Voltage-Controlled Oscillator (VCO)

Voltage-Controlled Oscillator (VCO)

So far we’ve talked about what synthesis is and various methods used to generate waves.  In the “Building Blocks” section we’re going to look at all the different parts of a synthesizer and how they work together to create sounds. When I talk about “parts”, I’m not referring to the actual capacitors, resistors and other […]

Noise

Noise

Noise modules are fairly simple.  They produce a random electrical signal (noise).  They sound like “shhhhh…” Not all noise is created equal, however.  There are different types of noise that have their powers concentrated in different parts of the audio spectrum.  They are named after colors of light that have analogous power distribution in the […]

Digital Audio Player

Digital Audio Player

Waveforms generated by your synth don’t have to be simple or random.  They can come from recordings.  Samplers operate on this principle.  Instead of a simple sine or square wave, they use a digital recording as their sound source.  Of course these more complex waves can still be pitched up or down (played faster or […]

External Audio

External Audio

Synthesizers don’t just make sounds; they modify them too.  There’s no rule that says you can’t use one to modify or mix sounds that come from outside the synth.  There are hundreds of places to get electronic audio signals: Grab your iPod and plug it into your system. If you’ve got a computer running a […]

Voltage-Controlled Filter (VCF)

Voltage-Controlled Filter (VCF)

The voltage-controlled filter is a major part of subtractive synthesis.  There are many different ways to design a filter, and although they basically do the same thing, they all sound a little bit different.  The filter is the part of the synthesizer that is most responsible for shaping the tones you get out of it, […]

Voltage-Controlled Amplifier (VCA)

Voltage-Controlled Amplifier (VCA)

A VCA, or Voltage-Controlled Amplifier, lets you use a voltage to control the amount of another signal that is allowed through to the output of the module.  The higher the control voltage, the more signal is passed.  At some voltage level, the entire signal is let through. Note: Most VCAs could be more accurately called […]

Ring Modulator

Ring Modulator

You’ve probably heard the distinct sounds of a ring modulator before.  They tend to sound metallic or robotic, and sci-fi shows love to use them (“Exterminate!”).  But what exactly do they do, how do they work, and where did the name come from?     A ring modulator multiplies two signals together to create two […]