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Our in-depth guide to using the Nord Wave 2 synth (with videos!)
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Our in-depth guide to using the Nord Wave 2 synth (with videos!)

The latest offering from Nord is the incredibly versatile Wave 2 synthesizer, bringing the functionality of its predecessor to a whole new level!

In this semi-tutorial blog, we go in-depth with the Wave 2, demonstrating its new Layers architecture, MIDI Functionality, Oscillator Section, Effects and all-new Arpeggiator/Pattern Section. If you have a Wave 2 we hope the tutorial content will be useful, if you're considering buying a Wave 2 we hope this gives you some valuable insights into what it can do! As this article goes into a lot of detail, please feel free to navigate to the section you're interested in.


Sections


1. The Layers Section

8. The Amp Envelope

2. Splitting the Keyboard

9. The Arpeggiator Section

3. MIDI

10. The Effects Section

4. The Program Section

11. Master Clock 

5. Organising Programs

12. Morphing

6. The Oscillator Section

13. Adding Your Own Samples 

7. The Filter Section


The Layers Section

Each Program on the Wave 2 can contain up to four Layers, labelled A B C and D. These can be played individually, combined together, or you can split the keyboard in up to four zones, one for each Layer. Each Layer can utilise any of the onboard Analogue, Wavetable, FM or Sample synth engines and the Effects sections are also independent per Layer, allowing you to create a phenomenal variety of sounds. 


Controlling Volume and Pan 

The central section of the Wave 2 is the Layer control. It shows you which Layers are active, what their volumes are and whether they are Grouped together. The sliders are the volume controls but, if you hold the Pan button down (below Layer B button), they then become pan controls for that Layer. The sliders also of course allow for real-time control of volumes during a performance.


Enabling / Disabling Layers

To turn Layers on or off, you hold the Layer Enable button down (below Layer A button) and select the Layers you want to enable or disable. Alternatively you can press multiple Layer buttons together to toggle any combinations you require. Whichever Layer button is flashing is the Layer that the front panel will be controlling. Use the Layer buttons to select whichever Layer you wish to edit. 


Solo’ing a Layer 

The Layers section has a useful Solo button (below Layer D button) which allows you to solo an individual Layer- ideal for listening to or editing individual elements of a Program.

Grouping Layers

Rather than treat Layers as individual synthesisers, the Group function allows you to group 2, 3 or 4 Layers together to behave as one big synth. Grouping Layers allows them to share the same Filter, Envelopes, Arpeggiator, LFO and Effect-settings - perfect when creating complex multi-layered Programs that can be edited as one coherent sound. Any Grouped Layers and their associated functions are indicated by yellow LEDs.

Splitting the Keyboard

The Wave 2 has a larger 61 note waterfall style keybed instead of the 49 key size of the original Wave. The keyboard can have up to three split points allowing you any combination of up to four zones, one for each Layer.

How to identify Split Points

The central section has a dedicated Split button with LED indicators above it to show whether it is engaged and how many Split Points are active. A line of LEDs above the keyboard shows the location of the split points themselves, so you can see exactly where they are. These LEDs can vary in colour between green, orange and red - see Split Widths, below.


How to assign Layers to Zones

When deciding which area of the keyboard you would like your sounds to be in, it is helpful to know how the Layers are allocated to zones, depending on which split points you choose.

Here is a table showing the available Split Point combinations on the Wave 2 and where each Layer will be assigned for that combination:


Split Widths

A unique feature on the Wave 2 is the ability to adjust the width of each split point - essentially, creating overlaps between zones so that sounds in adjacent zones can crossfade into each other. This feature can be used in any number of creative ways to seamlessly transition between sounds as you play across the keyboard. The widths are changed in the Split Menu and can be set to either 1 semitone (indicated by a green LED), 6 semitones (indicated by an orange LED) or a full octave (indicated by a red LED).

MIDI

The Wave 2 is a four part multitimbral instrument, meaning each Layer can transmit and receive on its own MIDI channel. This makes it ideal for creating Programs that combine internal sounds with external sounds, such as other sound modules/synths, Mainstage, soft synths etc. Or, if you are using the Wave 2 as a sound source with your DAW you can sequence each of the four Layers individually. The clever thing about MIDI settings on the Wave 2 is that they do not have to be Global - you can actually save different MIDI channel settings on a per-Program basis, allowing you to flip between totally different MIDI instrument Internal/External combinations just by changing Programs. 

The Wave 2 also automatically syncs to any incoming MIDI Clock (see Master Clock section, below) so you can drive any of its Arpeggiators or time based effects, such as Delay or Autopan, from an external DAW, drum machine or sequencer. 


All of this makes the Wave 2 an incredibly flexible MIDI keyboard.


The Program Section

So, we've established that a single Wave 2 Program can comprise of up to four different Layers which can be mapped across the keyboard and can have their own MIDI channel settings. But how are Programs handled on the Wave 2 ?


The Wave 2 has 400 Program locations:


These are divided into 16 Banks A-P

A Bank is subdivided into 5 Pages

A Page is subdivided into 5 Programs

Ie. B32 = Bank B Page 3 Program 2


There are various ways to select Programs:


Method 1: Hold the Shift button down and press the Bank buttons to jump between Banks, release Shift and use the same buttons to select a Page and then, simply turn the Value dial 

Method 2: Use the Program buttons under the screen to select a Program within the current Bank and Page

Method 3: Select Via Number - in 'Num' mode you can use the Program Buttons to type in a Program location

Method 4: Search Alphabetically or via Category - very useful if you need to find a particular type of sound quickly.

Organising Programs   

All Nord Keyboards, including the Wave 2, allow you to freely rearrange Programs anywhere you want within the instrument's memory. There is no predefined allocation of Preset Banks and User Banks, as implemented in most other keyboards. This allows you to freely set your Program order however you like - for example you could arrange Programs to follow your setlist.


The Organise function allows you to easily rearrange Programs non-destructively,  meaning that you can seamlessly switch the order of your Programs directly on the keyboard without overwriting them. The Organise function has two modes of operation:


• Swap - Exchanges the position of 2 Programs.

• Move - Inserts the Program into a chosen memory slot, and then bumps the rest along by 1 position.

Creating Sounds on the Wave 2


Now that we have covered the architecture of the Wave 2, it's time to move onto the actual sound of the instrument and what you can create, using all of its functionality!

The Oscillator Section


The heart of the Wave 2 is of course its sound engines. Each layer can utilise any of the onboard Analogue, Wavetable, FM or Sample synth engines and all of these can be selected and edited within the Oscillator section, allowing you to create a phenomenal variety of sounds.


The Oscillator section is extensive, so rather than go through every waveform available, we will just take a quick look at the Analogue synth engine. These use Nord’s latest modelling technology and are divided into different categories, including Dual and Triple Waveforms that help you create big powerful sounds very quickly (speed of programming has always been a key philosophy in Nord’s design process). The waveforms in each category can be edited using the Osc Control dial. To give you an idea of the possibilities, here is an excerpt from the manual just showing the 'Shape' category with a single waveform:


Check out the Morph Tutorial in the Morph Section, below, to see the Osc Control function in action.


Analogue is just one type of synthesis found in the Oscillator section. You also have Wavetable, FM and Samples too. And remember - everything you are doing here is just in one Oscillator of one Layer in one Program. When combining Layers together which all use different types of synthesis into one Program, this should give you an idea of how powerful and flexible the Wave 2 can be.

Here are some examples of the types of sound you can create using the different types of synthesis on the Wave 2, from musician/producer J3PO:

The Filter Section


The Filter Section is another important area of a synthesiser and is, arguably, what gives a synthesiser its character. It is used to control the harmonic content of the sound generated in the Oscillator Section. Everyone talks about ‘that Moog sound’. Well, that is because of the specific type of filter used in their synthesisers.


But, having just one type of filter can be a bit limiting, especially when you are trying to create Programs that emulate a variety of other synthesisers. Just like the Oscillator section, the more functionality you have in the Filter section, the greater the ability to create a wide range of sounds. The Wave 2 has 6 different filter types to choose from: 


Low Pass 12dB

Low Pass 24dB

Low Pass M(oog)

Low Pass and High Pass combined

Band Pass

High Pass


The Filter section also has its own dedicated Filter Envelope to shape how the Filter behaves. But Nord have also added a neat extra feature here which enables you to invert the filter envelope shape at the press of a button. This is a simple but effective way of coming up with new sounds, or to quickly and radically change an existing sound.


Another great feature in the Filter Section is the Filter On/Off button. This may not sound like an impressive feature but it can be  incredibly useful. The ability to switch off the Filter section allows you to immediately hear what your Oscillator section sounds like before it hits the Filter. This unique feature gives you a much better understanding of how the Filter is shaping your sound, by allowing you to A/B the ‘dry/wet’ signal. It also means you could treat the Filter section as an insertable effect which can be switched on/off whenever you need it. 

The Amp Envelope


As with all synthesisers, the Amp Envelope is used to control how your sound responds when you play notes. From snappy bass lines to slow evolving pads - this is where you decide how your sound will behave.


The Amp Envelope has the traditional Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release functions but another unique new feature has been added here on the Wave 2 and that is called the Attack Transient. You will find this function associated with the Attack dial in the Amp Envelope section. If it is active, it will have its yellow LED lit. 

The Transient function allows you to add a percussive ‘spike’ to the start of your sounds to help them cut through a mix or to add an edge to any percussion sounds you are creating. It is easy to use.


Simply hold the Shift Button down whilst turning the Amp Env Attack dial clockwise and this will turn the function on, or anti-clockwise to turn it off. Once it has been turned on, its level is controlled by the Attack dial. 0 will be its maximum level and it decreases until you reach the 2 position where this would be the equivalent of the normal 0 position if Transient was not engaged.


The Arpeggiator Section 

The Arpeggiator works in the traditional way - allowing you to hold down notes and have them arpeggiate either up, down, up and down or round. The Tempo dial controls the speed of the arpeggiator and this can also be synced to incoming MIDI Clock from a DAW, drum machine etc (see Master Clock, below). A useful Keyboard Hold button means you don't have to hold notes down or use a sustain pedal, if you want your arpeggiators to run throughout your song.


Of course, Nord have taken the Arpeggiator a few steps further on the Wave 2 with the introduction of some new creative features called Pattern Mode, Poly Mode, Gate Mode and Zig Zag. 

Pattern Mode

Pattern Mode allows you to add more complex rhythmic movement to the Arpeggiator section in much the same way a step sequencer would. With Pattern Mode, you can create a Pattern of up to 16 steps and then add rhythmic steps to that Pattern which will then trigger the sound on that Layer. Pattern Mode also has the ability to rhythmically control panning so you can add steps to pan your sound left, right or centre. Each Pattern step can have its length adjusted and accents can be added to individual note steps to further enhance your rhythms.

Poly Mode

In Poly Mode - any notes you hold down are not arpeggiated. Instead, the notes are all played at the same time as chords. This means that you can hold chords down and have them re-triggered by the arpeggiator or rhythmically by Patterns and control the rate with the tempo dial.


Gate Mode

Gate Mode doesn’t re-trigger notes either. Instead it mutes / unmutes the audio signal, almost like an Arpeggiator in reverse ! On it’s own, it gates the audio at regular intervals, like an LFO. But you can also use Patterns in the same way as above, to gate the sound rhythmically and create interesting and unusual effects.


When Gate Mode is enabled, the Range dial becomes the Envelope control  for the depth of the Gate. A low value acts more like a light tremolo and a higher value gives more of a sharp on / off response. 


Zig Zag Mode

This is a quick way to make your arpeggiators sound more interesting. With any arpeggiator that is running, hold Shift down and press the Zig Zag button to enable this function. Your arpeggiated notes will now jump two steps forward and then one step back to create an almost 'random' effect. 


These are all great new features which takes the standard Arpeggiator to another level. And remember - the Wave 2 is four-part multitimbral so you can have different Patterns or Gated Patterns for each of the four Layers within one Program and have them all run together in perfect sync via Master Clock. Ideal for atmospheric sounds where you require lots of interesting movement or for old skool beat box rhythms.

The Effects Section


The Effects section is the icing on the cake when it comes to creating sounds on a synthesiser, and the Wave 2 effects sound fantastic! Plus, they can be Morphed or synced to Master Clock, if required (see sections below), giving you even more ways to creatively enhance and control your sounds.


And, unlike other keyboards, all the Effects are independent per Layer rather than being part of an effects bus that all your sounds have to go through. Any settings or changes you make on one Layer will not effect the sounds on the other three Layers. And everything is stored on a per-program basis.


The Wave 2 effects:


• Tremolo

• Pan

• Ring Modulation

• Phaser 

• Chorus

• Ensemble

• Vibe

Reverb

The Reverb section now includes a new tiny Booth reverb and, at the other end of the scale - a new massive Cathedral reverb. Nord have also introduced a new Dark and Bright setting so you can change the characteristics of any chosen reverb.  Another new feature is the Chorale effect which can be strapped across the reverb section for that old skool effect.


Delay

The Delay section has had the largest number of new additions. You now have the ability to insert filters or effects into your wet signal. These include a Low Pass, High Pass or Band Pass filter, ideal for cleaning up your repeats. Vibrato, Chorus or Ensemble effects can be inserted to your delays too. The Delay can also be flipped to behave like an old style analog delay, allowing you to create pitching effects by altering the tempo, just like a tape-based delay would.


EQ

This may not sound very exciting, but the EQ is a very useful tool for adding the finishing touches to your sound. By default, it acts as a 2 band hi and low shelf EQ with cut and boost, like on the original Wave, but it can now also be turned into a Parametric EQ. This is particularly helpful if you want to get rid of any unwanted artefacts in your sound, or boost a particular frequency.


Master Clock

As mentioned already, the Wave 2 has a number of features and functions that are time related, such as Arpeggiators, LFOs, Delays and effects. These all have their own tempo controls within their sections on the front panel. 


However, the Wave 2 has a Master Clock which you can sync all of these functions to and use that to control the speed of everything within that Program.

Simply hold down the Shift button whilst turning any Tempo dial and a red LED comes on to show that it is now assigned to the Master Clock.


Master Clock has its own BPM functionality, or it can be controlled via tap tempo by tapping its button four times to match the speed of your sound source (maybe a fluctuating drummer !!) The Master Clock will then pull everything assigned to it in time.


If a Tempo dial is assigned to Master Clock, then turning it will change the quantisation divisions instead. This means you can alter the speed to 1/4 notes or 1/8 notes, for example, but the tempo remains the same.


Master Clock also automatically syncs to incoming MIDI Clock. If the Wave 2 receives MIDI Clock from an external device, then Master Clock will lock to that tempo and so will any functions within the current Wave 2 Program that are assigned to Master Clock. This makes it easy to integrate the Wave 2 with drum machines, sequencers or DAWs.

Morphing



The Wave 2 has the most extensive implementation of Nord’s Morph functionality ever seen. The Mod Wheel, a Control Pedal, Velocity and now Aftertouch can all be used to change multiple parameters on the front panel, giving you incredible real-time manipulation control of your sounds.


Plus, you also have the Impulse Morph feature which has been taken from the Lead 4. Rather than being a continuous controller, the Impulse Morph is a non-latching button that allows you to jump instantly to a parameter position of your choice, completely on the fly. The morph only takes place whilst you hold the button down and then returns to its original settings the moment you release it - a unique performance feature of the Wave 2.


And all of this is per Layer. So, for example, you could have the Mod Wheel controlling multiple functions in separate Layers simultaneously but all with completely different settings.

 

Morphing is a very powerful feature. To give you an idea of what it is capable of, here is a Speedy Tutorial demonstrating the basics of how to assign a Morph Source Controller to a parameter on the Wave 2:

Adding Your Own Samples

By now, it should be clear that the Wave 2 is an extremely powerful and versatile synthesiser. However, it also has the capability of playing back samples as well. This was a massive feature on the original Wave and one that set it apart from all the other Nord synthesisers, even the current models. The ability to load samples into the Wave 2 means you can turn it into anything you want.


To access the onboard sample library, you simply select ‘Samples’ in the Oscillator section and then you can search for particular samples within the Wave 2 sample memory using the Category & Waveform/List dials.


Free Sample Library

Nord have an extensive Sample Library on their website which covers a huge range of instruments. You can choose any of them and download them onto the Wave 2 - ALL FOR FREE ! And then, of course, you have all of those front panel controls and functionality already covered, at your fingertips to manipulate and fine-tune them even further - x 4 !


Memory Size

The Wave 2 has 1Gb of sample memory. This may not sound like a lot, compared to other keyboards on the market, but size isn’t everything ! 


Nord sample files are a fraction of the size of standard .wav files found on other instruments - many are even less than 1Mb! So there will be plenty of storage available for a whole host of samples on the Wave 2. And, thanks to Nord’s lossless compression algorithm, the samples you load in will sound just as good as those larger .wav files. Another benefit of smaller file sizes is that the boot up time of a Wave 2 is a fraction of the time it takes for larger keyboards to start up. The last thing you want at a gig is to stand around for minutes while your instrument loads all its samples up, 60% of which you probably never use anyway.


Creating your own Samples

As if that wasn't enough, then - yes, you can also add your own samples to the Wave 2 as well. You can do this using the new Sample Editor v3 software. This is an absolute game-changer (strong words, we know) in adding your own sounds and instruments to the Wave 2. Truly turning it into your own unique instrument.

Sample Editor 3 is also compatible with the latest platform Nords ie: Stage 3, Electro 6, Piano 4 and Grand as well as being backwards compatible with any legacy Nord instrument that supports Sample Library v2.0.

Price and Availability

The Nord Wave 2 is handmade in Sweden by Clavia DMI AB and shipping now priced at £2149 RRP inc VAT. Nord is distributed in the UK/ROI by Sound Technology Ltd. For more information please call 01462 480000 or visit www.soundtech.co.uk/nord

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