What is Synthesizer? Where To Begin?
At first, synthesis or the sound design seems like a complex subject filled with numbers and diagrams and signal flow, without a direct connection to music and emotion, but you’ll find that things will be much different as you progress in synthesis.
The basic element in synthesis is modules. All synths are created from components or modules that are linked together to affect each other. Connections and effects are the harmony and depth of the synthesis. With just a few modules, a whole world of sound opens up before you.
In synthesizers/synthesizers, the sound must begin to occur somewhere and that place is the oscillator. The synthesizer is one of the most important tools of contemporary music and without it, it is almost impossible to create pop or electronic music, but beyond that, the most important part of learning synthesis is not a synthesizer or even the sounds you create, the most important part is the discoveries you make and how they change the way you hear. Synthesizing gives you a timbre language, you find a way to describe what you hear, and by designing synthesis sound, you become a better listener and thus a better producer, performer, and communicator.
Oscillators are the sound generating part of a synthesizer. Typically they generate waveforms such as saw, sine, square, triangle, and noise. In subtractive synthesis, an oscillator with a broad spectral content initiates the signal (like a sawtooth), then a filter is used to remove the unwanted parts. If you think of the oscillator as marble, the filter is a sculptor’s chisel.
Sawtooth / Saw Waveform
It is the standard starting point for synth sounds. It has a rich vibrant timbre. It contains all harmonics and responds well to harsh filtering.
Square waves, another rich waveform, are not as complex as saw waves because they contain only individual harmonics, which makes their timbre sound more empty. Usually, square waves include the synth pulse width modulation option (Pulse width modulation). Pulse width has a dramatic effect on the timbre and can be modulated with a low-frequency oscillator (LFO) to create rich wavy textures, but is also very useful as a static parameter. The square waveform with its low pulse width is the best starting point for vocal sounds.
Sine waves, the simplest of all waveforms, consist of a single frequency. More complex waveforms can be thought of as collections of hundreds (or even thousands!) Of individual sine waves. It does not respond at all to a single sine filter because there are no upper harmonics to be removed. However, they form the basic building blocks for additive synthesis and FM synthesis.
Triangular waves sound like heavily filtered square wave. Like a square, triangle waves contain only individual harmonics, but because the upper harmonics are quieter, they are much less harsh than the square waveform. Triangle is the perfect choice when there is no extra filter and you need a more interesting sound than a sine wave.
Noise waveforms are often named by colour names. White noise is scientifically useful because it has an equal amplitude at all frequencies but feels harsh on our ears.
Pink noise is a much smoother and more pleasant white noise filtered to the natural characteristics of our ears. When used in a sound design, noise can add softness to that sound, add additional upper frequencies, and provide a sense of modulated delay effects such as phaser and flanger. It is also very useful in the attack part of noise sounds.
Most instruments have various non-harmonic noises at the moment of the sound attack before the sound reaches a stable state. Percussion synthesis also relies heavily on noise oscillators. Most synths will have a separate oscillator for noise only, and if you’re lucky, that oscillator will also have its own envelope.
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