 2011

"We Won't Get Fooled Again" Intro Sound - Tutorial

This post will be an accurate tutorial on how to recreate the sound used by The Who in the song mentioned in the title (the post about Baba O’Riley was a descriptive and, you know, I can’t write properly in English :D… but I think the VST I coded was somehow easy to use enough to forgive about my writing “skills”).

UPDATE: This is what it sounds like :D
We Won't Get Fooled Again [Intro Sound] by Paolo Montesel

  • Reaktor (You should be able to recreate the same patch in similar modular synth software and even on your average keyboard with 2 LFO… It can also be emulated with 1 LFO and 1 arpeggiator)
  • Plogue Bidule (That is, a modular VST host… just because it is much more flexible than ordinary hosts, but any decent host with insert effects could do)
  • Some kind of Organ/Hammond VST (even crappy :D)
There’s some nice open source modular synth out there (ALSA Modular Synth, Ingen, etc…) and they can do what I do in this tutorial, but I’m not using them since they are quite instable and incomplete.

First of all, let’s create the Bidule patch and later we will focus on the Reaktor part:

The image is pretty self-explanatory but I’m gonna explain it anyway:
  • UMX 49 – This is my USB Keyboard and is used as a MIDI input device
  • B4 II – Hammond VST
  • Reaktor5 – Native Instruments’ masterpiece ;)
  • Mixer – In this patch it is useless, but it’s there by default :D
  • ASIO4ALL – ASIO (low latency) audio output. Be sure of using an ASIO driver or you’ll be getting weird sounds (in Windows)
Aka “What’s going on in the song?”

Well it’s pretty simple. There’s the Hammond-like sound being put on and off something like 4-5 times a second and this is achieved by modulating the amplification of the organ with a square wave with values 0-1.
Then there is a low pass filter controlled by a sinusoidal LFO.
Yeah, I told you, simple.


First of all, we create the on/off effect:

  • “Tempo Info” is an object that give us the Beats Per Second setting of Reaktor, so if you take the inverse of it we get the frequency of the current tempo. “Mod Multi” is a Knob with step set to “1” and is used as a frequency multiplier (the multiplication is the “X” object). The point of having knobs is to make it easy to change parameters of the patch and tweak them easily.
  • The LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator, an oscillator that works at low frequencies) takes the frequency calculated and output a square wave (The output port is called “Pls” due to “Pulse”, another name for square wave) with amplitude 0.5, so we get a wave oscillating between [-0.5, 0.5].
  • The last block is simply adding 0.5 to the wave so we get it to oscillate between [0, 1]
  • This isn’t a necessary step, but since the square wave contains a lot of high frequencies we get some “clicks” in the sound. So we simple filter it with a low-pass filter (LPF) and we get a square wave that is “less squared” :).
  • “Square Flt” is another knob.
  • “Log” is a Reaktor object used to turn a “frequency” signal to a “pitch” signal. If your modular synth uses plain freq signals you can avoid this.
  • This is the easier block of the patch.
  • The 2 “In” are the audio inputs. The 2 “Out” are the ouputs.
  • “X” is, again, the multiplication.
  • Now we can press some key on our MIDI keyboard to hear how it sounds. Adjust the knob value as you want (for the filter knob I have 100, the other should be as accurate as possible to the original track).

  • This time we are gonna use a sinusoidal wave so we connect the “Sin” output of the LFO. “LFO Freq” and “LFO Amp” are knobs (See the last snapshot to see some nice values to start with to create your own sound).
  • Here we have 2 knobs. The first, “LFO Filter Res”, is the parameter used to set the LPF resonance (if you don’t know what it is just play a bit with the knob and hear the difference… for the technical explanation Google something like “resonant low pass filter”).
  • LFO Offset is added to the LFO output to get values between [Offset-Amp, Offset+Amp] otherwise we would get the sound filtered way too much.
  • Both the signal are then converted to pitch signals used to control the 2 filters (one for the left channel, the other for the right one).
  • Instead of connecting the stuff from the first part of the tutorial directly to the outputs we insert two LPF controlled by the LFO in 1.


The “Mod Multi” knob value is totally wrong because the last time I opened this patch I played a bit with it ;).

Now you are ready to have fun playing We Won’t Get Fooled Again :) Feel free to drop a comment if you need some help. I’m not gonna upload the final patch since I want you to do it with your hands and learn something :P

I should definitely try to do this in ALSA Modular Synth or Ingen, but these two softwares are way too instable… Ingen looks promising and I’ve been using it for some tests but from the SVN activity I saw it’s no longer actively developed. Too bad, someone should take the duty of doing some serious bug-hunting, develop it in the area where it lacks features and package it for the major Linux distribution (Ubuntu Maverick doesn’t include it in the official repos) because it could become the defacto open source modular synth.

I really hope the open source audio community will be able to fill the gap with Windows and Mac since I’m a huge Linux user/fan… Trust me, I tried hard to do some serious audio stuff in Linux but when I tried to do something more than the basic stuff I could not find the proper software. Ardour is amazing but it needs some improvement on the plugin/sidechaining part.
I dunno why but on Windows I get no clicks (xrun in jack’s jargon) while on Linux I get some clicks in the audio even if I lower the audio quality and all…

P.S.: I’m not a Reaktor guru so it’s probable that there are easier ways to get the job done, but I don’t know them :D


  1. Paolo, thank you for taking the time to write the tutorial. I'm a new Reaktor user (bought it a few days ago), and I can't find out what it is I'm doing wrong, but I don't get my ensemble to work. Would it be OK to ask you to share the patch ? I WILL learn, but I could certainly use a first nudge. Thank you !

  2. Interesting. I actually achieved the effect on my system by routing Native Instruments' Hammond M3 through Arturia's Moog Modular (this is the synth I'm most comfortable with.) Instead of using a square wave to control the amplitude, I used the sequencer. Since I could use the ADSR controls in conjunction with the sequencer, I could avoid the harsh transients that a square wave creates. By pulling out all the stops on the M3 and carefully adjusting the lowpass settings, I got a very close approximation of the original sound. Just a shame there's no actual libraries of Lowrey organs out there (to my knowledge.)

  3. Yeah you can manage to get this sound done in many ways. The point is: you have a distorted organ and you need to pass it through some kind of "on-off" modulation. It doesn't matter if it's a stepfilter, amplitude modulation or else.

  4. Just a few tips:
    Don't try these sounds out too loud. Start at a low volume. You can blow out your speakers or ears if not careful
    Make sure every piece is turned on or you will have strange or no sound coming out.
    The 2 outs at the end can be plugged into the top for a higher frequency. The ones shown for the bottom LF are way too low and any high notes wont play. I was trying like heck the way it's shown and it kept sounding muffled and low.
    If done right, this will come really close to Pete's setup. Good Job! Keep Rockin'.