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Synth secret links

  • Part 1: What's In A Sound?
  • Part 2: The Physics Of Percussion
    The first part of this series explained how the tones of most real instruments can be reduced to patterns of harmonics, which can be generated using sine, saw, square or pulse waveforms. This month, Gordon Reid considers the sonic raw materials needed to imitate unpitched percussion.
  • Part 3: Modifiers & Controllers
    Gordon Reid moves on from discussing the harmonic components of sound to explaining how they change over time, and some of the tools subtractive synths give you to emulate this process
  • Part 4: Of Filters & Phase Relationships
    Having dealt last month with the concepts of envelopes, oscillators and LFOs, Gordon Reid moves on to the subject of filters, and the havoc they wreak on the signals that pass through them.
  • Part 5: Further With Filters
    Gordon Reid continues his series on the theory of subtractive synthesis by delving deeper into the amazingly complex world of the analogue audio filter.
  • Part 6: Of Responses And Resonance
  • Part 7: Envelopes, Gates & Triggers
    You press a key on your synth. It plays a note. That's it, right? Wrong. Gordon Reid explains the role of envelopes, triggers, and gates in this deceptively simple process.
  • Part 8: More About Envelopes
    Gordon Reid reveals some of the limitations of the 'classic' ADSR envelope with reference to a practical synthesis example, and explains some of the different types of envelopes found on 'classic' analogue synths, from AR envelopes right up to highly flexible digitally controlled EGs.
  • Part 9: An Introduction To VCAs
  • Part 10: Modulation
    In this month's instalment of his series on the basics of subtractive synthesis, Gordon Reid considers the magic ingredient that makes all the other elements sound interesting...
  • Part 11: Amplitude Modulation
    Last month, Gordon Reid examined the concept of modulation at low frequencies. This month, he speeds things up a bit. The result is not just faster versions of the same modulation effects, but a new type of synthesis...
  • Part 12: An Introduction To Frequency Modulation
    As Gordon Reid explained last month, audio-frequency modulation of the amplitude of a signal can be a powerful synthesis tool. The possibilities expand still further when we consider what happens when you use one audio-frequency signal to modulate the frequency of another
  • Part 13: More On Frequency Modulation
    Last month, we examined the frankly scary maths allowing you to predict the audible effects of Frequency Modulation. This month, although the maths gets even tougher, Gordon Reid relates the theory to the practical implementation of FM synthesis on Yamaha's digital synths, as well as modular and non-modular analogues
  • Part 14: An Introduction To Additive Synthesis
    Every pitched sound can be thought of as a collection of individual sine waves at frequencies related to the fundamental. Gordon Reid introduces a powerful method of synthesis that works by manipulating these individual harmonics.
  • Part 15: An Introduction To ESPS And Vocoders
    Gordon Reid turns his attention to the effects that can be achieved when subtractive synthesis components are applied not to the output from oscillators, but to real-world sounds -- such as human speech.
  • Part 16: From Sample And Hold To Sample-rate Converters (1)
    Gordon Reid introduces the synthesis modules that allow you to create a number of commonly used 'random' effects, and their close relatives -- analogue sequencers.
  • Part 17: From Sample And Hold To Sample-rate Converters (2)
  • Part 18: Priorities And Triggers
    In these days of 64-note polyphony and 32-part multitimbrality, it's easy to forget the importance of note-priority systems in analogue monosynths -- yet they can have a drastic effect on what you hear when you play or trigger an old synth. Gordon Reid provides a refresher course
  • Part 19: Duophony
    Gordon Reid discovers that two's company, as he investigates how manufacturers stretched the capabilities of analogue monosynths to offer the magnificent total of two notes at a time...
  • Part 20 Introducing Polyphony
    Having explored the way monophonic and duophonic analogue keyboards work, Gordon Reid puts away his Minimoog and Odyssey and descends into the complex world of polyphonic synths to a flourish of complex jazz chords.
  • Part 21 From Polyphony To Digital Synths
    Polyphony is hard to achieve on analogue synths without incurring hideous expense. This month, Gordon Reid explains how synth manufacturers employed digital technology to overcome this problem.
  • Part 22: From Springs, Plates & Buckets to Physical Modellin
    Onboard effects may seem like a relatively recent synth innovation, but even old modular synths offered analogue effects. Although they were basic, the freely patchable nature of modular synths allowed them to be used to create convincing acoustic instrument sounds . thus effectively physical modelling. Gordon Reid explains how.
  • Part 23: Formant Synthesis
  • Part 24: Synthesizing Wind Instruments
    Gordon Reid embarks on a journey to synthesize convincing woodwind and brass. This month, he considers how these instruments make their sounds in real life.
  • Part 25: Synthesizing Brass Instruments
    Gordon Reid builds on the acoustic theory of wind and brass instruments he introduced last month, and explains how to produce a convincing analogue trumpet sound.
  • Part 26: Brass Synthesis On A Minimoog
    Last month we looked at how analogue modules can reproduce the sound of a real trumpet. All very well if you own a wall-sized modular system . but what if your means are more limited? Gordon Reid adapts theory to practice with a Minimoog
  • Part 27: Roland SH101/ARP Axxe Brass Synthesis
    Gordon Reid concludes his attempts to adapt an idealised analogue brass patch so that it can be programmed on real synths. This month, he looks at the Roland SH101 and ARP Axxe.
  • Part 28: Synthesizing Plucked Strings
    Having dealt exhaustively with the mechanics of brass instruments and how to go about synthesizing them, Gordon Reid turns to instruments that use plucked strings to generate their sound, taking the complexities of the acoustic guitar as an example...
  • Part 29: The Theoretical Acoustic Guitar Patch
    Having explained last month the reasons why analogue synthesis of guitar sounds should be well-nigh impossible, Gordon Reid puts the theory to the test...
  • Part 30: A Final Attempt To Synthesize Guitars
    Having proved that subtractive synthesis of an acoustic guitar is completely impractical, Gordon Reid tries his hand at the electric variety, and deconstructs some past attempts to emulate the sound via analogue means.
  • Synthesizing Percussion
    Synth Secrets turns its attention to the synthesis of percussion instruments, beginning with pitched drums
  • Practical Percussion Synthesis
  • Synthesizing Drums: The Bass Drum
    Ever wanted to synthesize unpitched membranophones? No? Well, you might if you knew that bass and snare drums are of this percussion type. We show you how
  • Practical Bass Drum Synthesis
    Moving from last month's theoretical bass drum synth patch to its practical application on affordable analogue synths, we also take a look at how the world's most famous drum machines produce this fundamental rhythm sound.
  • Synthesizing Drums: The Snare Drum
    If you thought synthesizing realistic bass drums was complex, that's nothing compared to snares. So how is it that the analogue snare sound is so well known? And how do you go about creating it? We find out...
  • Practical Snare Drum Synthesis
    Last month, we revealed just how hideously complex the sound-producing mechanism of the snare drum can be. Nevertheless, synthesizing the sound is not as hard as it seems, as we find out with the aid of a Roland SH101...
  • Analysing Metallic Percussion
  • Synthesizing Realistic Cymbals
  • Practical Cymbal Synthesis
  • Synthesizing Bells
    Having come up last month with a reasonably realistic cymbal patch, it's time to take the principles of synthesizing metallic percussion one stage further, and produce bell sounds. But there's more to this than you might think
  • Synthesizing Cowbells & Claves
    Having learned last month how to synthesize tuned bells, we turn this month, in the last of this series on the subject of percussion, to untuned bells -- in the form of the humble cowbell -- and claves.
  • Synthesizing Pianos
    Surely the only convincing synth pianos are sample-based ones? A sound as rich and expressive as that of an acoustic piano is far too complex to be rendered by subtractive synthesis... isn't it? We find out...
  • Synthesizing Acoustic Pianos On The Roland JX10
    As explained last month, synthesizing the sound of an acoustic piano is difficult, but it can be done reasonably realistically, as the 1986-vintage Roland JX10 shows. We find out how Roland managed it...
  • Synthesizing Acoustic Pianos On The Roland JX10
    How did they make that sound on a subtractive synth? We continue to dissect the analogue 'Acoustic Piano' Perfomance from Roland's 1986-vintage JX10
  • Synthesizing Acoustic Pianos On The Roland JX10
    When trying to copy a real piano with an analogue synth, if one patch doesn't quite do it, two just might...
  • Synthesizing Strings: String Machines
    Analogue synths can't synthesize every sound, but the attempts made to replicate the sound of orchestral strings were so successful that so-called string machines became much-loved instruments in their own right. We begin a voyage into the world of synthesized strings...
  • Synthesizing Strings, PWM & String Sounds
    Pulse-width modulation is a vital tool in achieving lush-sounding synthesized string pads . so what if your synth doesn't have it? Fear not . for PWM can itself be synthesized. Here's how...
  • Synthesizing Bowed Strings: the Violin family
    Following our success at synthesizing the sound of analogue string machines, we hone our techniques with a view to recreating the sound of the real thing
  • Practical Bowed-string Synthesis
    Having looked at the mechanics of how a bowed string instrument generates its sound last month, it's time to put these principles into practice, using nothing more complex than a miniKorg 700 monophonic synth...
  • Practical Bowed-string Synthesis (continued
    After putting all our bowed-string synthesis theory into practice on a Korg 700 last month, we found that the result was only acceptable as a string sound with a lot of wishful thinking. Can we improve on it?
  • Articulation & Bowed-string Synthesis
    The skilful articulation of a synthesized string patch can improve it no end, even one created using very basic building blocks, as we saw at the end of last month. But we can take this approach much further...
  • Synthesizing Pan Pipes
    The characteristic sound of flute-like instruments is complex . but fortunately not so complex that it can't be emulated fairly successfully with a synthesizer
  • Synthesizing Simple Flutes
    The Monty Python team once famously claimed that being able to play the flute was a simple matter of 'blowing here, and moving your hands up and down here'. But there's a lot more to it than that...
  • Practical Flute Synthesis
    As we saw last month, there's much to synthesizing a convincing flute sound . and yet basic analogue monosynths have offered reasonable flute patches for 30 years. Surely the process can be simplified?