Bite-sized Diva tutorials

Bite-sized Diva tutorials

A series of small, quick tutorials for Diva. From exploring the parameters of modules to new ways of using some of Diva’s features.

Made with Diva 1.0

Filed in

Beginner, Intermediate
Tips and tricks, sound design

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Diva tutorial 01 - Distortion

This is the first of a series of bite-sized tutorials aimed at users of u-he’s latest synthesizer, Diva. Let’s get straight to the nitty-gritty i.e. the fascinating subject of distortion.

Act I

Diva does not have a dedicated distortion module. Hardware analogue synths naturally distort at several points within the signal path, and because Diva is a close emulation, it does not need a dedicated distortion module either. Like in analogue mixers etc., gain-staging is rather important in Diva. In search of the best distortion you do not always need to turn everything (oscillator levels and filter resonance) up to eleven. The first example here shows that turning ocillator levels down is best for the typical “acid” distortion for which the Roland TB303 and MS-20 were justly famous.

Act II - beef

On the other hand, Diva’s mixer (pre-filter) and amplifier will only distort if you give them plenty of signal. Here, the oscilloscope is left open to show the subtle waveshaping that can lead to a more beefy sound.


Not really distortion, but ring modulation between the two notes of a duophonic patch is a very characterful effect that also delivers enough grit to cut through a mix.

Act IV

OK, Diva does actually have a distortion effect. It is not dedicated, but built into the Rotary (Leslie effect) module…

Diva tutorial 02 - Glide2

The second in a series of bite-sized tutorials aimed at users of u-he’s latest synthesizer, Diva. This one is about uses of the Glide2 parameter that might not be so obvious.

Diva invites you onto the slippery slope called Glide2…

Act I

This starts with standard usage i.e. what most people associate with portamento in a synthesizer, then shows you that Glide2 is simply a speed offset applied to VCO2 (and VCO3 in the Triple VCO model). One of the many quirks that made the original Minimoog sound so good was the fact that the oscillators do not glide at precisely the same rate—that’s why the template INIT Minimono already includes a minimum amount of Glide2… you can clearly hear the effect around 15 seconds into the video.

VCOs are then turned up and down to demonstrate that there are two different glide rates.

Act II

This demonstrates how to apply Glide2 to the filter cutoff only—fairly easy because the modulation source KeyFollow2 includes Glide2. The result is an interesting slippery effect.

Of course you can process KeyFollow2 in the Modifications page first. This example use the quantizer to add steps to the glide, making it more of a filter glissando than a portamento.

Diva tutorial 03 - Brass Bounce

The third in a series of bite-sized tutorials aimed at users of u-he’s latest synthesizer, Diva. The sounds made in this video certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste—they are all typical old synthbrass. However, the point is to show several different methods of getting similar results, even with a limited set of modules.

So let’s bounce…

Method 1 starts with the usual synthbrass settings, but we soon run into the problem of not having enough envelopes for VCA, VCF cutoff, and pitch modulation at the beginning of each note. So LFO2 is used for cutoff, freeing up Envelope2 for pitch modulation.

Method 2 reverts to the usual Envelope2 for cutoff. The LFO takes over for pitch modulation, but in a special way: LFO2’s delay parameter ramps down to the bottom of a square wave (set to minimum rate so it won’t cycle). Note that the pitch modulation is also negative—a minus times a minus is a plus.

Method 3 is probably the most interesting one because it uses neither Envelope2 nor LFO2 for the pitch. Instead, the gate signal (i.e. note on/off from your keyboard) is lagged, resulting in a smooth attack. And (fortunately or unfortunately) an equally smooth release… but there is a little surprise at the end.

Take home message

Just like classic analogue polysynths, Diva expects you to make the most of a limited set of synth modules.

Diva tutorial 04 - PWM

The fourth in our series of bite-sized tutorials aimed at users of u-he’s Diva, this one is all about the ever-popular pulse width modulation (PWM) effect. PWM was traditionally used to add tonal movement—especially useful for synths that only had one oscillator e.g. ARP Axxe.

Act I - standard PWM

How to set up typical cyclic PWM in the various oscillator models. The ratio between the upper and lower levels (mark space ratio) of a rectangular waveform is slowly modulated by an LFO. Note: One of the sawtooth waveforms in the DCO oscillator model also delivers a similar effect, but I neglected to demonstrated it in this video.

Act II

The very first PWM is likely to have been an attempt to emulate the satisfying “zippy” sound of two detuned sawtooth waves, one of which is inverted. Because the Triple VCO model features a ramp wave (i.e. inverted sawtooth), it is worth trying this out in Diva. A taste of history, this method is my personal favourite.

Even if your 2-oscillator hardware synth did not have a ramp wave, you could still make similar sounds by detuning two pulse waves—as shown here.


“Sync” i.e. oscillator synchronization means that the phase of a slave oscillator is reset by a master oscillator. If you modulate the pitch of the slave within a very narrow range, you can get effects that are very similar to PWM. This method requires some practise…


How dense can can make your PWM sound by stacking and detuning 2 voices (no more), and using the Voice modulator to offset pulse widths and even the LFO rate? Read that again…

Diva tutorial 05 - LFO recursion

The fifth bite-sized tutorial aimed at users of u-he’s Diva, this one introduces the term “recursive modulation”. Here’s the shortest dictionary definition I found:

recursion \ri‐'kər‐zhən\ — see: recursion

Even if you do not get the joke immediately, you probably will after watching the video. Due to Diva’s fixed simple architecture, the only parts capable of recursive modulation are the LFOs…

First off, LFO2 is used to modulate oscillator pitch and filter cutoff. LFO2 is also used to modulate its own level… recursion. Note how the shape of the LFO (nominally a triangle wave) is affected.

Next, LFO2 is used to modulate its own rate, which not only affects the overall rate but also (again) the shape.

Normally there is no control for the pulse width of LFO square waves, but you can even do this via recursive modulation—in the 3rd experiment, LFO2 also modulates its own rate.

Of course the two LFOs can even modulate each other’s rates and/or levels for a more complex type of recursion. The preset HS Spacely Spice is a good example of this.


Experiment further with both LFOs modulating each other until you have a sound you like. Instead of e.g. LFO1 modulating LFO2 rate directly, put LFO1 and modulation wheel into the Add processor and use that to modulate LFO2 rate instead. There are many more tricks to discover using those processors together with recursive modulation…

Diva tutorial 06 - Delay and reverb

Tweak those effect parameters…

Diva tutorial 07 - more LFO shapes

A few more LFO tricks… see tutorial 5.


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