Monday, July 26, 2010

Synth Boot Camp 6: FM Synthesis 2

Synthesizer Boot Camp is an excellent series of synth tutorial videos create by Simon Cann. You can see the entire series of videos here.

The final video of the Synthesizer Boot Camp series is a continuation of the FM Synthesis tutorial. This video shows a modulator controlling two carriers in parallel, and also explains the result of using two modulators on one carrier.

6:30 min in length:

Synth Boot Camp 5: FM Synthesis 1

Synthesizer Boot Camp is an excellent series of synth tutorial videos create by Simon Cann. I'll be highlighting some of these videos in the coming posts.

Finally we focus on FM synthesis, which features the pitch of one oscillator (the carrier) being modulated by the output of another oscillator (the modulator). The carrier output contains a series of sideband frequencies. Adjusting the volume of the modulator (the "modulation index") alters the number and strength of those sidebands, and the adjusting the modulator and carriers to different frequencies alters the frequencies of the sidebands.

9 mins in length:

Synth Boot Camp 4: LFO

Synthesizer Boot Camp is an excellent series of synth tutorial videos create by Simon Cann. I'll be highlighting some of these videos in the coming posts.

The LFO (low-frequency oscillator) is similar to an envelope in its ability to expressively modulate parameters such as amplitude (volume), pitch, and filter settings. However, LFOs are distinctly different since they are cyclical and can produce both positive and negative signals within a cycle. The LFO modulates multiple parameters of it's carrier as you can adjust both the amplitude and frequency of the LFO, as you'll hear and see in this video.

8:30 min in length:

Synth Boot Camp 3: Envelopes

Synthesizer Boot Camp is an excellent series of synth tutorial videos create by Simon Cann. I'll be highlighting some of these videos in the coming posts.

Envelopes can be used to control many different parameters including volume, pitch, and filter cutoff frequencies. Understanding envelopes is key to creating controlled, evolving sounds with your synthesizer. This tutorial walks you through the ADSR (attack, decay, sustain, and release) phases, and then explains and demos the effect of changing these parameters.

6 minutes in length:

Synth Boot Camp 2: Filters

Synthesizer Boot Camp is an excellent series of synth tutorial videos create by Simon Cann. I'll be highlighting some of these videos in the coming posts.

This video focuses on the 3 basic filter types: low-pass, high-pass, and band-pass. This tutorial gives an easy-to-follow demo of how changing the resonance and cut-off frequency changes sounds running through each filter types. Filter slopes are also briefly covered. Pretty basic stuff here, but not to be missed if you aren't totally familiar with any of these concepts.

8:30 min in length:

Synth Boot Camp 1: Modulation

Synthesizer Boot Camp is an excellent series of synth tutorial videos create by Simon Cann. I'll be highlighting some of these videos in the coming posts.

The first Synth Boot Camp video is about modulation - whether you're modulating the cutoff frequency of a filter, adjusting the envelope of the amplitude, or using an LFO, understanding the modulation is one of the most fundamental concepts to interactive synthesis.

7 minutes in length:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Video Demo - ARP Odyssey MK II

More dreamy gear. This video demo displays the tweakability of the punchy-sounding ARP Odyssey MK II - on a nice, old-school electro riff.

The Odyssey was ARP's most popular synth and has been used by Air, Herbie Hancock, Tangerine Dream, REM, and many others. This video shows off both oscillators on square and sawtooth waves, the 4-pole resonant low pass filter, frequency modulation, oscillator sync, pulse width modulation, ring modulation, and more.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Video Demo - Roland Juno-106

The Roland Juno-106 is a classic digitally controlled synth with analog filters. Produced in 1984, it followed the Juno-6 and Juno-60, and is one of the first great analog/digital hybrid synths with full MIDI capability.

This video exhibits the Juno's square and sawtooth wave oscillators, the bass heavy sub-oscillator, pulse width modulation controlled both manually and with an LFO, the voltage-controlled filter with and without envelope modulation, and the signature Juno chorus.

You'll also hear the noise source, Unisodo mode, and a few different destinations for LFO modulation. Enjoy!

Video Demo - Prophet 600

Looking past the cheesy visual effects, this video is a good demo of Sequential Circuits' Prophet 600 analog synth. This synth followed the Prophet 5, and sports two oscillators per voice which can be set to sawtooth, triangle, and variable pulse width waveforms. Most importantly, it was the first synthesizer to support MIDI - making it one of the few fat-sounding 80's analog synths that can be easily controlled with today's software and hardware.

This demo shows off the great sounding oscillators and filters - take a listen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

EMS - What The Future Sounded Like pt. 3

What The Future Sounded Like is a short documentary on the renowned British company EMS - Electronic Music Studios. This fascinating documentary not only tells a great story about one of the most interesting group of electronic music engineers, but more importantly conveys what it was like to discover the frontier of a new music - without boundaries.

The final segment covers a more widespread adoption of the unique sounds produced by EMS gear, particularly the VSC 3. By pitting themselves against Moog, EMS gained a lot of supporters in the UK and provided synths for legendary acts such as Brian Eno and Pink Floyd. EMS gear was used extensively on Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon, and was also employed by a lesser-known but amusing experimental "space rock" band called Hawkwind.

Zinovieff wraps up the documentary with an articulation of his company's vision: "to be able to analyze a sound, put it into sensible musical form on a computer, to be able to manipulate that form, and recreate it in a musical way."

EMS - What The Future Sounded Like pt. 2

What The Future Sounded Like is a short documentary on the renowned British company EMS - Electronic Music Studios. This fascinating documentary not only tells a great story about one of the most interesting group of electronic music engineers, but more importantly conveys what it was like to discover the frontier of a new music - without boundaries.

This segment introduces us to the other two founders of EMS - Peter Zinovieff and David Cockerell. Zinovieff was a visionary of electronic processes and gear who eventually linked with the much more technically-proficient David Cockerell. Together, they conceptualized and created one of the first sequencers - the PDP-8/S.

A true pimp, Zinovieff married a rich woman and had her sell her tiara to launch his personal studio by purchasing the first computer in the world housed in a private residence. Watch one of the first generative and algorithmic concerts given by a computer, and hear about Stockhausen's collaborations with EMS.

EMS - What The Future Sounded Like pt. 1

What The Future Sounded Like is a short documentary on the renowned British company EMS - Electronic Music Studios. This fascinating documentary not only tells a great story about one of the most interesting group of electronic music engineers, but more importantly conveys what it was like to discover the frontier of a new music - without boundaries.

This first segment focuses largely on Tristram Cary, a composer and electronic engineer who began designing his own audio equipment out of post-WWII machinery and wreckage in the early 50's. He started his research studio years before BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and ultimately became best known for providing the soundtrack to the futuristic Dr. Who.

Hearing him give his spot-on definition of music ("sound which is organized") to a pompous and condescending TV interviewer is almost as priceless as watching him march through his studio while intuitively commanding a room full of gear.

Lots of gems here, including the fact that performance rights societies would not let him register his works since "they said it's not music".

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Video Demo - Buchla 200 Modular

Don Buchla is arguably responsible for the most unique and imaginative synths ever, and the Buchla 200 Modular (aka The Electric Music Box) is a great example of his genius. This rare synth is as beautiful to look at as it is to listen to.

Multiple sequencing capabilities makes this machine prime for live tweaking, and this video is a great example of the evolving and futuristic sounds a Buchla can make on-the-fly. The filters on this thing sound incredible.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Video Demo - Roland TR-606

To kick off our video demo series, we'll start with the Roland TR-606 Drumatix. Produced from 1981-1984, this monophonic analog synth revolutionized on-the-fly programming for drum machines and is still highly sought after.

These short demos will give you a good idea of the programming capabilities and also display standard features such as accents, tempo control, pattern play and write mode, and some great analog drum synth sounds.

You'll hear the 606 in use by cats such as Aphex Twin, Autechre, Nine Inch Nails, Mr. Oizo, Luke Vibert, and...of course, Kid 606.



(If you have trouble viewing the above video after giving it a few seconds to load, click here)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Subtractive Synthesis Tutorial

Get A Grip on Synthesis: this short tutorial is a great overview on subtractive synthesis. Our last post hit the basics - oscillators, waveshapes, and harmonic content. This video quickly covers our basic waveforms and moves on to concepts such as filtering.

Mastery of filtering is what makes a great synthesis. Here we'll see, hear, and learn about cutoff frequencies, resonance, envelopes, and LFOs (low frequency oscillators) - all of which modify the parameters of the selected filter and greatly affect the sound of your synthesizer.




Basics of Waveshapes and Harmonic Content

This video is a great introduction to sound propogation, oscillators, waveshapes, and harmonic content. This is probably familiar territory to most, but is absolutely essential knowledge to anyone using hardware or software synthesizers.

Pay close attention to the nuances of each waveform's sound to get a better idea of where your favorite sounds come from. Having a comprehensive understanding of these sounds will help you translate the sounds you're going for.