This system employs a few classic synthesis techniques that can serve as an introduction to deeper
concepts. Modern analog synthesis (also known as modular synthesis) began in `
Regardless of tradition, the sound sources of each brand of synthesis remain the same, as simple
waveforms (sine, square, sawtooth, triangle) generated by oscillators. Each of these waveforms possess
different characteristics in terms of shape and existing partials, and each bring their own powers to
the table. Here is a solid breakdown of each waveform and its qualities.
In this app, the Waveform Generator allows for two different, yet common, types of synthesis, Amplitude
Modulation (AM) Synthesis, and Frequency Modulation (FM) Synthesis. This is a highly simplified version
of the Buchla Model
261e. The module has a carrier frequency (the principal pitch) and a modulation frequency (the one
that changes the sound). Depending on if you choose AM or FM, the modulation frequency acts differently
upon the carrier. Simply put, in AM Synthesis, the gain of the carrier is modifed, in FM Synthesis, the
frequency is modified. The results of these modulations however, go much deeper. Click these links for
more information on AM Synthesis and FM Synthesis.
The Noise Source is a common addition to any modular synthesizer. The role of noise is to introduce a
tunable signal into the system. While there are several different kinds of noise, this system employs a
white noise generator with a filter. White noise is equal energy per frequency, and from there you can
read more on noise types.
Because noise is equal parts energy, you can use it to modulate a number of other modules, and tune it
to your desired result through filtering and other means. In the case here, it is not patchable to other
parts of the system, but exists as another sound source, but still has a filter.
The filter is the piece that can focus the frequencies or partials of a sound. When multiple waveforms
are mixed together, many more waves are created, called resultant tones (or sometimes
difference/additive tones). This mix of simple waveforms is what makes the sound of the synthesizer so
interesting. One method of controlling these tones, is through the use of filtering, also called
subtractive synthesis. Filtering technique is a very rich subject, as many different filters exist, can
be controlled in different ways, and ultimately rely on the ear of the performer to achieve the desired
sound. In the case of our filter in the Noise Source module, it stands as a low-pass filter (the lower
the knob is, the lower the frequencies that are passed through). Read more on Subtractive Synthesis
The ADSR (attack-decay-sustain-release) Envelope is what shapes the waveform in terms of amplitude
(volume). For example, when a piano key is struck and held, there is a ramp up to the peak of the sound
(attack), the time of the run down from peak to the sustain level (decay), the level when the note is
held (sustain), until the key is released (release). In the case of the piano, there is a very sharp
attack, a long steady decay, technically no sustain (as the sound is continuiously decaying), and a
sharp release when the finger is taken off the key. Many instruments and/or performers, including the
synthesizer, have control over the envelopes they generate. Read more information on envelopes.
There are numerous resources available online to learn more about these techniques, but in my opinion,
the most fruitful resources are Electronic Music Systems, Techniques, And Controls By Allen
Strange (available as e-book or used in many outlets); and Miller Puckette's Theory and Techniques of Electronic
Music.The latter centers on using the free, open-source software PureData, to learn about
electronic music techniques, and is highly recommended (and always free).