Synth Tip: Don’t Filter Sine Waves

Since sine waves are made up of only a single frequency, it’s not usually particularly effective to filter them.

Several of my students sent me Reaktor ensembles with filtered sine waves, so I wanted to quickly talk through why they’re not really the most effective thing to filter. I go through things in Native Instruments Reaktor, but the concept is applicable in whatever synthesis environment you’re working in–Pd, Max/MSP, Kyma, etc.

Bluetooth Audio Transmission

A quick overview of the transmission of digital audio over Bluetooth for wireless headphones and smart speakers.

Since sending audio over Bluetooth is a digital transmission of audio, it’s good for us to understand what conversions are taking place in the journey from our devices to our ears. Thinking about the sample rate, bit depth, and different aspects of compression can help us make good choices about to support the fidelity of our audio chain.

Databending a 360 Video with a Hex Editor

Tutorial on using a hex editor (Hex Fiend) to mess up a 360 video in one easy step.

Spectral EvolverĀ  and I are starting the initial work to put together another series of databent videos, this time working with 360 videos and ambisonic audio. These files are BIG, so some of this experimentation might take a little while, but, in the short term, a super-easy way to get some glitches fast is to just find-and-replace some numbers in a hex editor.

Pure Data Algorithmic Chiptunes (Pd to ArduinoBoy to Game Boy)

Pd running MIDI to an ArduinoBoy controlling a Game Boy running trash80’s mGB software to generate triumphant RPG music in real time.

This simple(-ish) Pure Data patch generates four channels of MIDI, corresponding with the four channels of the Game Boy’s sound: two pulse waves (channels 1&2), a triangle wave (channel 3), and noise (channel 4).

The arpeggio on pulse channel 2 is just a simple sequencer, with some “echos” created with [pipe] objects. The “drums” are created by a sequencer triggering random notes on a sequence too.

The remaining channels are slightly more sophisticated. First, we select a rhythm for each measure, then trigger notes on pulse channel 1 at that rhythm. There are only five notes (from a hemitonic pentatonic scale), and each note has two or three possible harmony notes, to be played by the triangle channel.

Synthesizing Distance

How to create the illusion of distance with sounds by altering their volume, harmonic spectrum, and dry/wet reverb balance.

Spatializaton is placing sounds in a spatial location or creating the illusion that sounds are in a spatial location. We can choose a sound’s direction, where it’s coming from; distance, how far away it sounds; and also the size and shape of the space where the sound is occurring. In this video, I focus on distance, and demonstrate the steps to move something forward and back from the listener.

I demonstrate this in Pro Tools, but this process can be applied to the digital audio workstation of your choice or any other audio programming environment.

Data Sonification: Another Way to Communicate with Sound

Generally, people aren’t terribly good at just looking at lists of numbers and finding meaning. That’s why we create charts, graphs, and infographics to help us see patterns and trends to help communicate this information to others. These graphs, etc., are visualizations, but we can also sonify data–convert into sound–in order to help understand it and make it meaningful to us or others.

Kyma & DAW Integration with Dante (Digital Audio to Pacarana with AoE)

My students getting started in Kyma often ask me how they can integrate it into music production in their DAW. Now, there are a lot of good reasons to get away from your DAW sometimes, and experiment with different workflows (including those built into Kyma), but let’s set those aside for the moment. With a Dante AVIO USB ($129) and the Dante Virtual Soundcard ($29), you can set up two channels of 48K digital audio in and out of your Paca(rana), enabling you to use it like a plug-in effect with low latency and without any conversion to and from analog.

I demonstrate this in Logic Pro X, but it should work in Pro Tools, Reaper, Ableton, or your other DAW of choice.

Analog. Audio Multiplication, Ring Modulation, & AM Synthesis (Snazzy FX Dual Multiplier)

I got a Snazzy FX “Dual Multiplier” the other day, and thought it might be a good opportunity to talk about audio multiplication and the difference between AM synthesis and ring modulation.

Both AM synthesis and RM can be accomplished by multiplying a waveform (the “carrier”) by another waveform in the audible range You don’t need an analog multiplier to do this! You can do this in whatever synthesis environment you’re working in–Pd, Max/MSP, Kyma, Reaktor. All you have to do is multiply your signals, being mindful of whether the signals are unipolar (0 to 1) or bipolar (-1 to 1).

More on modulation synthesis:

Pure Data Tutorials for Musicians

Over the last year, I’ve put together a collection of YouTube videos on Pure Data Vanilla for musicians with no previous programming experience required.

Originally, I was just making these videos for a class, but I quickly found there was an audience for Pd tutorials like this, and my videos expanded beyond the class materials to generative music patches, live databending glitch beats, and algorithmic 80s synthwave.

If any of that sounds like fun to you, check out the playlist and enjoy!