Basic Sound Synthesis: Part 7 – Miscellaneous Stuff

Basic Sound Synthesis: Part 7 – Miscellaneous Stuff

Monophonic/Polyphonic: Early synthesizers were only capable of producing one note at a time, but through evolution of technology they became more and more powerful (and cheaper to produce), to the point that modern synthesizers can play a near-infinite amount of notes simultaneously (like a piano). However, most synthesizers still have the option of playing in […]

Basic Sound Synthesis: Part 6 – Arpeggiators and Sequencers

Basic Sound Synthesis: Part 6 – Arpeggiators and Sequencers

Arpeggiators and sequencers have been part of synthesizers since the 1970s, when basic patterns could be played without having to manually press the keys down, allowing complex melodies to be played with 100% accuracy at any speed. Nowadays, sequencers and arpeggiators have become infinitely more complex, mostly due to the fact that they are programmable […]

Basic Sound Synthesis: Part 5 – Effects Part 2

Basic Sound Synthesis: Part 5 – Effects Part 2

Distortion: A popular effect when used on electric guitars, distortion is the process of boosting the synthesizers signal over the limit, to the point where it clips and can remove parts of the audio range. It is also possible to distort signals so that additional harmonics in the frequency range are created. Distortion, or ‘overdrive’, […]

Basic Synthesis: Part 4 – Effects Part 1

Basic Synthesis: Part 4 – Effects Part 1

Effects, while not technically a stage of any form of subtractive music synthesis, are commonly found on the end of most signal paths from synthesizers. Effects can come in an internal form (built into your synthesizer), and in an outboard form (where it is a separate effects box, such as a rack mount unit or […]

Basic Synthesis: Part 3 – Envelopes

Basic Synthesis: Part 3 – Envelopes

Envelopes are the key to the articulation of your sound. Without them your patch will immediately start off at full blast, and stay there, and then disappear all of a sudden when you let go of the key. Envelopes, although difficult to understand at first allow you to change that, so you can create expressive […]

Basic Synthesis: Part 2 – Filters

Basic Synthesis: Part 2 – Filters

Filters are one of the most important parts of sound creation, and they are a foundation to the whole concept of ‘subtractive’ synthesis. The filters do exactly that – they filter out part of the sound, leaving you with a reduced portion of it, which sounds very different to the whole portion. The main control […]

Basic Synthesis: Part 1 – Oscillators

Basic Synthesis: Part 1 – Oscillators

Without oscillators, your synthesizer will make no sound (well, actually it can - but that's in a future article). Oscillators produce the original sound which you can hear in your patches, which is then fed through the rest of the signal path in the synthesizer. Oscillation itself is the production of a certain type of […]

Vintage Synth Insiders Group – Join Us!

Vintage Synth Insiders Group – Join Us!

Hey Everyone, We are in the process of setting-up the Vintage Synth Insiders Group (VSIG).  This is a FREE Member's Only area of the site and newsletter that will give you access to a host of information on vintage synths, mods, manuals, and more. It will be changing frequently, so check back often.    

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Unique Ways of Controlling Your Synth

Unique Ways of Controlling Your Synth

Let's take a look at alternative input devices for synthesizers, rather than the standard keyboard. Although these unique devices are not always able to control every aspect of a synth, they provide unusual methods of modifying particular aspects of a sound, and make a great addition to any synthesizer setup. First on the list is […]

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Comparison of Current Modular Synths – Part 2

Comparison of Current Modular Synths – Part 2

Following on from the previous article, here are the other major modular synthesizer companies worth considering: Modcan – modcan.com: Beautifully designed and extremely expensive, the Modcan modular system is a delightful selection of ever-so-slightly eccentric modules which generally sound excellent. The product range is divided into the older ‘A’ range and the newer, prettier ‘B’ range […]

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Comparison of Current Modular Synths – Part 1

Comparison of Current Modular Synths – Part 1

In the first of a two-part series, we will be taking a look at the currently available modular synthesizer brands, and what each has to offer. Please note that I haven’t included ‘every’ current producer of modular gear out there, just the ones who have a reasonably good reputation and selection of modules. Analogue Solutions […]

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Introduction to Modular Synthesizers

Introduction to Modular Synthesizers

Modular synthesizers are one of the oldest types of synthesizers around, as well as being one of the most expensive and interesting. The philosophy of a modular synth is that it is made up of modules which are interchangeable, allowing new modules to be added with ease, as well as the customization of existing modules. […]

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Dedicated Effects for Synth Players

Dedicated Effects for Synth Players

While guitarists get all the fun with their ever-increasing number of effects pedals, there’s a worryingly small selection of ‘proper’ hardware effects for us neglected keyboard players. The two requirements I personally need for an effect to be suitable is that it must be rack mountable, and have stereo outputs and inputs. The 2nd of […]

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Types of Synthesizers

Types of Synthesizers

Here's a list of the main categories most (if not all) music synthesizers fall into. When putting together a studio or live rig, it is often useful to have a selection of various keyboards to produce a wide variety of different sounds - so this list may give you a few ideas of what to […]

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Basic Digital Synthesis Methods

Basic Digital Synthesis Methods

While at college, I found a lot of interesting information about digital synthesis, so that’s where my inspiration for this article comes from. So far we’ve looked at ‘standard’ analogue approaches to sound synthesis, as well as a bit of FM synthesis because everybody likes a bit of DX7 ‘E-Piano’ now and then, and now […]

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Introduction to Vocoders

Introduction to Vocoders

Vocoders are an instantly recognizable synthesizer sound, having been used in popular music since the 1960s. They allow you to ‘talk like a robot’, which while fun, is often not musically useful. However, used properly within a song they can work well, and add a (now rather retro) techno-effect to a piece of music. So […]

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Tips For Buying Used Synthesizers

Tips For Buying Used Synthesizers

Here are a few tips and guidelines in case you ever find yourself buying used synthesizers (or general music gear): 1. Beware of the tell tale dodgy synth seller signs. If he/she says “I’m selling this for a friend so I don’t know much about it” – stay away. If the ‘buy it now’ price […]

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FM Synthesis Made Easy

FM Synthesis Made Easy

‘Frequency Modulation’ (yes, the same as that thing you listen to on the radio) synthesis was made popular by Yamaha in the early 1980s with their line of DX synthesizers, which were instrumental in both the downfall of classic analogue synths, and giving keyboard players worldwide a polyphonic-palette of groundbreaking new sounds to use. Dedicated […]

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Famous Synths – Part 2

Famous Synths – Part 2

Roland Juno-106 (1984): Finally, a synth that was marketed towards poor people, the Juno-106 put hybrid DCO-based synth technology into many musicians’ hands for the first time. Although limited with a single oscillator and filter, its distinctive chorus effect and 80s pop sounds helped define it as a winning machine. Roland D-50 (1987): Roland’s new […]

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Famous Synths – Part 1

Famous Synths – Part 1

Here’s a guide of what I feel are the ten most influential and important synthesizers in music history (in chronological order). While I do not necessarily endorse these particular synths, they undoubtedly left a lasting impact in the synthesizer industry. Moog MiniMoog (1970): The one that started them all. Although not exactly a super-affordable synth, […]

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Nine Tips for Live Synthesizer Performances

Nine Tips for Live Synthesizer Performances

Here are nine tips and tricks to make sure your gig goes as smoothly as possible when on-stage with your gear! 1.  Make sure to use proper furniture equipment. This includes heavy duty keyboard stands (try to use a double braced X-style stand for 2 or more tiers of keyboards), and suitable flight cases and […]

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10 Tips For Creative Patch Programming – Part 2

10 Tips For Creative Patch Programming – Part 2

6. Lateral thinking Lateral thinking makes big, complex sounds. Layering sounds works well for creating long, slow sounds, and can add extra punch to shorter sounds. In particular, for creating modulating, sweeping pad sounds try layering multiple patches with each one growing (attack) and disappearing (sustain) after each other. 7. Use multiple filters Many modern […]

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10 Tips For Creative Patch Programming – Part 1

10 Tips For Creative Patch Programming – Part 1

1. Vary your oscillator waveforms! Instead of using 2 saw waves or 2 square waves detuned against each other, why not mix a saw wave and a square wave together, or even get creative using noise colours and the oft-ignored sine and triangle waves – mixing waveforms is the starting point to creative synthesizer patches. […]

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