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True Physical Modeling


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I first heard of physical modeling in an article in Keyboard many years back. As I understood it, the concept was to actually allow you to "construct" an intrument....by determining things like on a horn, the length of tube, size and shape of bell, type of metal....and then you would hear what it sounds like. Has there ever been a synth or soft synth with a graphic interface where you can do this? I mean actually draw an image of the instrument as you would have it look, assign the specifics, etc. Imagine such a thing where you could "morph" the image in real time and the sound it makes would morph to match the change in appearance.....does such a synth exist anywhere?
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That's a cool concept, but I'm not sure why you would actually want to do it. You mean, say, change the shape of the bell on a horn and have the sound change correspondingly? This would slow me down more than anything. One could hear what all those kooky instruments from Dr Seuss stories actually sounded like, though! http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/smile.gif


If you're talking keyboard instruments, there was a synth made by PPG called the Realizer. It featured a monochrome screen on which you could view, though not draw yourself, a virtual control panel. Hardware controls all around the perimiter of the screen were connected by lines to the virtual knobs. In the photos I've seen, a Minimoog panel was onscreen. I've heard this called the first modelling instrument, but it never made it to market.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine


Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse



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Yamaha has some instruments that work along these lines. I'm pleased with the variety of modeled sounds in my EX5R. The editing isn't graphic, but it does respond as vigorously as an acoustic instrument to changes in parameters, for example the winds can get soft and breathy or get blown into overtones with this parameter assigned to a control knob. Try ex5tech.com for more info than you can shake a stick at.



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That's a cool concept, but I'm not sure why you would actually want to do it.


Guess it depends on what you are doing

If nothing else, it would be a great way to create new patches. You could experiment with the graphic "Seussafone" and when you find a tone you like, you just save the "image."

But imagine if the rendering time is fast enough and the interface is interactive enough....attributes assignable to a mod wheel or joystick... you could be changing the actual "form" of the instrument patch while you are playing it (as in "formant?"). It's not restricted to horns either. You could have an acoustic guitar patch with variable body shape, string and neck length, selection of materials; wood. metal, etc. and all of these optionss could be morphed too. Pipe dream right now but it's only a matter of speed and memory function for software ...and that just keeps accelerating. I would think it's quite possible to create something like this and would make for a very exciting instrument

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Check out the Yamaha VL series- I think only one hardware unit is still in production but you can get expansion boards for synths and the Yamaha soundcard.






if you do a search you'll find more on the VL series.


Here's the Tassman- it's pretty cool, I had the one-month demo for a competition. It comes with Sonar, too. You can make some interesting sounds, but the old-fashioned modular way.




I'm also looking for synths like the one you suggest. You can do physical modelling in a virtual modular synthesis program and Csound but that's not exactly real-time-intuitive to say the least or with analog, too.


Looking into how physical modelling works has really improved my patches in general, mostly by making me puzzle over how various sounds are made.


Very fun.



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