Synclavier Pocket! Manual



for Synclavier Pocket!

Copyright ©2019 Synclavier Digital Corporation Limited, Nova Scotia, Canada




  1. Introduction 
  1.   Limitations 
  • Interfacing 
    1.   The New Knob 
    1.   Comms to other Apps 
  • Timbre Store/Recall 
    1.   Search 
    2.   Quick Recall 
    3.   Saving 
  • Timbre Design 
    1.   Partial Timbres 
    2.   Partial Management 
    3.   Volume Envelope 
    4.   FM Harmonic Envelope 
    5.   Frames 
  • Expression and Dynamic Pan 
    1.   Vibrato 
    2.   Tremolo / Pan 
  • Volume, Modulation and Intonation 
    1.   Volume 
    2.   Panning 
    3.   Tuning & Modulation 
    4.   Chorus 
    5.   Frame Settings 
    6.   Keyboard Tracking 
  • Timbre and Keyboard Effects 
    1.   MIDI 
    2.   Repeat / Arpeggiate 
    3.   Portamento 
    4.   Polyphony Mode 
    5.   Keyboard Envelope 
    6.   Dynamic Envelope 
    7.   Overall Settings 
  • Additive Synthesis 
    1.   Sine Waves 
    2.   Harmonics 
    3.   FM Modulation 
    4.   FM Harmonic Envelope 

  1. Introduction

With Synclavier (pronounced sync-la-veer) Pocket!, you have the power of Synclavier II and much more.

This manual will tell you what you need to know about Synclavier Pocket! It contains a lot of the same information from the in-built tour. We figured this would be useful to have in one continuous, searchable pdf document that you can look at online or print out, so here it is.

Synclavier Digital Corporation has invested much time and effort into the development of Synclavier Go! for iPad and Synclavier Pocket! for iPhone and iPod Touch. We’re really excited for the release of these products. As can be seen from the picture below, with today’s hardware, it’s possible to put the computational power of a room into a phone. Not only does this Application run the same core DSP engine as any Synclavier from the 1980s, but it goes further: we’ve added features from 30 years of sound design expertise to our powerful DSP engine, and we’ve taken advantage of the highly-responsive touch screen of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, implementing best practises for a modern user-interface.

1.1.       Limitations

Pocket! is provided as a free download, but there are some limitations. The main one being you cannot save your own timbres. We provide an in-app purchase, called Timbre Design and Save, which allows you to save timbres in your own custom libraries. If you are creating cool new sounds, or modifying preset timbres, you’ll likely want to save your work. Without this feature, you can still navigate the panels, but you’ll get warnings about not being able to save, being presented with the Purchase Required screen. Just Close this if you’re not ready to purchase this feature: you can still try-out the panels.


  1. Interfacing

You can connect Synclavier Pocket! up to other audio and MIDI equipment in a number of ways. For instructions on how to do this, please see the Synclavier Connection Guide, available from our website, at

With the proper set-up, you can enjoy high-fidelity stereo audio output from Synclavier Pocket!, and use MIDI interfaces, such as a MIDI keyboard, and pitch bend wheel, as input. You can even use a DAW or sequencer to supply MIDI messages Pocket! tracks, and collect the audio it produces, but Pocket! is mono-timbral, so you can only play one timbre at once. Synclavier Go! is multi-timbre, so with our flagship product, you can trigger up to 16 timbres at once through separate MID channels.

Click on       at any time to see what MIDI devices are recognized by Synclavier Pocket! NB: To dismiss modal screens, the MIDI display, you can simply press anywhere outside the screen.

When you play a note of a connected MIDI keyboard, the virtual keyboard slides away. This makes room for a row of Partial Select buttons – more on them later.

In addition to the keyboard used for playing notes, the original Synclavier consisted of many panels of illuminated buttons that fulfilled various input and indication purposes. These interfaces were engineered to aircraft standard and were highly responsive. Running a finger over several buttons in a row, would light or extinguish those functions, which made the Synclavier quick and fun to use. In a way, this was like using a touchscreen before such a thing was invented! Much care and attention has been afforded the app interface, so that it behaves and feels just like an authentic Synclavier.

Besides the keyboard, and the many buttons, the original Synclavier had a knob, which was used to quickly dial in values for use in timbre design and effects. This has been soft-simulated on the iPhone app. At the left of the screen is the knob, activated by press-and-hold and then moving up and down to turn. Several “jog” buttons are arranged above & below the knob, to quickly plus or minus magnitudes of ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, to the currently dialled-in value.


2.1.       The New Knob

A hardware Synclavier Knob product is available from Synclavier Digital. This can be connected concurrently with a MIDI keyboard, through the interface.

The Synclavier Knob, has been re-engineered from the original control knob of the Synclavier II. The weight and feel of the knob is identical, and when you turn it left or right, the soft-control on Synclavier Pocket! or Synclavier Go! moves accordingly. Many users will find this authentic experience easy and quicker to manipulate accurate values than the simulated knob.

2.2.       Comms to other Apps

Synclavier Pocket! supports InterApp and InterDevice audio, so the app needn’t work in isolation. The sounds created can be sent to other apps running within the iPad, such as Garage Band, ModStep, or Thysys. And Synclavier Pocket!, when connected to a Mac or PC can participate in a DAW, such as Logic or Pro Tools, as an instrument. See the Synclavier Connection Guide for how.

Synclavier Pocket! is implemented as a mono-timbral synthesizer with a single stereo composite output. If you need multiple simultaneous tracks, you will have to upgrade to Synclavier Go! which runs on iPads.

  1. Timbre Store/Recall

A timbre (pronounced tam-ber) typically consists of multiple partial timbres, which in turn, consist of sampled sound files or FM sounds.

Synclavier Pocket! comes preloaded with several preset libraries of timbres, many from the original Synclavier II machine, used on countless hit records. A Timbre library has up to 8 banks, and each bank can store up to 8.

There are several ways to call up a timbre for use on the keyboard. The buttons adjacent to the keyboard cycle through the timbres in memory.

> Try pressing these now. You will notice that the timbre name at the top-left of the screen (called the VK display) changes as you cycle. Also, the illuminated button in the Timbre Recall panel changes to show which timbre is selected.

NB: When using the next timbre button, you cycle past the end of the current bank, you will change to the adjoining bank, and if you are at the end of the current library, you will switch to the next. The current library and bank are given at the foot of the Timbre Store/Recall panel.

When you have a lot of libraries, or even if you have a few, it can get tedious to cycle through every timbre to find the one you want. If you know the identifier number of a sound, you can punch it in. Or if you know the name of a timbre, you can use the search function to find it.

Pressing the Library button, shows the library browser, where you can scroll through all available libraries of timbres.

> After reading this section, switch to the Library. Select the Preset Timbres section if not already selected. Scroll through the available libraries on the left of the browser. Pressing one of the libraries will select: the timbre list to the right will change.

Scroll through the timbre list and you will see they are arranged in 8 banks of 8. Pressing a little number in the middle panel will scroll the timbre list (jumping) to the desired bank. Ignore the top row of numbers for now.

Pressing a red button next to the timbre name, will recall that timbre to the keyboard for you to play. You have at your fingertips, the complete catalogue of Synclavier® FM timbres. If you find one you really like, you can swipe-right on its name to set it as a favourite. Swipe left to unset.

Additionally, there are user-space libraries, where you can save new sounds. When you have some, they can be accessed from the Custom Timbres section.

3.1.       Search

Also take a look at the Search section. Hitting Search will bring up a keyboard. > Try typing “vibe” then press return (the blue Search). All timbres containing this keyword are shown in the right panel, and can be recalled to the keyboard from there.

NB: You can also use the Search section to find your favourites: just hit the Search All Favorites button.

> Hit Close when finished with the library browser.

3.2.       Quick Recall

To punch in a new timbre to the keyboard quickly, press the Bank button. It will light to show it was selected. Now press one of the number keys to enter the desired bank. Then press the Entry button; it will light. Press one of the number keys to select the desired timbre. You will be your selection, at the footer of this panel, change. > Try this now.

If you havePree made favourites, selecting Previous and Next will cycle through them in the order they are in found in the libraries.

3.3.       Saving

As you progress through this tour, you will learn how to modify existing presets, and create your own timbres. At some point you will want to save those timbres, but since the Save button is on the Timbre/Store recall panel, we will cover saving now. Saving is an advanced feature not available in the base version of Pocket! When you save a timbre, it will save in one of your existing Custom libraries. You will always have the classic Synclavier Libraries in Presets, and cannot overwrite them.

> Recall a timbre you like to the keyboard, using one of the methods above; for instance, search for Wooden pipe and select it.

Hitting the Save button will bring up the Library with the Save section already selected, but you can of course press Library then navigate to that section.

You can navigate timbres in your custom libraries from the Save section, by scrolling on the names, as usual. Hitting one of the red buttons will Save the current timbre (the one you’re playing with) to that slot, overwriting any information already in that slot. Remember, each library has 8 banks of 8.

Before you hit a save button, it’s advisable to change the name, to something you’ll remember, e.g. “Wooden Pipe Modified,” hit return/Done and enter a description if you desire, again hit return/Done. The text changes will then be stored when you save.

If you use up all the space in your default custom library, you can create another one. It might also be useful for organizing your sounds to have multiple custom libraries.

NB: Custom libraries are saved on your iOS device, so the limit to the amount of sounds you can save, is the limit of free space on your device. However, Synclavier Digital plans to add cloud support in a future version.

With cloud support, you’ll be able to sync custom libraries across iOS devices, e.g., iPhone and iPad. You’ll also be able to share timbres with friends. And there may be further libraries available from time to time as in-app-purchases.

Synclavier enjoys a strong community, and many people share timbres for public use online. Synclavier timbres are compatible on any device Synclavier has ever made, from Synclavier II onwards. If interested, you should check our website for more details.

PRO-TIP: You will learn about Partials on the next tour page, but in brief, every timbre can contain multiple partial sounds. If you press and hold a partial button (or swiped partials) then call up a new timbre from the Timbre Store/Recall panel, only partials in the selected positions will be recalled to the keyboard, leaving the unselected partial/s intact. This is a great fun way to quickly mix and match partials to create a new sound. Ableton Link

The “flip” (       ) side of the Timbre Store/Recall panel provides controls for Ableton Link. Link is a technology that keeps devices in time over a local network, so you can forget the hassle of setting up MIDI clocks and focus on playing music. That is a shorthand way of saying Link is a lot of fun and it’s also easy to use!

    brings up the Ableton Link preferences panel. Link will stay on once it has been enabled.

The Start and Stop controls will start and stop the network-wide Link session, and changing the Tempo will keep all devices in the session at the same tempo and in sync. The Beat control sets the “Beat Multiplier”, so you can control whether the Arpeggiator does eighth-notes or sixteenth-notes or a more unusual settings like fifth-notes or triplets.

The Repeat and Arpeggiate functions from the Ableton Link section apply to all the Timbres you call up, so you can easily browse Timbres and stay in sync.

  1. Timbre Design

With Synclavier Pocket! it’s possible to create and modify timbres, just like the classic 1980s Synclavier. In fact, the core sound-design engine is identical to the original, but with added power!

When designing a timbre, very complex and dynamic sounds can be created by choosing different sound files for two or more partial timbres. For example, to strengthen the attack of a brass instrument, you might put a percussive sound on one of the partial timbres. Each of these partial timbres can be modified in a variety of ways, including changing the volume envelope, adding vibrato, portamento or real-time effects.

The whole timbre with its multiple layers can be further modified by adding effects such as chorus or vibrato. Depending on whether you’re working in music, sound effects or vocal effects, timbre design can be used in many ways.

The numbered buttons on the Partial Select subpanel each represent a partial. A timbre can have any number of partials. Pocket! supports up to 4 partials. This is often enough, but when you need more, you would have to use our flagship product, Synclavier Go!, which supports up to 12.

4.1.       Partial Timbres

> Browse through some sounds using the Prev and Next buttons on the Nav panel: notice how the Partial Select buttons are sometimes underlined; underlined numbers represent active partials.

> Select a timbre with multiple partials. Then press one of the unlit Partial Select buttons. It will light to show that partial is currently selected. Now, changes you make to partial settings, will effect only that partial. If you press the lit partial button again, it will toggle to solo mode. Solo mode, means you only hear the soloed partial/s when you press a key on the keyboard. You can still make changes to partial settings in solo mode, and they only effect soloed partials. In solo mode, the partial buttons flash. Press again to unsolo the partial.

More than one partial can be selected or soloed at one time, with a swipe of several buttons, and this is a skill you should master, if you are to progress at sound design.

NB: If you play a note on a connected MIDI keyboard, the virtual keyboard slides out, making room for a row of partial select buttons: so you can then access them regardless of any panel your on!

4.2.       Partial Management

Copy & Paste functions are available on the back of the panel, flip the panel to access them.

         To copy a partial, you can press the Copy button, and the VK display will indicate the the currently selected Partial/s were copied to the clipboard. Press the destination partial select button/s then Paste to complete the copy. If the destination has a partial, it will be overwritten.

         The cut button will copy the partial to the clipboard, and erase the original. A useful function for origanizing partials, just remember to save your timbre when you’re done.

         To erase a partial, typically it’s enough to set the peak and sustain levels to zero, or use cut.

4.3.       Volume Envelope

The key parameters of the volume envelope can be easily modified. Select the partial/s you want to modify (all of them if you want to modify the whole timbre). Then press the envelope parameter you wish to change (top row of panel). The button will light and its value will be shown in the VK display. It’s now adjustable by turning the Synclavier Knob. Caution: When you’re done, pressing the envelope button again won’t extinguish it. It will stay in that mode until you select another modal button. NB: If you don’t have a Synclavier Knob, you can use the simulated knob, by pressing and sliding up or down. You will see the value change on the display. Release when you reach your desired value. You can also press the jog buttons below and above the simulated knob to plus or minus the parameter. value by stepped amounts.

NB: Several parameters can be modified at once, by swiping more than one for modification. For instance, Peak and Sustain are often modified together to quickly change the shape of a sound.

> Try soloing a partial and modify its volume envelope parameters. You should hear the difference in the level of the sound generated when playing notes. If the change sounds subtle, you may need headphones.


Volume Envelope Parameters


Time from key depression to beginning of sound. If you want the sound to start after the key is depressed, turn the control knob to select a time between 0-30,000 milliseconds. Using different delays on multiple partials to offset them, means the sound evolves as the different partials come in and out.


Time from beginning of sound to peak volume. Turn the control knob to select an interval between 0-15,000 milliseconds.


Time from peak volume to beginning of sustain volume. Turn the control knob to enter a time interval between 0-30,000 milliseconds.


Time from key release to end of sound. Turn the control knob to enter a time interval between 0-30,000 milliseconds.


Relative volume at the change from attack to decay. Press this button and then turn the control knob to set a level between 0-100.0%. Zero is no volume and 100.0 is maximum volume.


Relative volume from end of initial decay to key release. Press this button and then turn the control knob to set a volume level between 0-100.0%. Zero is no volume and 100.0 is maximum volume.


4.4.       FM Harmonic Envelope

The harmonic envelope of a partial or partials, governs how the partial’s sound is frequency-modulated over time. You can introduce some brightness to your sound quickly, by selecting peak and sustain in a swipe, and dialling the their parameters up.

> Try this now for all partials of a simple timbre, and you’ll hear the difference some modulation makes to the character of the sound.

NB: A full grasp of the FM Harmonic Envelope is not necessary now, as we will be revisiting it in the section on Additive Synthesis: just know that you can dramatically alter sounds by applying a small amount of modulation, sculpted over time, by the FM Harmonic Envelope.

The amount of modulation a sound is processed for, depends not only on the FM Harmonic Envelope parameters, but on the FM Amt button from the Volume, Modulation and Intonation panel. This parameter  scales the envelope up or down by a percentage, and can go from 0% (no modulation) to 250% (envelope overdrive).

Once you find your way around Synclavier Pocket!, you’ll use FM Amt in conjunction with the Harmonic Envelope, and FM Ratio & Octave buttons, to quickly shape sounds. More on these later!


Harmonic Envelope Parameters


Time from key depression to beginning of any frequency modulation, variable from 0-30,000 ms.


Time from beginning of sound to peak frequency modulation.


Time from peak frequency modulation to beginning of sustain modulation, variable from 0-30,000 ms.


Time from key release to end of frequency modulation, variable between 0-30,000 ms.


Peak level of frequency modulation of partial/s, between 0-100%


Sustain level of frequency modulation, between 0-100.0%.




4.5.       Frames

A partial can have multiple frames. Frames execute contiguously, from zero to n. The flipside of this panel has frame controls. To create a new frame, press the Clone button: it copies the currently selected frame and creates a new frame to the right (timeline).

> Try this now. Select “Sine Wave” from the System Disk library. Swipe Peak and Sustain on the bottom row to select the harmonic envelope buttons. Hit the top jog button to set the level to 100. Now press a keyboard key and you will hear a sine wave that has been FM modulated. Next flip the panel. Hit Clone and then hit the left arrow to navigate back to Frame 0. Press FM Amt. Now press the lower jog button to set FM amount to 0%. Now when you play a note, you’ll hear a sound that morphs from a simple sine wave into a modulated sine wave, for more of a sci-fi effect. NB: You will learn more on FM modulation in later sections.

As you can tell, a smooth crossfade occurs from frame 0 to frame 1. The amount to which a frame is cross-faded in is determine by its XFade setting. Go to frame 1 and hit XFade. From the VK display, you can see that this defaults to 1000 milliseconds. Press Delay and you will see there is zero delay by default. So Frame 0 starts fading out from the start of a note press and Frame 1 begins to crossfade in. If Delay is set to x, that frame waits x milliseconds from the start of the previous frame, before beginning its crossfade.

The Delete button deletes the currently selected frame, and frames can be soloed, similar to partials: press the frame indicator to toggle between selection and solo modes. The navigation slider will flash to indicate solo mode.

In addition to FM Amt, you can change Volume and Tuning to dictate how a partial’s sound evolves over time. Harmonic Information (covered in a later section), is also changeable from frame to frame.

  1. Expression and Dynamic Pan

Synclavier Pocket! provides facilities to add time-based expressions to sound, such as vibrato and tremolo. This is key to effective sound design, so it’s worth learning about the various tweakable parameters of this section. The top row of buttons pertains to vibrato and the bottom row, tremolo and pan.

5.1.       Vibrato

The vibrato feature modifies the pitch of a sound as it’s being played. To modify the parameters, press a parameter button, and its value will be shown in the VK display. Turning the knob now adjusts that value. Be aware that the parameters can be modified in course increments or fine adjustments, depending on the (Fine) button selection. And of course, parameters can also be adjusted by the jog/increment buttons beneath and atop the simulated knob, or a Synclavier® Knob connected via USB.

Vibrato is sometimes called frequency modulation, because its use modulates the frequency of the sound waveform.


Vibrato Parameter


The shape of the pitch changes. Quickly double-tap, or select then turn the knob / press the jog +1 or -1 buttons, to select one of six vibrato wave shapes. (See the list below.)


Turn knob to select a vibrato repeat rate between 0.00 and 50.00 Hz.


Turn knob to select a vibrato depth between 0.00 and 25.00 semitones.


Turn knob to select a vibrato attack delay between zero and 30 seconds. The vibrato increases gradually to its full depth from the beginning of the note to the selected attack time.


> Try modifying the vibrato of a partial timbre now. A sine wave vibrato of 6Hz is typically used to create the style of vibrato associated with vocalists and string or wind instruments, so this might be a good place to start your experimentation.

There are six vibrato wave shapes:

vibrato wave#

Wave shape







ramp (sawtooth)


inverted ramp






Normally when vibrato is added to a partial timbre, the pitch of each note fluctuates an equal amount above and below the pitch of the key pressed. The total range in semitones is determined by the depth setting. Press the following buttons to change this fluctuation.


Further Vibrato Parameters


Create a vibrato in which the pitch fluctuates entirely above the key pressed. Press Bias and play a note. As a result, the lowest point of pitch fluctuation is the pitch of the note played. The highest point is twice the number of semitones set for the vibrato depth.


Create a vibrato in which the pitch fluctuation is entirely below the key pressed. Press Bias, press Invert and then play a note. As a result, the highest point of pitch fluctuation is the pitch of the note played. The lowest point is twice the number of semitones set for the vibrato depth.


The fluctuations produced by a vibrato are normally smooth and gradual. However, you can quantize, or step, in semitone intervals the fluctuations in pitch. After you set the vibrato wave, depth and rate, turn on the quantize function by pressing Quantise.

5.2.       Tremolo / Pan

The tremolo feature modifies the amplitude and/or stereo panning of a sound as it is being played. To modify the parameters, press a parameter button then turn the Synclavier Knob.

Pure Tremolo is sometimes called amplitude modulation, because its use modulates the amplitude of the sound waveform, but by changing the phase setting, this feature can also be used for stereo panning modulation.

> Try playing with the tremolo settings now. Try changing the phase setting so that you experience stereo panning, as well as pure amplitude modulation.


Tremolo/Pan Parameter


The shape of the amplitude changes. Quickly double-tap, or select then turn the knob / press the jog +1 or -1 buttons, to select one of three tremolo wave shapes: sine, triangle, or square.


Turn the control knob to select a tremolo repeat rate between 0.00 and 50.00 Hz.


Turn the control knob to select a tremolo depth between 0.0% and 100%.


Turn the control knob to select a tremolo attack delay between zero and 30 seconds. The tremolo increases gradually to its full depth from the beginning of the note to the selected attack time.


The Phase knob defaults to 180° which allows full Left/Right Stereo panning effects. Turning the knob full down to 0° or full up to 360° will allow Tremolo (Amplitude Modulation) effects with NO Left/Right Stereo panning. Other settings between 0° and 360° will display varying degrees of Left/Right panning depth.


The Invert button changes the direction that the Wave starts. When the button is OFF, the stereo position moves to the LEFT first, from the original stereo position. When the button is ON, the stereo position moves to the RIGHT first, from the original stereo position.


The Alternate button turns on a function that alternates the starting Left/Right side of a Left/Right Pan for every new MIDI note-on event. (when this is on, invert only affects the first note played.)


  1. Volume, Modulation and Intonation

This panel presents more tweakable parameters that effect the nature of the timbre. The top row of buttons affects only the partials that are selected on the Partial Select subpanel. The bottom row of buttons will modify the settings for all partials of the selected timbre.

6.1.       Volume

The volume range is from 0.00db at full gain to -50db (off). When you change a timbre’s volume, you’re changing it internally for Synclavier Pocket! relative to all the other timbres.

> Press the lower Volume button then dial in a new level with the knob. Play a note on the keyboard. You will hear the new volume of the timbre. As with all tweakable parameters, you can save the settings to the timbre with the Save button.

6.2.       Panning

Panning adjusts the stereo positioning of a timbre. The range is from -63 (hard left) to +63 (hard right)

> Find a timbre with multiple partials, such as Church Bell.” Now select one of the partials and use the upper Pan button to change the stereo positions of the partials separately. As in an orchestra setting, now when you play a note, you’ll now have different sounds coming from different areas of the stage!

PRO TIP:  A fast double-tap of the Volume button will reset volume to full, double-tapping the Pan will reset the stereo position to centre.

6.3.       Tuning & Modulation

Each partial timbre can be individually tuned to create harmonic relationships, phase shifts or complex modulations. The Tuning buttons affect the frequency of the selected partial/s (or all partials — bottom row). This carrier frequency, dialled in with these parameters, is the frequency that the partial will sound when the note A3 is played. NB: This frequency corresponds to the 1st harmonic of the partial. Other harmonics can be added from the Additive Synthesis panel (see its section for details).

The Oct Ratio button dictates how the tuning varies across the keyboard. The default is 1: the tuning of played partials varies 1 octave across seven keys. If you wanted the partial to vary by 1 octave across 14 keys, you could set this value to 0.5. Or if you wanted double the octaves of a normal keyboard, you can set this parameter to 2. If you wanted the partial to sound in the same frequency no matter what key is pressed, you could set this to 0. This might seem like a strange thing to do, but if you are designing sound effects, this might be exactly what you want. As you’ll discover later in the manual, the keyboard envelope (range) can be mapped to other parameters, so your playing can add expression to the partials in other ways than pitch!

NB: You can turn on fine adjustment for these parameters (and more), by selecting (Fine) in the top left.

The FM Amt button allows control of the modulator waves. The amount of FM modulation applied depends on this setting. The range is from 0% (no modulation) to 250% (modulation overdrive).

NB: If modulation is set at zero, the harmonic envelope function on the “Partial Timbre Design” panel will have no effect. As explained on section 4 of this document, FM Amt and the Harmonic envelope work in conjunction to affect the amount (and timing) of FM modulation.

The FM Ratio sets the ratio of the modulator wave to the carrier wave. E.g., if the carrier wave (Tuning) is set to 440 hertz, and the FM Ratio is 2, the modulator wave will be 880 hz. If you change the ratio to 0.5, the modulator will be 220 hz. In sound design, you often start with a ratio of 1 and explore from there. For best results, the modulator wave should stay within the audible frequency range.

Sound design is a large subject, much of which is covered more comprehensively elsewhere. Any sound we can hear, can be reproduced by a summation of 1 or more sine waves, and this is what the Synclavier DSP Engine exploits. With proper technique (or experimentation) all manner of timbres can be designed on Synclavier Pocket!, beginning with the proper selection of partial frequencies. More is discussed on the Addictive Synthesis panel. > For now, play with the Tuning and FM Amt buttons, so you’re aware of how they work.

6.4.       Chorus

The Chorus function adds another voice to the selected partial/s or timbre (all partials). The number dialled in establishes the interval above or below the base pitch of the partial, with 1.00 representing unison.


One octave below


Eighth harmonic (3 octaves above)


Unison (no added voice chorus)


Ninth harmonic (3 octaves plus a major second)


Perfect fifth above


Tenth harmonic (3 octaves plus a major third)


Second harmonic (1 octave above)


Eleventh harmonic (3 octaves plus an augmented 4th)


Third harmonic (1 octave plus a fifth above)


Twelfth harmonic (3 octaves plus a perfect fifth)


Fourth harmonic (2 octaves above


Thirteenth harmonic (3 octaves plus a perfect sixth)


Fifth harmonic (2 octaves plus a major third)


Fourteenth harmonic (3 octaves plus a minor seventh)


Sixth harmonic (2 octaves plus a perfect fifth)


Fifteenth harmonic (3 octaves plus a major seventh)


Seventh harmonic (2 octaves plus a minor seventh)


Sixteenth harmonic (4 octaves above)


You can reinforce the existing harmonics of a tone by dialling in an integer as shown in the table above. Inharmonic frequencies producing harsh effects can be added by selecting certain non-integer values.

NB: You can achieve phase shift effects (flanging) by tuning the added voice to a pitch very near the fundamental or an octave harmonic or subharmonic. A setting of 1.003 or 0.998 results in different tones that are below the audible range, but are noticeable as phase shift in the upper harmonics of the tone.

6.5.       Frame Settings

The Frm Spd parameter varies the time spent on each frame of the timbre. At 200%, the sound will progress through its frames twice as fast.

On the flipside of the panel, there are frame settings to govern the looping of frames. If you set the Mode to “Loop Jump Back” when the execution of frames reaches the End frame, execution will jump back to Start frame, and continue. This will happen as long as you have a keyboard key depressed. To change the mode, press the button and use the knob, jog +1/-1 buttons, or quickly double-tap Mode. “Loop Back and Fourth” does as you might expect: when execution reaches the end frame, it reverses direction until it hits the start frame, and then continues again normally, and so on; so this mode is only manifestly different if you’re looping over 3 or more frames. To switch looping off, set the mode to “No Frame Loop.” 

6.6.       Keyboard Tracking

The flipside of this panel also contains some advanced parameters that can be useful in certain scenarios. Deselecting Pitch will stop the partial from changing pitch as you play different keyboard keys. Rather like setting the Oct Ratio to zero, but this will just change the selected Partial/s. Very useful for placing percussion sounds in a timbre, that would otherwise sound stretched at low notes, or adding a drone sound to an instrument.

You can change how long a partial takes to decay, based on what keyboard note is hit, by raising the Decay from 100%. A4 is considered the baseline for decay. So, first set your desired timbre decay while playing the A4 key, then vary this parameter, if required.

FM Amt defaults to 100%. If you modify this, the amount of FM applied to your harmonics will vary according to what note is played. This can be used to balance out a sound that sounds great at certain pitches, but over-modulated at other pitches. Middle C is the baseline for this feature, so set your timbre FM Amt correct for middle C before varying this parameter.

With these advanced parameters, timbres can be carefully designed to be played in real-life situations. Synclavier has a pedigree of being an exacting instrument, and it is this attention to detail in the DSP engine that has earned Synclavier this reputation among professional musicians.

  1. Timbre and Keyboard Effects

7.1.       MIDI

Many keyboard players add expression to their playing by using other control surfaces in addition to the keyboard itself. For example pitch bend wheels, pedals, breath sensors, etc. These controls can be mapped to parameters of Synclavier Pocket! to dynamically affect the sound during a performance. NB: These mappings were referred to as real-time effects (RTEs) in Synclavier parlance.

> If it is not already lit, press the MIDI button, the bottom row of buttons will show the various expression sources.

NB: see the Synclavier Connection Guide for how to connect a MIDI interface device.

Assuming you have a MIDI device that supports it, you can map a source expression by first quickly tapping its button. The selected button will light and MIDI will blink. The other panels will fade out except any functions that are selectable for real-time effects — see list below — any of these undimmed buttons can be pressed to map the selected expression source to that button’s function. When a function is selected, it will light, and the RTE mapping will be active for the selected partial/s. Press again to invert the mapping (the function button will blink on and off). Press once more to clear the mapping. You can map more than one function to an expression. When you’re finished, press MIDI and the display will return to normal: nothing will be dimmed, the mapped expression source button will extinguish, MIDI will cease blinking.

Function buttons representing mappable parameters for RTEs:

Volume & Pan position, Modulation

Pitch (Tuning), Chorus interval

Vibrato (rate, depth, attack)

Tremolo (rate, depth, attack, phase)

Volume Envelope parameters

Harmonic Envelope parameters

   — of selected partial/s.

> Using the above procedure, try mapping the P Bend expression source to the Volume parameter for all partials of a sound. Play and sustain a few notes while moving the pitch bend wheel. And try mapping the Mod W to Pan.

NB: Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel expression sources are soft-simulated on Synclavier Pocket! touch screen, and will be dual-controlled by a MIDI device that also maps these expression sources. Unfortunately, the soft-keyboard doesn’t currently simulate velocity or pressure.

PRO TIP: It’s easy to view existing mappings — just press and hold the expression source you want to check, and the panels dim — any lit buttons are mapped, blinking buttons are mapped inverted. More than one expression can be mapped to the same function. For pitch related RTEs, the input values from the multiple expression sources are added; for other RTEs, the input values are multiplied. Release the selected expression source button when you’re done. To change settings, you have tap the button, rather than press and hold.

7.2.       Repeat / Arpeggiate

These features allow you to trigger multiple notes with each press of a key. To access these features, press the Functions button: the lower row will show the “Repeat / Arpeggiate” buttons.

    When the Repeat function is on, a note or chord is repeated at the selected rate as long as you hold down the key(s).

    When the Arpeggiate function is on, a chord is arpeggiated once at the selected rate.

    When the Repeat and Arpeggiate functions are on, a chord is arpeggiated and repeated as long as the keys are pressed.

    Synclavier Pocket! supports various arpeggiate patterns. To change this, press the Pattern button and select with the knob or double-tap: the pattern will be displayed in the VK display. Options are Performance, Ramp Up, Ramp Down, Up-Down, Up-Down no-repeat, Random.

You can vary the rate (sometimes called tempo) at which notes or chords are repeated, by pressing the Rate button and turning the knob. 1Hz is default. 50Hz is max. Faster rates can change the character of the sound, giving your timbre a futuristic effect.

> Try it out: select a timbre with uniform sound, such as an organ, press the Repeat button to turn on this function, and when you press and hold a key on the keyboard, it will sound repeatedly. Try changing the Rate and try the Arpeggiate function when playing a chord.

7.3.       Portamento

Portamento makes the pitch “glide” between the notes you play, rather than changing the pitch instantly, as soon as you hit another key. Using portamento, you can more closely simulate playing an instrument such as a trombone or slide guitar, or this might just be the effect you’re after on a wholly synthesized timbre.

To switch it on, first ensure you can see the “Portamento” buttons. If you can’t, you’ll need to press the Functions button. Then press the On/Off button and it will light. > Try it now.

The Rate can be adjusted from 0.00 to 1.00. It sets the speed with which the sound glides from one pitch to another. 0.00 represents almost a minute to transition, whereas 1.00 is almost instantaneous. This setting might require some trial and error to get to the effect you desire.

The profile of the change from one pitch to another can be logarithmic or linear depending on whether the Log/Lin button is activated (lit) or unlit, respectively.

NB: If you hit Save-Timbre on the Timbre Store panel, it will remember your portamento settings the next time you use that timbre.

7.4.       Polyphony Mode

To change the polyphonic mode of the keyboard or other MIDI interfaces, first press the Mode button to reveal the “Polyphony Mode” buttons.

Poly Normal

Provides for full polyphony. When a note on event is received (either keyboard or sequencer) a new voice is activated for the desired sound in all cases. Earlier notes of the same pitch that are in the final decay state are not affected; their decay continues without interruption. With very long final decay settings this can lead to undesirable phase cancellations or overloading the audio output.

Poly Retrig

Allows for full polyphony, however if a note on event is received that matches a note that is currently in the final decay state, the envelope generators for the matching note are retriggered. The Poly Retrig mode is very natural for sounds with a long final decay such as bells or gongs. Polyphonic Retrig is the default mode.

Mono Porta

Restricts the audio output to one note of the current timbre at a time. The effect is a legato phrase similar to the tonguing and slurring technique of a wind or brass instrument. The monophonic settings are also useful for recreating the sounds of early analog and digital synthesizers that were monophonic by design.

In this mode, when a new note is played while an earlier note is being held, the previous note ends and the result is a “slur” to the new note. The envelope generators are not retriggered. Synthesists refer to this as “Single Triggering.


7.5.       Keyboard Envelope

A keyboard envelope controls the volume of a partial timbre across the keyboard. It allows you to define an area of the keyboard where the partial timbre fades in from left to right and an area on the right where it fades out from right to left. In between, the partial timbre plays at full volume.

Keyboard envelopes can be used in different ways. For example, a series of sound effects could be assigned to specific keys, or a series of different percussion sounds, making up a drum kit. Or a set of partials could each reflect a given range of keys from a real instrument, such as a grand piano, whose notes exhibit different character across its scale: using keyboard envelopes to restrict partials to 3 or 4 key ranges would create a more effective simulation of a piano than using one sample and warping the pitch throughout the full keyboard range.

> To map a partial or partials to a keyboard range, select or solo the partial/s you want to map, from the Partial Select group on the Partial Timbre Design panel. Then press the Envel button on the Timbre and Keyboard Effects panel. This will reveal the Envelope buttons on the bottom row. Now to set the perimeters of the envelope: Press and hold the Low button in the “Keyboard CV Envelope” group and it will light. Press the key on your keyboard representing the lowest note you would want to hear that partial (at a faded volume). Release Low; Staying with the “Keyboard CV Envelope” group, next hold In. If you don’t require any cross-fading, for this partial, press the same keyboard key you did before. A shortcut for this is to swipe and hold Low and In at once. If you do require crossfading, select a key of a higher note on the keyboard at which you want the partial to sound at full volume then release In. Complete the procedure for the Out and High notes and you will have set the Keyboard CV Envelope for that partial.

You can change an individual “perimeter” note at any time, by holding its button then hitting a note.

NB: If an error is made, when hitting a key, such as entering a lower note for In than Low, the system will correct the range for you, i.e. it will push the Low key to the In key.

You can overlap partials as much as you desire. Any partials where an envelope is not set, will sound throughout the breadth of your keyboard.

> Try creating a keyboard envelope now. Recall a timbre with multiple partials and set an envelope for the first partial to the righthand side of your keyboard. Now press a key on the lefthand side, and the other partials will sound. You have restricted partial 1’s range, but not effected the other partials. If you press a key to the right of your keyboard, all the partials will sound. You can continue the procedure with another partial/s to assign an envelope to the lefthand side of your keyboard, and in doing so restrict their sounding from the righthand side.

This is a great way to quickly assign keyboard ranges during performances, but if you wish this to be a permanent mapping for the selected timbre, then you should save the timbre.

7.6.       Dynamic Envelope

The Dynamic Envelope is a feature whereby you can selectively trigger a number of partials. By default, dynamic envelopes are driven by the velocity expression source. As with many Synclavier features, there will be more than one use for it, but a popular use of a Dynamic Envelope is to better simulate playing stringed instruments. For instance, a double bass may have 4 partials: partial 1 may mimic the sound that a bass is played when a string is softly plucked and partial’s 2, 3, and 4 would represent progressively harder plucking noises. By defining a Dynamic Envelope for each partial relating to a given velocity on a keyboard, you can simulate playing a stringed instrument with more expression by softly pressing the keys or hammering down on them. This is a most authentic way to play a synthesized instrument.

In some cases, simple ranges of velocity-triggering partials will work well. In other cases, cross-fades between the partials will sound more realistic as you play softer and harder. All this is possible on Synclavier Pocket!

> Set-up a Dynamic Envelope for a partial or partials by following the same procedure as for Keyboard CV Envelopes, instead of pressing a particular key for each perimeter, however, strike any key the desired velocity.

It’s not a trivial task to strike a key the exact weight you require, so don’t be afraid to alter the MIDI value after you’ve pressed a key with the Synclavier Knob. The range is from 0 to 127 (hardest).

NB: Remember, as per Keyboard Envelopes, Dynamic Envelopes are restrictive. This means you’re restricting the range that the partial will sound to the range you define, rather than omitting the other partials from sounding in that range. This provides more flexibility for the user, but in order to mimic a stringed instrument as described about, you will have to set each Partial using the same procedure.

7.7.       Overall Settings

Press Settings to reveal the “Overall Settings” buttons on the lower row of this panel. Tap any of the buttons and turn the knob to vary these parameters. Overall, means they pertain to the app, Synclavier Pocket!, and not any particular timbre or partial.

Volume is the volume for this App running on the iPad. It’s very unlikely that you’ll need to change this, as an iPad has a volume control of its own. But if a voice or group of voices is clipping, it may be quicker to dial down this app volume than fix it in the timbres responsible, so this feature is provided.

Tuning is provided to tune Synclavier Pocket! up our down. If you’re performing with an orchestra, where all the instruments need to be in tune with each other, you might tune up or down a few cents (fractions of semitones). At this level of performance, air temperature can have an effect on wind and string instruments, and it’s useful to have the ability to quickly adjust the overall tuning to match other instruments “by ear.”

NB: Also see the Scale C-F and Scale F-B groups of buttons. These are used if you want to tune chords of notes to particular frequencies.

If you have set an overall tuning parameter for Synclavier Pocket! to be something other than default, double-tapping the button will reset its parameter to default.

The Noise Floor is Synclavier Pocket!’s attempt to simulate the feel of the original synths, by injecting a filtered pink-noise into the final mix from the iPad. The original hardware inherited some noise from its DAC and filter circuitry, and if you’re missing that, you can dial some in with this feature.

Bit Depth controls the digital resolution of the DSP engine. The original Synclavier voices were 8-bit, but Synclavier Pocket! can manage anything up to 24 bit resolution in increments of 2. On the lower end, you’ll hear a digital noise or aliasing causing a grittiness to the sound, which may be something you desire in certain circumstances. As you increase the Bit Depth, the sound will, of course, be “smoother” with no aliasing effects.

  1. Additive Synthesis

Additive Synthesis is what the original Synclavier synth is known for. It was the first digital synthesizer on the market to use additive synthesis, and frequency modulation, with the partial timbre method, and today, many years since its introduction, the Synclavier is still the preferred choice for this method of sound design.

To use Synclavier Pocket! effectively, you need to understand the features presented in this section and what they all do.

Additive synthesis begins with a simple sine wave. Other sine waves of different frequencies, volumes and phases, are combined with the original to create a complex steady-state waveform. Each sine wave can be modified individually.  You can create complex periodic or non-periodic waveforms, or waveforms with inharmonic relationships between the frequency components.

NB: There are many technical articles on Additive Synthesis and comparisons to other methods of sound synthesis, so this is not the place to describe everything going on under the hood. This section will focus on how to design a sound using the Synclavier Pocket! user interface. If you want to learn more theory than is presented here, search for “Additive Synthesis” on your favourite search engine.

8.1.       Sine Waves

The fundamental unit of any synthesized sound is the sine wave, a periodic waveform that can be represented graphically as amplitude changes over time.

Complex waveforms are created when sine waves are superimposed on each other. Joseph Fourier, a 19th-century French mathematician, observed that all complex periodic waves are in fact combinations of sine waves with different frequencies, amplitudes and phases. The sine waves of a complex waveform can be represented on a frequency spectrum, which shows the relative volume of each harmonic.

The sounds produced by musical instruments are usually much more complex than the previous example. Each instrument has its own harmonic structure, which can vary according to a note’s duration, volume and pitch.

In a steady-state waveform, the first harmonic is the fundamental frequency of the waveform. The second harmonic is a sine wave whose frequency is twice the fundamental frequency; the third harmonic is three times the fundamental frequency, and so on. Each time you change the volume (or phase) of a harmonic, Synclavier Pocket! computes the waveform and places it in a wavetable in the digital synthesizer.

8.2.       Harmonics

Harmonic coefficients determine the relative volume of each harmonic. A coefficient of 0.0% means the harmonic is not present in the waveform. A coefficient of 100.0% means the harmonic is present at full volume.

Harmonic phases determine the relative times at which the sine waves reach their peaks and troughs. The phase of each harmonic can be set to a number between  0 ̊ and 360 ̊ (0 and 2π). Please note that changing the phases of harmonics has not yet been implemented in Synclavier Pocket!.

The best way to learn this panel is to dive in and create a new sound:

> Start by recalling “sine wave” from the System Disk library. We are going to create/modify Partial 1, so solo this.

> Press Tuning from the Volume, Modulation and Intonation panel. The base frequency of this partial will be shown in the VK display. (Blank partial’s default frequency is 440hz.) If tuning is shown in semitones, you can switch it to hertz form the main settings. Change this to 880hz using the knob or top jog button. If you don’t hear a sound, you’ll have to set the Volume or Volume Envelope settings.

> Make sure you have Carrier selected, not Mod, on the Selection subpanel. The first harmonic to set is always 1, so next press 1, on the Harmonic subpanel. The coefficient for 1 is shown on the VK display. Change this to 80%. NB: All coefficients are normalised against each other.

> If you have a MIDI keyboard, press a key (or switch to a panel with the simulated keyboard). You should hear a pure sine wave in A. NB: If you did not start with a “sine wave”, you can use the quick-start feature to set a simple sine wave: flip the panel to show the Digital Waveforms buttons. Press the Sine button to overwrite the current Carrier waveform to a sine wave, You may also want to do this for Mod (the modulator wave).

> To make this sound more complex, you can add another harmonic to it. Pick another harmonic and press its button. It should light, the coefficient will be displayed. Turn the knob or use the jog buttons to dial in 60%

> Press a key on the keyboard and you will hear a more complex sound from the pure sine wave from before. Congratulations, you’ve performed some Additive FM Synthesis. Turn the knob to set the coeff back to 0%. Notice, how, if you play a key on the keyboard, we’ve reverted to a simple sine way? This is because the other harmonic has been set to 0 volume.

> You can create evermore complex sounds by adding further harmonics, and tweaking the coefficients (and phases, if available). Try swiping several harmonics at once. Pressing 13-24 reveals the higher order harmonics. PRO TIP: Swiping both 1-12 and 13-24 allows you to select Harmonics from both ranges at once.

If one of the waveforms is selected from the quick-start menu on the flipside of the panel, the current partial’s harmonics are overwritten with values from a Fourier transform of the selected waveform. This can act as a good starting point for you to design a sound if you know what carrier waveform you desire — each one has different sonic characteristics that you should become familiar with. A crude reduction would be to say that a ramp wave can emulate brass instruments, a square wave string instruments. A triangle wave, like a square wave, contains only odd harmonics.

> Try this now. Press the Carrier button, select Triangle. Values for a triangle waveform are loaded into the partial, overwriting the harmonic coefficients, but they can still be modified. Press the Harmonics buttons to look at the coefficient values. Play a note, notice how it has a more aggressive sound than the pure sine wave.

NB: When you are changing selected coefficients, you’re doing so for the active timbre frame on all selected partials. If you have multiple partials selected, the selected coefficients may be different, so their values will be changed in step when you turn the knob. You can only modify one timbre frame at a time. And remember, you have copy and paste functions for partials and clone functions for frames on the flipside of the Partial Timbre Design panel: these copy the harmonic coefficients from one partial to another, and one frame to the next.

8.3.       FM Modulation

Thus far, we have been modifying the carrier waveform. Things can get really interesting (or weird) when you modulate the carrier wave with another wave. The same features to shape your carrier wave are applicable to a modulation wave: unlike many other synths, Synclavier Pocket! lets you design complex harmonic behaviour into both carrier and modulator waveforms. The modulation wave defaults to off (all the harmonic coefficients are zero). 

> Press the Mod button and it will light. There are two ways to create a modulator — using the quick-start buttons or selecting the harmonic buttons and increasing their coefficients. Try the former method, select Ramp. Now, when you press a key, the carrier waveform is being modulated by the modulator waveform you just created. What this means, is that the frequency of each harmonic in the carrier waveform is being modified in real-time by the changing amplitude of the modulator waveform. In practise, what Synclavier Pocket! is doing under the hood to achieve this effect, is adding “sideband” components to each harmonic.

NB: If you don’t hear any difference, when you set the Mod coefficient/s from non-zero, this could be because the FM Amt is set to zero, or the FM Harmonic Envelope has been set to zero — check Peak and Sustain levels.

8.4.       FM Harmonic Envelope

Although this modulation effect is neat, you might not want it throughout the duration of your note being played. It might be more appealing for the modulation to grow and then diminish. That is where the “Harmonic Envelope” comes in.

The number of significant sidebands (sidebands that affect the quality of the tone) depends on the depth of modulation, or volume of the modulator wave. As the depth of modulation increases, the strength of the carrier frequency decreases relative to the strength of the sidebands.

The depth of modulation is determined by the FM Amt and the FM Harmonic Envelope parameters, which transforms a steady-state modulator wave into a wave that varies over time. Please revisit section 4 for the particulars of this feature.

The diagram below shows how these features work together to create the Synclavier® sound.

User Manual – Synclavier Pocket! 1 of 33 Copyright Synclavier Digital ©2019

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