What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

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What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by briandc » Wed Apr 13, 2016 1:20 pm

Hi everyone,
I would like to start a thread where people can discuss different synthesis methods a bit more in-depth, such as by trying to obtain a certain sound.

This idea was born from the following:
- what type of synthesis method would be best for allowing the LFO pitch to vary in speed, depending on filter envelope depth? (imagine a slow filter envelope attack-and-decay, with LFO pitch increasing and then decreasing over time)


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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by desmond » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:12 pm

This isn't really a "type of synthesis" question, but a "modulation" question.

Any synth that lets you use an EG as an LFO speed and depth modulation will do this.

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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by briandc » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:49 pm

desmond wrote:This isn't really a "type of synthesis" question, but a "modulation" question.

Any synth that lets you use an EG as an LFO speed and depth modulation will do this.
Brilliant! That was easier than I thought. :D
In a way, I suppose *all* synthesis is a type of modulation, isn't it?

And, aren't there some types of modulation that can be done well with certain types of synthesis approaches that can't be done so easily with other approaches? (I don't have any specific examples in my head at the moment, but I'm open to suggestions...!)


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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by desmond » Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:16 pm

briandc wrote:In a way, I suppose *all* synthesis is a type of modulation, isn't it?
Well, classically, synthesis involves *generators* (things that generate signals) and *modulators* (things that change other signals).

And both can be done in a variety of ways and implementations (eg, oscillators are generators, and they can be analog, digital wavetables, samples etc) and modulation can be digital, or analog control voltages etc.

Envelopes, LFO's, filters are typically modulators (but then, an LFO is really just an oscillator, but it's traditionally used in this context as a modulator)
briandc wrote:And, aren't there some types of modulation that can be done well with certain types of synthesis approaches that can't be done so easily with other approaches? (I don't have any specific examples in my head at the moment, but I'm open to suggestions...!)
Sure. For example, analog can do audio rate modulation fairly easily, but doing audio rate modulation in digital systems requires a bit more effort to do it well. Some things you get "for free" with analog components have to be simulated it quite some detail to get something similar digitally.

And the same time, analog sampling is a lot harder to do well than doing it digitally! ;)

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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by meatballfulton » Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:29 pm

briandc wrote:Aren't there some types of modulation that can be done well with certain types of synthesis approaches that can't be done so easily with other approaches?
It's more of a question of "what does synth X allow as far as modulation?"

Here's a very simple example: Let's say I want to modulate filter resonance. Most vintage synths simply do not offer resonance as a modulation target of either an LFO or an EG. Odyssey, MS20, MiniMoog, ESQ-1, Juno, SH-101...none of these can do it. Even the classic Moog modular LPFs don't allow modulating resonance.

Modern synths often have a modulation matrix which lets the programmer set arbitrary sources and destinations in addition to any hardwired source/destination routings. Whether or not a particular modulation can be achieved now only depends on whether the source and destination are available in the matrix. Some mod matrices even allow one slot to modulate another in order to create complex modulation chains.

While many people think of EGs and filters when they think of modulation, there's also amplitude modulation (AM), ring modulation and frequency modulation (FM). These are usually thought of as audio rate modulations, because the modulation source is running at frequencies in the audio range (20-20khz). Most sample based synths (so called ROMplers) cannot do these types of modulations, but some can like the ESQ-1 (AM) and Roland D50 (LA), JV and XV families (ring modulation). It's common today to have LFOs that go well into the audio range for AM and FM but it's seldom seen in vintage synths. Not all synths can do pulse width modulation (PWM) either.

Then there's loopable EGs, EGs with more than just ADSR stages, EG triggering modes, availability of positive or negative modulation depths, etc., etc.
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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by briandc » Wed Apr 13, 2016 8:54 pm

desmond wrote:
briandc wrote:In a way, I suppose *all* synthesis is a type of modulation, isn't it?
Well, classically, synthesis involves *generators* (things that generate signals) and *modulators* (things that change other signals).

And both can be done in a variety of ways and implementations (eg, oscillators are generators, and they can be analog, digital wavetables, samples etc) and modulation can be digital, or analog control voltages etc.

Envelopes, LFO's, filters are typically modulators (but then, an LFO is really just an oscillator, but it's traditionally used in this context as a modulator)
briandc wrote:And, aren't there some types of modulation that can be done well with certain types of synthesis approaches that can't be done so easily with other approaches? (I don't have any specific examples in my head at the moment, but I'm open to suggestions...!)
Sure. For example, analog can do audio rate modulation fairly easily, but doing audio rate modulation in digital systems requires a bit more effort to do it well. Some things you get "for free" with analog components have to be simulated it quite some detail to get something similar digitally.

And the same time, analog sampling is a lot harder to do well than doing it digitally! ;)
Ok; the generator vs. modulator part is clear enough. (edit: question answered by mealballfulton)


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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by briandc » Wed Apr 13, 2016 9:17 pm

meatballfulton wrote:
briandc wrote:Aren't there some types of modulation that can be done well with certain types of synthesis approaches that can't be done so easily with other approaches?
It's more of a question of "what does synth X allow as far as modulation?"

Here's a very simple example: Let's say I want to modulate filter resonance. Most vintage synths simply do not offer resonance as a modulation target of either an LFO or an EG. Odyssey, MS20, MiniMoog, ESQ-1, Juno, SH-101...none of these can do it. Even the classic Moog modular LPFs don't allow modulating resonance.

Modern synths often have a modulation matrix which lets the programmer set arbitrary sources and destinations in addition to any hardwired source/destination routings. Whether or not a particular modulation can be achieved now only depends on whether the source and destination are available in the matrix. Some mod matrices even allow one slot to modulate another in order to create complex modulation chains.

While many people think of EGs and filters when they think of modulation, there's also amplitude modulation (AM), ring modulation and frequency modulation (FM). These are usually thought of as audio rate modulations, because the modulation source is running at frequencies in the audio range (20-20khz). Most sample based synths (so called ROMplers) cannot do these types of modulations, but some can like the ESQ-1 (AM) and Roland D50 (LA), JV and XV families (ring modulation). It's common today to have LFOs that go well into the audio range for AM and FM but it's seldom seen in vintage synths. Not all synths can do pulse width modulation (PWM) either.

Then there's loopable EGs, EGs with more than just ADSR stages, EG triggering modes, availability of positive or negative modulation depths, etc., etc.
Yes, I'm getting familiar with modulation matrixes/matrices. And I know that different synths use different techniques. I think this is getting closer to what I was initially wondering.
My initial "entrance" into synths (aside from my Casio CZ-1000) has been a subtractive approach, which is quite "straight-forward" but that now seems to be a bit "limited" in terms of modulation options. Ok, there are LFOs and oscillator syncing and filter envelopes and all, but now I wonder, "which synthesis methods yield which results best?"

Example: let's say I want to make a bell sound. Would FM be more recommended because it has some particular bell-like modulation capability? Or would AM or additive synthesis be better because of how they build sounds? Etc, etc.

Hope I explained that a bit better.. :D


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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by desmond » Wed Apr 13, 2016 9:22 pm

briandc wrote:Example: let's say I want to make a bell sound. Would FM be more recommended because it has some particular bell-like modulation capability? Or would AM or additive synthesis be better because of how they build sounds? Etc, etc.
There are some sounds that suit some synthesis techniques well - eg, FM does plucky, spikey, metallic things quite well, but doesn't do great at thick warm pads. An analog mono synth does synth leads and funky basses well, but isn't great at simulating an acoustic guitar sound, etc etc.

FM does bells pretty well, but so do romplers, and digital synths in general as you can start with a lot of harmonic content. But certain analog synths can do these types of sounds by using ring modulations, analog FM, and other techniques.

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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by briandc » Thu Apr 14, 2016 8:06 pm

desmond wrote:
briandc wrote:Example: let's say I want to make a bell sound. Would FM be more recommended because it has some particular bell-like modulation capability? Or would AM or additive synthesis be better because of how they build sounds? Etc, etc.
There are some sounds that suit some synthesis techniques well - eg, FM does plucky, spikey, metallic things quite well, but doesn't do great at thick warm pads. An analog mono synth does synth leads and funky basses well, but isn't great at simulating an acoustic guitar sound, etc etc.

FM does bells pretty well, but so do romplers, and digital synths in general as you can start with a lot of harmonic content. But certain analog synths can do these types of sounds by using ring modulations, analog FM, and other techniques.
ROMplers. Now if I have a sampled analog synth sound with a strong resonance, I don't think I would have the control of that resonance as I would using the original instrument, correct? (And as with resonance, so with anything else that would normally be controllable in the source instrument..?)


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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by desmond » Thu Apr 14, 2016 9:13 pm

briandc wrote:Now if I have a sampled analog synth sound with a strong resonance, I don't think I would have the control of that resonance as I would using the original instrument, correct?
Yes - if something is baked into the source, as in the case of source samples, all you can do is use the other things at your disposal to run that source through. Nothing to stop you running the sample through a filter, with it's own filter cutoff and resonance applied, but you no longer have control of anything that was used to make the source sample, of course.
briandc wrote:(And as with resonance, so with anything else that would normally be controllable in the source instrument..?)
Indeed. This is why romplers typically have a selection of regular waveforms (saw, square, tri etc) to act like analog synthesisers, in addition to more complex waves with complex harmonic structures, all the way up to complete instrument multisamples.

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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by meatballfulton » Fri Apr 15, 2016 2:21 pm

briandc wrote:Example: let's say I want to make a bell sound. Would FM be more recommended because it has some particular bell-like modulation capability? Or would AM or additive synthesis be better because of how they build sounds? Etc, etc.
Again, you are asking the wrong question. The real question is what makes a bell sound like a bell? The answer for metallic sounds...bells, gongs, cymbals, etc...is that the overtones generated are inharmonic, they are not simple integer multiples of the fundamental.

Since saw, pulses and triangles all have overtones that are simple integer multiples of the fundamental you need to do something else to get bell tones. Ring modulation, FM or AM can all create inharmonic overtones easily.

Example: we'll ring modulate two oscillators generating sine waves pitched at A440 and A880 (an octave apart). The outputs are the sum and difference of the two.

880 + 440 = 1320
880 - 440 = 440

1320 is just the third harmonic of A440, in pitch it would be an E note. In general, if we are using sines with frequencies that are in the harmonic series, ring modulation will provide overtones still in the harmonic series. It simply manipulates which of the overtones are present.

But what if we choose frequencies that are not harmonically related? How about 440 and 900hZ?

440 + 9000 = 1340

900-400 = 460

Now we have an output where the overtones are not harmonically related to either the inputs or to each other...these are inharmonic overtones. This is how ring modulation produces metallic sounds.

However, an FM synth can do the same thing. In a Yamaha DX when the modulator is harmonically related to the carrier (octave, fifth, third, etc.) the result is sounds like saws, squares, etc. with the depth of modulation controls the amount of overtones just as a filter does in a subtractive synth.

In a sample based synth, a bell, gong or other metallic object is recorded and then filtering further shapes it.

In an additive synth, the overtones are specified one by one.

The end result: every one of them gives you a bell sound. Is one easier than the other? That depends on how the programmer's mind works, I guess. Some people can easily whip up sounds using DX-style FM, others will never understand it and will turn to subtractive methods.

If I have only access to an analog synth, to get bells I need at least two oscillators and either a ring modulator or the ability to let a VCO modulate the VCA (AM), the filter (FM) or the other VCO (again FM). Which is why you don't get great sounding bells and gongs out of a Juno or SH-101...only one VCO.
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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by briandc » Sat Apr 16, 2016 3:22 pm

Thanks for the helpful information guys!
Ok. So romplers play back sampled sounds. If you want a sound that's exactly what you hear in a recorded piece of audio, then this would perhaps be the easiest/quickest/most faithful reproduction of said sound.

And a bell sound is composed of inharmonics, and as such it may be less indicated to use a subtractive synthesis approach, but rather additive or FM.

So what about some of these more "unusual" synthesis approaches? Transwave, scanned synthesis, physical modeling, vector synthesis... Last night I studied up a bit on some of these, thanks to the thread here . Some interesting instruments mentioned there, and some nice stuff on youtube to see. (If only we had had all this info so easily accessible back in the 80's!)

So aside from "good for interesting pads or ambient," would you suggest using any of these for particular sound design techniques (bells, horns, leads, etc.)? What about them makes them useful (or less so)?


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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by ninja6485 » Sat Apr 16, 2016 4:16 pm

briandc wrote:So romplers play back sampled sounds. If you want a sound that's exactly what you hear in a recorded piece of audio, then this would perhaps be the easiest/quickest/most faithful reproduction of said sound.
Romplers contain a prerecorded bank of samples that, the content and number of which, cannot be changed or edited during the course of playing the instrument under normal circumstances. Your quote is true only if the Rompler you're using is the same instrument, or contains the same (or a close enough) bank of pre recorded samples to the sounds you're hearing in the song. If you're suggesting the idea of listening to a source, and sampling the exact sound for use in your own material from the source itself, you would need a sampler.

Incidently, part of this discussion (on bell sounds and analog synths) lead me to greater appreciate the JX-8P, as it excels in analog synthesis of what are typically digital sounds. It does killer bells and percussive sounds, with just a little warmth and fuzziness underneath to suggest a departure from the digital domain.
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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by ninja6485 » Sat Apr 16, 2016 4:40 pm

briandc wrote: So aside from "good for interesting pads or ambient," would you suggest using any of these for particular sound design techniques (bells, horns, leads, etc.)? What about them makes them useful (or less so)?
brian
The usefulness is that it makes synthesizing sounds a bit more interesting. The particular use for each sound you make and each way you make it is born from using your instruments to serve your creative intentions, whatever they may be. They will perhaps be different in each particular case. Sometimes you need to put a certian type of sound in your recording, and you need the cheapest, most expedient way possible. Other times exploring the varieties of ways to make different sounds and the instruments that make them is more important. Think about all of the varieties of putting color and texture down on a canvas. How many ways can you create the color green? How many varieties of the color green are there, and what kind of image are you creating that needs this particular shade, medium, and amount? 'What is the usefulness of the different methods, and how to achieve them' leads to the same answer in both cases.
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Re: What type of synthesis technique is best to do this?

Post by briandc » Sat Apr 16, 2016 7:34 pm

Thanks for both your replies, ninja6485. I'm becoming kind of a junkie for obscure softsynths, and there are so many out there (most without any manual) that it makes the venture daunting and head-spinning. Some are not so great, but there are some really interesting ones around, no matter the synthesis approach. And each one takes a bit of time to get to know well. At least for me. Hence all my questions. Lots to learn!


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