Understanding Granular Synthesis

Explaining granular synthesis and giving demonstrations with the Kyma GrainCloud and SampleCloud sound objects.

Granular synthesis is a synthesis technique where we can assemble new sounds from very short “grains” of sound. We can do this with wavetables or longer samples, breaking them down into these short grains before reconstituting them back together in unique ways. Because we can change all of these tiny parts that make up our new sounds, there are exciting opportunities for real time control and performance.

Subharmonics in Pure Data

Quick and easy Pure Data tutorial, making chords from subharmonics (like the Moog subharmonicon). The result is a kind of Coltrane-y generative music system.

Subharmonics are whole-number divisions of a frequency (as opposed to regular harmonics, which are whole-number multiples of a frequency). The resulting “subharmonic series” (or “undertone series”) is an inversion of the overtone series, with subharmonics getting closer the lower (i.e. higher division) that they are. Played together, these harmonics create harmonies quite distinct from those created with overtones.

I go up to the 9th subharmonic here, but of course you can just keep going.

There’s no talking on this one, just building the patch, and listening to it go.

More Pd Tutorials Here

“Clean” Sample Editing (Again)

I made a follow up/update to my video a couple years back about “clean” sample editing.

Taking the time to refine and polish the ingredients for our sampler instruments (or other sample-based synthesis) can lead to huge improvements in the final piece or project. I once again go through my framework for evaluating samples, and check out a bunch of examples and how they can be improved.

Commodore 64 Generative Sound Art

This program, by Noah Vawter, generates music by randomly writing values to the Commodore 64’s memory, specifically the parts dedicated for the C64’s SID (Sound Interface Device) chip. Keith Fullerton Whitman performed this piece on an emulator as a B-side on “hallicrafters, inc.” (2009).

My version seems to have a lot of clicks and pops, which I’m not sure is normal or not. My C64 is almost 40 years old after all.

Anyone try this with different results?

More on the program/piece

Sound Synthesis and MIDI Fundamentals Playlist

I’ve been adding a few videos to freshen up my synthesis and MIDI microlecture series, tuning it up for the coming academic year.

Check it out here for a complete(?) introduction to sound synthesis, from defining sound to modulation synthesis.

These lectures are an adaptation of lectures from a course I’ve been teaching for 13 years. I first taught it as a graduate student at the University of Oregon, then as faculty at the University of Montana, and I currently teach at the University of New Haven.

Of course these lectures have been continuously revised and refined over the years, but the fundamentals of synthesizing sound remain the same.

Asymmetrical Clipping in Pure Data

Asymmetrical clipping is clipping (truncation of a waveform), where the positive and negative amplitude peaks of a waveform are clipped to different values. This means we could clip the negative at -1, and the positive at -0.8 for example, and create some interesting harmonics.

This asymmetrical clipping is common in guitar effect pedals, since it’s relatively cheap to accomplish in electronics (with a few diodes). Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty easy to accomplish in Pd too, just using the [clip~] object. The fun part comes in deciding how we can use it musically.

Pure Data Ring-Modulation Delay

A quick and easy Pure Data patch-from-scratch tutorial building a feedback loop with a delay and a ring modulator.

With just two sine waves, a delay, and some feedback, we can make some pretty complex and dynamic sounds! In this patch we take a sine wave, delay it, and then ring-modulate that delay before feeding it back on itself (feeding it back into the delay, that is).

There’s no talking on this one, just building the patch, and listening to it go.

More Pd Tutorials
More on modulation synthesis

Understanding Mid/Side Stereo in Synthesis (Pure Data, Reaktor, and Eurorack)

Mid/Side is a different way of working with stereo, where, rather than one channel for the left, and one for the right, you have one channel for the “mid” information, and one channel for the “side”. This format allows for different approaches to stereo processing, playing with the stereo image in new and interesting ways.

I’ve seen a lot of videos about mid/side for mixing or mastering but I thought I’d talk a bit about the potential for this approach in sound design, and how it can help us think about 3D audio and ambisonics too.

Modules in the Eurorack modular demonstration:
-Winterbloom Castor&Pollux dual oscillator
-Shakmat SumDif precision adder
-Hikari Instruments Ping Filter
-Instruo Tanh saturator