Gordon Reid's classic 'synthesis explained' in-depth series ran over 5 years monthly and is still used by colleges and university courses as 'recommended reading' when teaching the foundations of synthesis and sound design. We've collected them all here, for ease and convenience.
How to find this classic multi-part 'synthesis explained' tutorial series on the current Sound On Sound site.
In Part 1 we explained how the tones of most real instruments can be reduced to patterns of harmonics, which can be generated using sine, saw, square or pulse waveforms. This month, we consider the sonic raw materials needed to imitate unpitched percussion.
Gordon Reid reveals some of the limitations of the 'classic' ADSR envelope with reference to a practical synthesis example, and explains some of the different types of envelopes found on 'classic' analogue synths, from AR envelopes right up to highly flexible digitally controlled EGs.
Having laid bare the inner workings of oscillators, contour generators and filters, Gordon Reid turns his attention to something which at first sight seems entirely self-evident. Can the humble voltage-controlled amplifier really hold any Synth Secrets?
As explained last month, audio-frequency modulation of the amplitude of a signal can be a powerful synthesis tool. The possibilities expand still further when we consider what happens when you use one audio-frequency signal to modulate the frequency of another...
Last month, we examined the frankly scary maths allowing you to predict the audible effects of Frequency Modulation. This time, although the maths gets even tougher, Gordon Reid relates the theory to the practical implementation of FM synthesis on Yamaha's digital synths, as well as modular and non-modular analogues.
Every pitched sound can be thought of as a collection of individual sine waves at frequencies related to the fundamental. Gordon Reid introduces a powerful method of synthesis that works by manipulating these individual harmonics.
In these days of 64-note polyphony and 32-part multitimbrality, it's easy to forget the importance of note-priority systems in analogue monosynths — yet they can have a drastic effect on what you hear when you play or trigger an old synth. Gordon Reid provides a refresher course.
Onboard effects may seem like a relatively recent synth innovation, but even old modular synths offered analogue effects. Although they were basic, the freely patchable nature of modular synths allowed them to be used to create convincing acoustic instrument sounds — thus effectively physical modelling. Gordon Reid explains how.
Last month we looked at how analogue modules can reproduce the sound of a real trumpet. All very well if you own a wall-sized modular system — but what if your means are more limited? Gordon Reid adapts theory to practice with a Minimoog.
Having dealt exhaustively with the mechanics of brass instruments and how to go about synthesizing them, we turn to instruments that use plucked strings to generate their sound, taking the complexities of the acoustic guitar as an example.
Synthesizing realistic cymbals is complex, but not impossible — after all, over 20 years ago, Roland's TR808 drum machine featured synthesized cymbals. We look at how they managed it, and attempt to create cymbals on another affordable analogue synth.
As explained last month, synthesizing the sound of an acoustic piano is difficult, but it can be done reasonably realistically, as the 1986-vintage Roland JX10 shows. We find out how Roland managed it...
How did they make that sound on a subtractive synth? We continue to dissect the analogue 'Acoustic Piano' Performance from Roland's 1986-vintage JX10.
When trying to copy a real piano with an analogue synth, if one patch doesn't quite do it, two just might...
Analogue synths can't synthesize every sound, but the attempts made to replicate the sound of orchestral strings were so successful that so-called string machines became much-loved instruments in their own right. We begin a voyage into the world of synthesized strings...
Long before Bob Moog built his first synth, there was the Hammond tonewheel organ; effectively an additive synthesizer, albeit electro-mechanical rather than electronic. So emulating a Hammond with an analogue synth shouldn't be too hard, right? Well...
So, you can synthesize a Hammond's tonewheel generator -- but what about its all-important effects? This month, we look at recreating the Hammond's percussion, vibrato, overdrive, and reverb -- and find that it's harder than you might think...
As with so much surrounding the Hammond organ, there's much more to the Leslie rotary speaker than meets the eye, and synthesizing its effects involves considerably more than just adding vibrato, as we find out in this installment.
We conclude our analysis of the fabulously complex beast that is the Leslie rotary speaker.
When synthesizing sounds, the effects you place after your synth's output are often as important as the synth itself (just think of last month's Leslie). As we near the end of Synth Secrets, we consider how a digital effects processor works.