10 Next Level Tricks with LFOTool
“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”
— Marshall McLuhan
If you’re producing electronic music, chances are you’re very familiar with the concept of sidechaining. Sidechaining is essential to all genres of dance music – it’s what gives these records a pumping energy that makes you, well… want to dance.
Arguably the best plugin on the market to help you create the pumping and breathing of sidechain is Xfer Records LFOTool. Developed by the same manufacturers as Serum, LFOTool offers a variety of tools to implement endless kinds of sidechain grooves into your track.
But with this article, I’m letting you in on a secret: LFOTool can be used for MUCH more than just sidechaining. And if you unlock the full potential of LFOTool, it can become one of the more powerful plugins in your arsenal.
To help you use LFOTool to its fullest potential, I’m sending you home with 10 next level LFOTool tips. I’ve included a demo for each and even a preset pack that you can download for free.
Let’s get started. But first... check our video on all 10 of these amazing tricks!
What is LFOTool?
LFOTool is a volume shaper plugin. This means that at certain times, LFOTool will reduce the volume of whatever it’s applied to.
Seems pretty simple, right?
In the most simple use cases, LFOTool quickly reduces the volume of a sound at the beginning of every beat in your track. This creates the standard “sidechain to the kick” effect that exists everywhere in electronic music.
But, there are many advanced features: you can change the shape of the volume reduction (i.e. the “LFO”), apply different effects to different frequencies, or even have separate responses in the left and right channels. With these more advanced effects, we can use LFOTool for many purposes beyond sidechaining.
Why is LFOTool good for sidechaining?
There are a huge number of advantages to using LFO for sidechaining. First, it’s very easy to use – even the default patch sounds pretty good as soon as it’s opened. Beyond that, it’s efficient with CPU usage, so you can have tons of instances without it overloading your computer. I also love LFOTool for how visual of a plugin it is – it’s very easy to see what you’re doing and shape a sidechain envelope perfectly for your needs.
In short, LFOTool makes sidechaining quick, easy, and efficient on your CPU.
Why use LFOTool for more than just sidechaining?
Here’s where things get interesting — why should we try to stretch LFOTool to use it for more than just sidechaining?
There are only three ways you can modify an existing sound while producing music:
- You can change its volume (using a fader, compressors, tremolo and panning, etc.)
- You can modify its frequencies (pitch shifting, saturation, EQ, etc),
- You can change its timing (reverbs, delays, etc).
All audio effects fall into one of these three categories. LFOTool is a workhorse plugin for Category 1: volume changes. For any kind of dynamic volume changing, LFOTool has a solution to your problem. In other words, there are only three ways to modify audio, and LFOTool does one of them exceptionally well.
I use LFOTool for more than just sidechaining because it makes my production process simpler. If I’m changing a volume in some way, its my go-to pick.
How do I do that in different scenarios? That’s what the list below is all about…
10 Next Level Tricks with LFOTool
1) High Pass Sidechain for Instruments
Sometimes, we want the benefit of sidechaining without an overwhelming pumping feel to the track. You can accomplish this by using the band split feature in LFOTool to only sidechain the low frequencies of a sound. This way, you can reduce the volume of the low frequencies that conflict with the kick, but leave the higher frequencies alone so the pumping is less aggressive.
2) Kick Sampler
Sampling kicks from other songs is a great way to get high quality kicks in your own productions (it’s almost like creating your own version of my kick pack: Hyperbits Boom). You can use LFOTool to do this by isolating a kick from a drum loop.
Again, we use the bandsplit feature here, but we instead only reduce the high frequencies in the loop – allow the high frequencies to come through on the transient of the kick, and then reduce them for the rest of the beat. This let’s the kick top and kick bottom pass through, but nothing else.
The LFO shape here should look like the reverse of a normal sidechain envelope. I like to set my bandsplit frequency at about 100Hz.
3) Random Noise Mover
Let’s start unlocking some more of LFOTool’s potential. Here, we use the panning options to apply random volume reduction to the left and right channels. Apply this setting to some ambient noise or a pad to give it some extra life and movement. Remember, set a random rate so the movement is not synced to your track — this will maximize the randomness!
4) Percussion Isolator
This setting is the opposite of the kick sampler. We’re using LFOTool to isolate hi hats from a full drum loop. Be sure to tweak the timing of the attack of the envelope to get the best response for the particular loop you’re dealing with — the key is to try to remove the entire kick while preserving everything else. The bandsplit feature is doing the heavy lifting here, and usually somewhere between 500-1000Hz works great.
5) Note Retrigger for Breakbeat Kicks
Did you know you can trigger the sidechain in LFOTool like you would sidechain on a compressor? Rather than letting your LFO loop constantly, you can externally trigger it to run a single time. This is great for sidechaining breakbeat kicks.
Insert LFOTool as a MIDI effect. Then, set your external trigger to a MIDI track that has notes at the same as your kick. Noow, LFOTool will trigger one time every time your kick hits. Here are resources for doing this in Ableton and Logic.
6) Full Drum Loop Sampler
Drum loops and LFOTool are a match made in heaven. In this preset, we set the rate to 1/1, meaning the shape you draw in will take one full bar to reach completion. Draw in a shape to isolate certain drums from a drum loop — pull the blue line up to keep a sound and droop it all the way down to eliminate one.
I’ve enabled the waveform display in this preset, so click Play to have your waveform appear within LFOTool food easy shaping. Be sure to tweak the shape for whatever loop you’re sampling from!
7) Reverbed Snare Gate
I shamelessly love Phil Collins. I also shamelessly love the gated reverb snare sound he pioneered in the 80s. That sound is making a comeback, and so I’ve provided a LFOTool setting for you to capture it.
Insert this preset onto your snare track or apply it to the reverb bus. Be sure to add a reverb plugin BEFORE LFOTool on your processing chain. You can also tweak the LFO Depth parameter to modify its intensity.
8) Rhythmic Pad Stabber
LFOTool can be used to creatively make new sounds. This preset turns a sustained pad into some groovy chords.
We’re using both volume shaping and filtering here. Keep the rate at 1/8 for the classic Deadmau5 and Kaskade vibes, or draw in a unique shape for more of a modern groovy effect. Be sure to automate both the SVF LP Cutoff and the LFO Routing Cut over time (like slowly raising them every 16 bars) for maximum feels.
9) No-Click Utility Sidechain 1
This list would be complete without a couple all-purpose, no-BS presets to use all over a track. This preset is meant for fast, energetic sidechaining – the kind you’ll get in most genres of modern dance music. It will help you create a “wall of sound” production that will sound massive at clubs and festivals.
Importantly, this is also a “no click” sidechain – I’ve smoothed out the end of the LFO shape to make sure you don’t get any annoying pops from the sidechain.
10) No-Click Utility Sidechain 2
Same idea here, except this sidechain has a slower, groovier release. This is perfect for any sub-genre of house music and is guaranteed to make a track feel lighter and dancier. I use presets like this primarily on instruments and melodic content in a track, especially basslines.
The possibilities are endless with LFOTool, but the key is experimentation. These presets are meant to be a starting point – they can all be modified to fit different grooves and sounds, and I absolutely encourage you to save new presets you create as you go. LFOTool is a simple and straightforward plugin, but when we keep music production as simple and streamlined as we can, we tend to get the best results.