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A  Priize  Mini  Guide      


Within  the  world  of  Electronic  Music,  soundmakers  work  in  a  myriad  of  artistic  spaces.   Whether  a  teenager  producing  drum  n’  bass  on  Ableton  Live  or  a  conservatory  pianist   experimenting  with  the  sounds  of  a  vintage  Moog,  this  mini-­‐guide  will  help  you  gain  an   understanding  of  the  basic  concepts  of  sound  and  synthesis.    

Cycle:  Unit  of  vibration   The  v ertical  y  a xis  m aps  p ressure,  a nd  t he  h orizontal  x  a xis  m aps  t ime.  A  f ull  c ycle  o f  v ibration   spans  t he  u pward  a nd  d ownward  c urve,  o r  t he  i ncrease  a nd  d ecrease  o f  o ne  u nit  o f  v ibration.    

  (((Sound  waves  are  pressure  waves  that  move  forward  and  back,   moving  the  ear  drums  in  and  out)))     Frequency:  Speed  of  vibration   As  t he  s peed  o f  v ibration  i ncreases,  t he  f requency  i ncreases.  T he  h uman  e ar  p erceives  t his  a s   an  i ncrease  i n  p itch.    

  Hertz:  Cycles  per  second  (kHz  =  1,000  Hertz)    

Humans  can  hear  a  range  of  20  to  20,000  Hz!  

NEXT:  THE  ELEMENTS  OF  SOUND>>>>  


PITCH   Pitch  is  determined  by  the  speed  of  vibration,  or  as  we  just  learned,  the   “frequency”.  Frequency  is  measured  in,  you  guessed  it,  Herz  and   Kiloherz.   For  example,  a  pitch  of  “A”  vibrates  at  440  cycles  per  second,  or  440  Hz.     As  the  cycles  per  second  increase,  so  does  the  frequency.  A  pitch  of  “A”   at  a  frequency  of  880  Hz  sounds  one  octave  higher  than  at  440  Hz.    

TIMBRE   Timbre  (TAM-­‐ber)  describes  a  sound’s  character,  color,  tone,  and/or   texture.     What  determines  a  sound’s  timbre?  Its   harmonic  structure.  A  harmonic   is  an  overtone  accompanying  a  fundamental  tone  at  a  fixed  interval.   Harmonics,  or  the  Overtone  Series,  is  a  series  of   intervals  that  vibrate  over  a  fundamental  tone   (but  quieter  than  the  fundamental).   *Lots  of  upper  harmonics  make  a  bright  timbre   *Lots  of  lower  harmonics  make  a  dark  timbre   (((Hey  DJ,  play  that  timbre>>twist  that  filter   knob)))  

VOLUME   Often  called  “amplitude”.  A  common  unit  of  measurement  for  volume  is   Db  (decibels).  In  synthesis,  we  are  concerned  with  the  overall  shape  of   the  volume,  or  the  “volume  envelope”.     The  volume  envelope  of  a  sound  is  characterized  by  the  time  lengths  of   its  attack,  release,  and  sustain.   For  example,  a  sound  with  a  short  attack  and  a  short  release  has  a   different  shape  than  a  sound  with  a  long  attack  and  a  long  release.   NEXT:  TYPES  OF  WAVE  FORMS>>>>  


Sound  waves  exist  as  variations  of  pressure  in  a  medium  such  as  air.   In  synthesis,  on  and  off  cycles  mimic  these  variations  and  create   different  types  of  wave  forms.   SIN  WAVE   A  single  pure  frequency,  a  sin  wave  is  the   smallest  building  block  of  sound.   All  wave  forms  are  made  up  of  sin  waves  

SAWTOOTH  WAVE   Gradually  on,  instantly  off.   Made  by  adding  a  series  of  sine  waves  at   multiples  of  the  fundamental  frequency.   A  sawtooth  wave  has  a  buzzy,  edgy  timbre  

SQUARE  WAVE   Instantly  on  for  ½  cycle,  instantly  off  for  ½   cycle.  Whereas  the  sawtooth  contains  every   integer  harmonic  of  the  fundamental   frequency,  the  square  contains  only  odd   number  harmonics.   A  square  wave  has  a  round,  edgy  timbre  

TRIANGLE  WAVE   Gradually  on,  gradually  off.  Triangle  waves   also  contain  only  the  odd  harmonics  of  the   fundamental,  but  the  volume  of  each  added   harmonic  drops  more  quickly.   A  triangle  wave  has  a  round,  pure  timbre  

PULSE  WAVE   Instantly  on  and  off,  in  variable  durations.  For   example,  30%  on,  70%  off  or  25%  on  and   75%  off.   A  square  wave  is  a  50/50  pulse  wave  


AMPLIFIER  

CONTROLS  VOLUME  

OSCILLATOR  

CONTROLS  PITCH  

FILTER  

CONTROLS  TIMBRE  

 

Volume  Envelope   The  envelope  generator  sends  instructions  to  the  amplifier  in  regards  to  its   amount  of  Attack,  Decay,  Sustain,  and  Release.  This  creates  motion  over  time.    

Pitch  Envelope   The  envelope  generator  sends  instructions  to  the  oscillator  to  effect  pitch.  Any   womp,  wub,  or  woop  is  created  by  affecting  the  pitch  envelope  in  some  way.  

Filter  Envelope   The  envelope  generator  sends  instructions  to  the  filter  to  affect  timbre.  Ranges   of  harmonics  are  filtered  out  to  achieve  brighter  (hi-­‐pass  filter)  or  darker  (low-­‐ pass  filter)  colors.  

LFO  (Low-­‐Frequency  Oscillator)   The  LFO  has  a  very  low,  sub-­‐audio  frequency  (less  than  20  cycles  per  second/Hz)   and  is  used  to  control  other  modulators  within  a  synthesizer.  If  you  use  the  LFO   to  affect  pitch,  you  can  specify  the  rate  and  amount  of  variation  to  achieve  a   desired  pitch  effect  like  “vibrato”  or  “siren”.  Use  the  LFO  to  control  volume  and   you’ll  be  playing  with  a  tremolo  effect-­‐  basically  the  LFO  “makes  things  wiggle”.    

Weeeeeiiiiird,  so  the  components  of  synthesis  are  pretty  much   the  same  as  the  three  elements  of  sound!  The  wide  array  of   variation  available  within  these  three  concepts  allow  the  artist   to  build  a  desired  sound  or  just  stay  up  all  night  playing  with   infinite  possibilities.   HAPPY  KNOB-­‐TWIDDLING!  


Thanks  for  reading.     With  synthy  love,     Sophia  Santulli     (((Priize)))    



Synthesize!