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Sound Programming Tutorial


J. Dan

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This has been coming up. I've at times been critical - like my Jump Patch thread - assuming everybody should know how to make sounds rather than be a preset monkey. My error was pointed out to me in that not all people have the same experience. There are many great tutorials on the webs, SOS in particular. But I thought it would be good to start something a bit more interactive as a running tutorial on making sounds with whatever you have.

 

I would like to start with the basics of subtractive from an analog or VA perspective and how they pertain to natural sounds. I'll cover the basic architecture (VCO>VCF>VCA), why it's used, basic wave forms, filter types, EGs and LFOs. I'll then expand this to sample based instruments and more complex waveforms, filter types, and modulations (including hard sync, FM, and ring mod).

 

Next I'll dive into additive ranging from the tone wheel to various modeling engines and complex Fourier analysis.

 

I'll try to tie it all together with practical examples, and hoping others will contribute with the specific intricacies of various manufacturers, while tying back to the basic generic content....I.e. Here's how you do that on a motif.

 

Hope to start tomorrow. Was going to tonight, but got sidetracked and it's getting late. Will this be valuable?

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I've at times been critical - like my Jump Patch thread - assuming everybody should know how to make sounds rather than be a preset monkey. [snip] Will this be valuable?

I believe offering knowledge rather than name calling is valuable.

:nopity:
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Nice Dan. Would really appreciate that.

 

I think I already quite know the basics (on my mopho, most things I want to create, I can quite easily), but an interactive tutorial can always add!

Rudy

 

 

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This has been coming up. I've at times been critical - like my Jump Patch thread - assuming everybody should know how to make sounds rather than be a preset monkey. My error was pointed out to me in that not all people have the same experience. There are many great tutorials on the webs, SOS in particular. But I thought it would be good to start something a bit more interactive as a running tutorial on making sounds with whatever you have.

 

I would like to start with the basics of subtractive from an analog or VA perspective and how they pertain to natural sounds. I'll cover the basic architecture (VCO>VCF>VCA), why it's used, basic wave forms, filter types, EGs and LFOs. I'll then expand this to sample based instruments and more complex waveforms, filter types, and modulations (including hard sync, FM, and ring mod).

 

Next I'll dive into additive ranging from the tone wheel to various modeling engines and complex Fourier analysis.

 

I'll try to tie it all together with practical examples, and hoping others will contribute with the specific intricacies of various manufacturers, while tying back to the basic generic content....I.e. Here's how you do that on a motif.

 

Hope to start tomorrow. Was going to tonight, but got sidetracked and it's getting late. Will this be valuable?

That's a very thoughtful and considerate thing to do Dan. And very generous with your time. I'm sure you will be inundated with questions as people come up to speed.

 

Now if only someone would do one on How to Retire Comfortably in the New Millennium...

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

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Dan....wonderful... I like to make my own sounds on synths and now with an 80's covers gig and almost a year of synth programming already behind me I'm primed for this...

 

My synth knowledge though good, is far from great and more input would be much appreciated...

 

Happy New Year!

 CP-50, YC 73,  FP-80, PX5-S, NE-5d61, Kurzweil SP6, XK-3, CX-3, Hammond XK-3, Yamaha YUX Upright, '66 B3/Leslie 145/122

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It would certainly be interesting. I understand Hammond, wavetrain (Korg Wavestation) and FM. Never got into subtractive synthesis at all. Have been thinking about getting a DeepMind-12 or something to explore it. Someday.

 

But I also like being a preset monkey sometimes. Sometimes I just want to make music, and I don't want to haul around 8 different synthesizers to do it. There are plenty of concert pianists who couldn't tune a piano, much less design and build one.

 

Wes

Hammond: L111, M100, M3, BC, CV, Franken CV, A100, D152, C3, B3

Leslie: 710, 760, 51C, 147, 145, 122, 22H, 31H

Yamaha: CP4, DGX-620, DX7II-FD-E!, PF85, DX9

Roland: VR-09, RD-800

 

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I think it's a worthy effort. Too many people are indolent, are too focused on shortcuts (preset surfing), and don't want to exert the brainpower into learning sound design. The revival of modulars and knobby interfaces brought back that interest but from visiting friends they still have much to learn.

 

I started in 1978 when subtractive synthesis was the only practical method (digital was expensive and in its infancy), and programmable synths wouldn't be affordable for another five years so we were forced to learn to patch sounds quickly. Yes there are other synthesis methods today, but subtractive is a good foundation building block.

 

I've seen the SOS and other guides. If there is any gap, it is voice modulation. The VCO->VCF->VCA architecture only does so much, but voice modulation really opens up a world of other sounds - some imitative some alien. Voice modulation is a strong feature with my Memorymoog, Andromeda, and Voyager.

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Looking forward to it. I can't speak for anyone else, but I used to use a Proph 5 and Pro 1 as my two main synths,loved programming sounds. Well, then the Dx-7 came along and confused the bajeebers outta me and next thing I know is they all switch to no knobs and I got lazy and just went along with the presets tweeking them if they needed something. Thank you for doing this.
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+1 to all of the above :)

 

I have let myslef become a preset junkie - even though I did do a fair bit on the old JX3p. Over time I have forgotten (or got lazy?) and just relied on what others have programmed. It will be good to "go back to basics" as it were.

 

Nice one JDan!

There is no luck - luck is simply the confluence of circumstance and co-incidence...

 

Time is the final arbiter for all things

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This has been coming up. I've at times been critical - like my Jump Patch thread - assuming everybody should know how to make sounds rather than be a preset monkey. My error was pointed out to me in that not all people have the same experience. There are many great tutorials on the webs, SOS in particular. But I thought it would be good to start something a bit more interactive as a running tutorial on making sounds with whatever you have.

 

I would like to start with the basics of subtractive from an analog or VA perspective and how they pertain to natural sounds. I'll cover the basic architecture (VCO>VCF>VCA), why it's used, basic wave forms, filter types, EGs and LFOs. I'll then expand this to sample based instruments and more complex waveforms, filter types, and modulations (including hard sync, FM, and ring mod).

 

Next I'll dive into additive ranging from the tone wheel to various modeling engines and complex Fourier analysis.

 

I'll try to tie it all together with practical examples, and hoping others will contribute with the specific intricacies of various manufacturers, while tying back to the basic generic content....I.e. Here's how you do that on a motif.

 

Hope to start tomorrow. Was going to tonight, but got sidetracked and it's getting late. Will this be valuable?

 

Great idea, there lot's of talent and experience in this forum. The sticky idea for threads makes sense, maybe by synthesis types? Maybe combine posting of original content by forumites, and consider links to existing public content on the web?

 

Manny

 

P.S. Don't want to be guilty of a 'shameless plug' so I won't include a direct link - but coincidentally I've finished a series on FM programming similar to Dan's outline for Yamahasynth.com where 5 of the 8 article series have already been posted. I would gladly contribute to a FM thread here.

People assume timbre is a strict progression of input to harmonics, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timbrally-wimbrally... stuff

 

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Sorry I got busy the last couple days, still planning on getting this going. There are lots of great tutorials including videos on the web. My thinking is we could cover the basics here with links to some of those if you want to go deeper, and then tips for how to do it on a specific keyboard - like emulating B3 on a keyboard without a clonewheel engine, or analog stuff on a keyboard without a VA engine. Also pros/cons of doing something VA instead of sample based if you have both options, etc.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Ok, taking my first stab, and it may not be what you expect......Listening and understanding what you're hearing. How can you recreate a sound, regardless of synthesis method without understanding what you are hearing and what are the components of the sound?

 

At a very basic level, most people can recognize acoustic instruments - I hear a sax, or a piano, or strings, but electronic sounds tend to be described by the classic methods of producing them - a saw, a filter sweep, etc, which doesn't help somebody who's never used subtractive analog synths, as an example. So the bigger question is WHY does a piano sound different than a sax? WHY does a saw sound different than a square? "A" is 440 Hz on every instrument, so why does 440Hz sound different than one than the other? Of course we're talking about Timbre. I'd like to break it down into really 2 parts:

 

1) the frequency content and how it varies over time

2) how the volume varies over time

 

Different synthesis methods will attack these in different ways, but this is the root of WHY something sounds the way it does.

 

So why does a trumpet sound brighter than a trombone playing the exact same note? In reality, given my A440 example earlier, that's not the only frequency, it's just the FUNDAMENTAL frequency. In addition, there are a whole lot of harmonics as well. There can be even ordered harmonics (880, 1760, 3520) odd ordered harmonics (1320, 2200, 3850) or anything in between. Harmonics are just multiples of the fundamental frequency at various volumes. So if something sounds dull, it may have fewer harmonics, or just not high harmonics. They most "dull" sound you can have is a sine wave. A sine wave is one pure frequency, the fundamental, with NO harmonics. WHICH harmonics exist will change a sound aside from how bright it is by changing the character of the sound.

 

A while ago there was a discussion about Additive vs Subtractive synthesis. We'll get more into that later, but I wanted to link to one of my posts that explains what we just discussed: adding a bunch of sine wave harmonics to a fundamental to make a different sound.

 

CLONK

 

Of course this supposes you know what a saw sounds like compared to a square in order to understand even vs odd harmonics. We'll get more into that later, but for the sake of right now, Saw is Jump, square is Melt With You.

However most sounds aren't static. We talk about Periodic vs Aperiodic waveforms. All that means is "does the wave forem repeat over and over without changing?" Or "does the waveform continuously evolve?". Many synth sounds are periodic - Jump being an example with the exception of some chorused effect we'll discuss. OTOH, a piano sound is very Aperiodic - it changes continuously from the attack through the decay and depending on all kinds of other things like velocity, sympathetic resonance from other strings, pedaling, etc. Which brings us to the second consideration: volume changes.

 

So something as simple as a saw can sound very different if you have a very fast attack and release vs slow. These are controlled in most synths by and Envelope Generator (EG) and while there are many variations, the most common type are ADSR (attack, decay, sustain, release). For each stage at a minimum you select a rated and level. Usually it's assumed you start and end at zero, so A and R usually only have rates. This can define something as slow and evolving vs very tight and staccato and anything in between. There can also be periodic changes from something called an LFO (low frequency oscillator). When applied to pitch, this is what you would recognize as vibrato, for volume it would be tremolo.

 

I brought up EG's and LFO's with respect to volume changes because I think it's easy for people to understand their effect. But they can be applied to many different functions of various synthesis engines that can effect timbre, pitch, volume, and other things.

 

That's where we'll pick it up next time. We'll start with the earliest analog subtractive synths and how they used oscillators, filters, and amplifiers to try to recreate real sounds by staring with something harmonically rich and subtraction what you don't want.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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