The Wonderful World of (Sound) Synthesis

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This presentation was given to the Steinberg Cubase Meetup in Phoenix, AZ, on September 10, 2013. Most images are creative commons Wikipedia.

This presentation was given to the Steinberg Cubase Meetup in Phoenix, AZ, on September 10, 2013. Most images are creative commons Wikipedia.

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  • Both Lowrey and Hammond have a following
  • Hammond 1975
  • Prologue has this
  • We could go on and on. This is where having actual wires in an analog modular system can be helpful and encourage experimentation. With a VST, you have to tinker with tiny little buttons or locate and search through scant user guide documentation for the plugin.

Transcript

  • 1. The Wonderful World of Synths Part 1: A Brief History
  • 2. The Early Years  1938 – Hammond – Novachord  First commercially available synthesizer  Designed by the Hammond Organ Company in 1938 and put into full production from 1938 to 1942.  72 note polyphonic synthesizer with 100% vacuum tubes!
  • 3. The Early Years  1938 – Hammond – Novachord  First commercially available synthesizer  Designed by the Hammond Organ Company in 1938 and put into full production from 1938 to 1942.  72 note polyphonic synthesizer with 100% vacuum tubes!  1964 – Moog – Robert Moog  Moog, Moog Modular, Minimoog, Voyager  BA in Physics & Electrical Engineering, PhD Engineering Physics
  • 4. The Early Years  1938 – Hammond – Novachord  First commercially available synthesizer  Designed by the Hammond Organ Company in 1938 and put into full production from 1938 to 1942.  72 note polyphonic synthesizer with 100% vacuum tubes!  1964 – Moog – Robert Moog  Moog, Moog Modular, Minimoog, Voyager  BA in Physics & Electrical Engineering, PhD Engineering Physics  1969 – Arp – Alan Robert Pearlman  ARP 2600, Oddysey  Throughout the 70s, ARP was Moog's main competitor
  • 5.  1973 – Roland – SH The Early Years
  • 6.  1973 – Roland – SH  1975 – Oberheim – OB The Early Years
  • 7.  1973 – Roland – SH  1975 – Oberheim – OB  1976 – Korg – Poly The Early Years
  • 8.  1973 – Roland – SH  1975 – Oberheim – OB  1976 – Korg – Poly  1977 – Yamaha – DX The Early Years
  • 9.  1973 – Roland – SH  1975 – Oberheim – OB  1976 – Korg – Poly  1977 – Yamaha – DX  In the 1980s, advances in digital technology made it possible to synthesize analog waves digitally, and a new class of instruments was born: Digital Synthesizers The Early Years
  • 10.  70s – Analog Synthesis using circuits – $$$$ & Very Heavy!  80s – Digital Synthesis using chips – $$$ & Heavy  90s – Virtual Synthesis using software – $$ & Lighter  2010+ – Return to true analog.  Moog is still arguably the best After 40 years in the business! The Present
  • 11.  70s – Analog Synthesis using circuits – $$$$ & Very Heavy!  80s – Digital Synthesis using chips – $$$ & Heavy  90s – Virtual Synthesis using software – $$ & Lighter  2010+ – Return to true analog.  Dave Smith Instruments are just as awesome! The Present
  • 12.  2010+ – Return to true analog... e.g.  Korg MS 20 – Micro modular rebirth of the original, 86% smaller! The Present
  • 13.  2013 – Some modulars that debuted at NAMM The Present
  • 14.  2013 – Of course, VST instruments provide a wide range of sound generating capability without all the messy wires.  Virtual Modeling is very close to the real thing  And very convenient, cheap and easy! The Present
  • 15. Audio Synthesis Part 2: The Basics of Electronic Sound Design
  • 16. How are sounds synthesized?  Sound synthesis, at its most basic form, requires a single oscillator.  An oscillator "oscillates" between a low amplitude and a high amplitude.
  • 17. How are sounds synthesized?  Oscillator – aka VCO = Voltage Controller Oscillator  An electronic component, circuit or chip that produces a sound wave.  Common wave shapes:  Sine  Square  Triangle  Saw (sawtooth)  Noise (not pictured)
  • 18. How are sounds synthesized?  The purest wave computers can create is a square wave.  Square waves go on & off.  The oscillator oscillates between 1 and 0.  The time an oscillator is "on" is called the pulse width.
  • 19. How are sounds synthesized?  Acoustic music more closely resembles a sine wave.  Sin waves are soft and pleasing, similar to a flute
  • 20. How are sounds synthesized?  Sine waves are some of the most studied and most beautiful sounding because they’re found in nature.  2-dimensional diagrams have a tough time revealing the true natural beauty of sin waves.
  • 21. How are sounds synthesized?  Digital circuits attempt to mimic pure sin, triangle & sawtooth waves by breaking down the wave into very small samples – the more the better!
  • 22. But I can’t hear anything!  If you want to hear the sound created by an oscillator, it needs to be amplified.  For example, an electric guitar string oscillates in a sine-wave-like pattern (after the initial strum).  The audience can't hear it until it's plugged into an amplifier.
  • 23. But I can’t hear it!  If you want to hear the sound created by an oscillator, it needs to be amplified.  For example, an electric guitar string oscillates in a sine-wave-like pattern.  The audience can't hear it until it's plugged into an amplifier. Or something that makes it louder.
  • 24. The bare minimum  An oscillator  (plugged into) (routed to)
  • 25. The Core Waveforms
  • 26. But, this is really boring.  Modern synthesizers use a lot of tricks to make these basic sounds more interesting.  Sound shaping is often referred to as modulation.  Amplitude modulation – loudness changes  Frequency modulation – pitch changes  Sound design usually requires more voices.  Layering – triggering more oscillators simultaneously  Effects – reverb, delay, chorus, flange, distortion  Noise – adding noise, especially for breathy or percussive instruments. Noise is really just a "random wave."
  • 27. More synth = richer sound  Everything you hear in electronic music uses these same basic concepts in myriad ways.  One, two, three, or more oscillators, Several envelopes, Multiple LFOs  Many of these components can be modulation sources and destinations, stacked, layered, re-routed  VST Synths include Prologue, Retrologue, Spector, Mystic, FM8, Massive, Korg Legacy, Synapse Dune, U- he Zebra & Diva, and many more.
  • 28. Physical Modeling  Hybrid synths can use an audio sample as the basis for waveforms in place of, or in combination with oscillators.  Aka "Wavetable Synthesis" or "Graintable Synthesis"  This table of additional waves provides more sound generating timbres.  Padshop is a VST synth that uses samples instead of waveforms, but actually isn't a sampler! Confusing!
  • 29. A note about samplers  Instead of synthesizing waveforms, Samplers play back actual audio recordings  Most also allow sample playback shaping options with ADSR, LFOs, FX, etc.  SampleTank & Halion SE, Halion Symphonic Orchestra are all sample playback VSTs with rather limited sound- generation & tone-shaping capabilities.  It's helpful to know if your keyboard or VST is an analog synthesizer, a digital synthesizer, a virtual/physical/analog/modeling synthesizer, or a sampler. You won't find oscillators in most samplers, but modulation, effects and amp/mix apply.
  • 30. Sound Design Guide  Interesting sounds change over time.  We can change the pitch (frequency) over time  That's what happens when you play different notes  Or, when you modulate the frequency of a wave
  • 31. Sound Design Guide  More interesting sounds change more over time.  We can change the volume (amplitude) over time  In a modern synth, changes in volume over time are achieved in three main ways:  Envelopes - ADSR  Amplitude mapping - typically via Velocity  Why velocity? It's logical: a piano sounds louder as you strike the keys with more velocity, right?  Other common sources of modulation: after touch aka poly- pressure, mod wheel, CV pedal, breath controller  Other oscillators – such as an LFO
  • 32. Sound Design Guide  Changing the sound of an oscillator using another oscillator, such as an LFO  LFO stands for Low Frequency Oscillator  A new waveform is created when combining two sin waves with different pulse widths.
  • 33. Sound Design Guide  Changing the sound of an oscillator using another oscillator, such as an LFO  LFO stands for Low Frequency Oscillator  A new waveform is created when combining two sin waves with different frequencies.
  • 34. Sound Design Guide  Routing an LFO...  to the volume of a track – makes it get louder and softer  to the pan of a track – makes a tremolo across the stereo field  to the pitch of a track – makes the tone rise and fall  to the effect of a track – makes the dry/wet mix rise and fall  ...in the shape of the LFO
  • 35. Sound Design Guide  LFO Syncing  Depending on the software or hardware you're using (check the manual) an LFO can be synced:  To your project tempo...  In tempo sync mode, the options are things like  1/32, 1/16T, 16, 1/8T, 1/8, 1/4T, 1/4, 1/2, 1  Good for arpeggiator or rhythmic effects  To a particular frequency  Such as C0 or F#1  To a particular timing...  say 250ms or 360ms, similar to a delay setting  Good for vocals
  • 36. Sound Design Guide  Changing the volume of an oscillator using an ADSR Envelope  ADSR = Attack Decay Sustain Release
  • 37. Sound Design Guide  Attack – How quickly does the sound reach full volume?  Decay – How quickly after the initial attack peaks does the sound achieve its "idle" volume?  Sustain – What happens as you hold the note down?  Release – How long is the sound heard when you let go?
  • 38. Sound Visualization  You can visualize your sounds right inside Cubase.  An insert effect on the stereo out  Or a single instrument, create an insert effect on the audio output for the track  Then select the MultiScope plugin
  • 39. VST Synthesizers  Retrologue – Steinberg's flagship VST synth  FM8 – Native Instruments  Massive – Native Instruments  minimonsta – Minimoog in a VST  Oddity – ARP Odyssey reimagined  Zebra2 – By U-he  Review: 39 Best VST Synths in the World
  • 40. Hardware & Gear  Vintage Synth Explorer www.vintagesynth.com  Plan your modular www.modulargrid.net  Moog Buchla Doepfer MOTM
  • 41. The Wonderful World of Synths Thank you. Now, go forth, and create sound.