You can find a lot of lists out there on “Synthesis Techniques You Must Know!” These can be pretty compelling, but it can be helpful to take a broader look, and simplify synthesis into 5 big categories:
-Playback and Manipulation of Recorded Audio (Sampling and WT Synthesis) -Additive Synthesis -Subtractive Synthesis -Distortion Synthesis and Modulation Synthesis, and -Physical-Modeling Synthesis
By zooming out and thinking about these larger ideas, we make synthesis more accessible to people who are starting out, and we give a framework for people who are innovating new synthesis techniques.
0:00 Synthesis isn’t that complicated. 1:03 Five Categories for Synthesis Techniques 1:33 Playback and Manipulation of Recorded Audio 2:34 Additive Synthesis 2:52 Subtractive Synthesis 3:20 Distortion Synthesis (Modulation Synthesis) 4:08 Physical Modeling Synthesis 4:25 So What? / Hybrid Synthesis
Diving into “clipping” in audio, and thinking about the aesthetic possibilities of going beyond the limits of a system.
In this video, I use Audacity and Max/MSP to look at examples of both hard clipping and soft clipping, checking out the harmonic spectra of these distortions and thinking about how we can use clipping as an expressive tool in our compositions or sound design.
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.
In this week’s video, we make a wavefolder in Reaktor, slowly adding features, and testing out some different types of waveforms.
It’s not terribly effective to filter sine waves, since they only consist of a single frequency, but, using a wavefolder, we can add harmonics, and create a rich, customizable sound.
Wavefolding is distortion of a waveform where, when the input amplitude exceeds a threshold, it becomes inverted. This adds harmonics to the sound (specifically odd harmonics), and, by controlling the amount of fold, we can modulate these in real time.