The Path of a Synth (for dummies)

This week I set the goal that I would learn more about synths and MIDI.This post will be more focused on Synths. On Monday me and my partner for project one went into a new studio we have on campus that has a whole bunch of synths and a MIDI Keyboard. Originally we had put the word out to our peers to see if someone could come teach us a thing or two, which didn’t exactly work out. We still went to our session all the same. By ourselves after about forty minutes of messing around, we were finally able to record and playback a range of sounds through the MIDI Keyboard. After we had a play with that, we tried to use one of the synths but could not figure out the signal flow of how to get it into the DAW.

What is a Synthesizer?
Even though we were unsuccessful with our attempt to use synths in that session, or maybe more accurately, because of it, we did a little research. We found a PDF that informed about the signal flow and history of synths. The first one ever was created by an electrician named Robert Moog, who discovered how to make sound using an electrical signal. Most analog synths will have four main functions: oscillator, filter, amplifier and modulation.

The oscillator is “the initial source of the sound,” where the waveform is generated. There are also four main types of waveform, which all sound different: sine, triangle, sawtooth and square. The oscillator also controls the pitch or frequency of the waveform. The faster the frequency, the higher the pitch.

The filter is what makes humans able to differentiate between the sounds of say, an Alto Saxophone and an Acoustic Guitar. A single sound (apart from a sinewave) is made up of many different frequencies, so the filter changes the timbre or character of the sound by only letting certain frequencies pass, while blocking others.

The amplifier most obviously controls the volume of the sound by making the signal bigger and therefore louder. However its other function is controlling the ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release.) This aids in accurately representing different sounding notes such as staccato vs legato.

Modulation is basically where creativity runs wild. Several different experimental effects can be added to sounds to give them a unique feel such as Wah or Delay.

Today we also had a lecture in the new studio, which taught us the signal flow of how to get the Synths into the DAW, so now that I’m equipped with a lot more knowledge I am definitely very keen to get back into the studio. Currently we have another session booked for Tuesday afternoon, so I may publish another blog then!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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