Making a Bad Sine Wave in Pure Data Vanilla

Building a “wab-sabi” oscillator in Pd to celebrate the beauty of imperfection and impermanence.

Sine waves are great! The perfection of a pure, single frequency can be both expressively and technically very useful in pursuing our musical goals. There are, however, lots of musical reasons that we might want to intentionally make our oscillators a little more rough around the edges.

Performance on traditional, acoustic instruments, of course, produces a huge amount of micro-variation across each note, and so it can be expressively engaging for us to be able to introduce that same imperfection (analog warmth?) in our digital instruments as well.

In this video, I build a bad sine wave by frequency-modulating my oscillator with noise, and then feeding back the output back into the modulation. While I build this out in Pure Data, the same can be done in Reaktor, Kyma, Max/MSP or any other synthesis environment.

More Pd Tutorials here.
No-talking Pure Data jams and patch-from-scratch.

0:00 Introduction, The Beauty of Imperfection
1:26 Slider-Controlled Sine Wave
3:28 Adding Noise
4:35 Frequency Modulating with Noise
7:24 Filtering the Noise
8:20 Feeding Back into FM
9:55 I’ve gone too far
13:26 Reaktor Examples
14:18 Closing Thoughts, Next Steps

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.

Reaktor 6 Primary Tutorials

I’ve put together a series of beginner tutorials for getting started designing your own synths in Reaktor 6 Primary.

Over the course of this series, we put together a synth with selectable oscillators, filters, and multiple options for modulation. This can serve as a good hands-on introduction to synthesis in Reaktor or any other synthesis environment.

EDIT (1/4/22): If you’re ready for more, here are some intermediate tutorials too: