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Lesson 17 - The Maelstrom Graintable Synthesizer

In This Lesson: How to use the Maelstrom (from the ground up).

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How To Use This Lesson

Watch the video below and take the quiz at the bottom of the page. If you need a bit of extra help with the videos, then by all means read the accompanying written content (the written content on this page simply restates what was said in the video).

Make sure you set the video below to at least "720p HD", if not "1080p HD", and then set it to Fullscreen as well. Otherwise the video won't display properly, and it will be quite difficult to follow the tutorial.

You can set it to 1080p HD by clicking the little Gearbox icon at the bottom of the video, and clicking "1080p HD". You can set the video to fullscreen by choosing the very bottom-right button in the video.

Getting Maelstrom Set Up

To start:

  1. Right Click the Rack > Create > Maelstrom.
  2. Right click on your Maelstrom synth, and choose "Matrix Pattern Sequencer".
  3. Then, right click the Matrix Pattern Sequencer > Randomize Pattern.


Your initial sound will be created by an Oscillator. Use OSC A, and OSC B (If you wanted a second Oscillator) to help create your first sound. I recommend de-activating all the other audio units within Maelstrom to help you get a better feel for what your initial Oscillator sounds like.

  • Octave, Semi, and Cent are all pitch related parameters.
  • "Shift" makes a change in the sound the Oscillator produces.
  • "Motion" and "Index" also help to control the types of sounds that are produced. If you are making your own sounds, then you'll want to play around with all these options until you find something that you want.
  • I've covered ADSR in the previous Subtractor Tutorial. (A = Attack, D = Decay, S = Sustain, R = Release).
  • Volume affects the volume of each individual Oscillator.


The Shaper is mainly used to get distortion out of your oscillators.

  • Use the 5 shaper modes (Mode Button) to decide which type of distorting you would like to happen (It's technically more of a clipping). The options are Sine, Saturate, Clip, Quant, and Noise.
  • Use the "AMT" knob to choose how much distortion you want (All the way left is off).

Filter B

  • Use the "Mode" button to change between low/band pass filters and other options. The options are lp 12, bp 12, comb +, comb -, or am.
  • Frequency and Resonance knobs are also available, along with the "Env" button, and "KBD" button.
  • Note that running your sound through Filter B and THEN through the Shaper, will produce a much different sound than just running straight from OSC A through the Shaper.

Filter A

Filter A is identical to filter B, except it is placed farther along in the signal chain, making it useful to filter the sounds that you have ALREADY filtered.

  • Turning the Resonance all the way DOWN, and the Frequency all the way UP, will bypass the filter; it won't affect your sound at all.

Filter Envelope

The Filter Envelope has ADSR settings, as well as an "AMT" (AMOUNT) knob for mixing. The only additional tool is the "INV" button.

I've never found this filter envelope to be particularly useful, but it's there if you want to try and work it.

Mod A + B

The modulations in Maelstrom are both very similar to LFO's. They work in a very very similar fashion

  • The A-B toggle switch decides which Oscillator the Mod affects. Switching the toggle to the middle, will make it affect both.
  • The rate changes how quickly the modulation takes place.
  • See the video (10:15) to learn more about these modulators.

Main 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Final Quiz


  1. Exercise: Create a staircase-style Modulator A that affects pitch.
  2. Exercise: Remove all effects except for OSC B.
  3. Exercise: Play around with the Maelstrom for 7 minutes.
  4. Exercise: Using the Matrix Pattern Sequencer, randomize the pattern and listen to it. Do this 4 times.

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