A lot of people out there are really interested in synths but just don’t know where to begin, in this article I will give you an extremely basic, beginner’s guide to synthesis.
What is a synth?
A synth is an electronic based musical instrument, they usually come with a keyboard but not all do, that can produce endless amounts of sounds by generating and combining different frequencies to create noise. Synths are made up of oscillators, filters, LFO’s and envelope generators.
Oscillators create the shape of the wave form and produce the original sound you are able to modify. Without oscillators your synth would create no sound. Different types of waves oscillators can create are saw, square, pulse, triangle, and sine wave.
A saw wave creates a sharp rough tone which can be used for lead synths.
Square waves create a nice hollow sound which can be used for UK garage/bass music.
A pulse wave is a variation of a saw and square wave mixed together which can create a lot of width.
A triangle wave is shaped like a triangle and is commonly used in techno for sharp bleeping noises.
A sine wave is shaped like an ‘S’ which can be used for a nice deep bassline.
Filters help to cut off certain frequencies of the synth you don’t want, e.g. you would use a high pass filter to cut off some low end. Different types of filters would be:
Low pass, which allow you to cut off higher frequencies downwards on the spectrum.
High pass, which allow you to cut off lower frequencies upwards on the spectrum.
Band pass which allow you to cut off frequencies outside a certain range or band.
Band notch which allow you to cut off frequencies inside a certain range or notch.
An LFO stands for a low frequency oscillator, this creates a wave below 20Hz which we can’t hear through a human ear. This then generates a rhythmic sweep which you can use to modulate your original sound.
LFOs are often used for a ‘wobble’ sounding bassline. They are also used for cinematic sound effects when used at a high rate creating a ‘rippling’ sound. When experimenting with LFOs the possibilities of modulating your sound are endless.
Envelope generators allow you to change and modify your synth patch so you can create more deep, expressive and dynamic sounds. Envelope generators are easily explained through the acronym ADSR which consists of attack, decay, sustain and release.
The attack allows you to change how quickly the sound comes in. This is useful for creating pads.
The decay allows you to change how long the sound stays at the level of the attack.
Sustain allows you to change what level the sound stays at after the decay stage has passed.
The release allows you to change how long the sound stays around after you are finished pressing the key.
Keep an eye out for further parts of our beginner’s guide to synthesis.