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Synthesizers: What Are They And What Do They Do?

954 words - 4 pages

Synthesizers can create all sorts of bizarre noises, from realistic sounding violins and cellos to distorted out of the world sounds almost all programmed by hand. They come in many different sizes, from portable keyboards to humongous mainframes. They are in music, movies, TV shows and just about anything nowadays. Synthesizers are an amazing tool for musicians, with the steep learning curve they come with, can really benefit any one that could understand them.
What is a Synthesizer?
A Synthesizer is a “musical instrument that is capable of producing a wide range of different sounds” (Russ 4) from “simple resources” (430). There are two main types of synthesizers: analogue and digital. Analogue synths use “voltages and currents directly represent both audio signals and any control signals” (71). Digital synths are number based, they use “numbers to represent the audio and control signals” (72).
Synthesizers are usually made up of “an oscillator, a filter, envelope and an amplifier” (“Synthesizers for Dummies”). An oscillator produces the sound from a “circuit that omits a repetitive sound” (Russ 421). Waveforms are a part of the oscillator; they are the “shapes of the sound wave” (434). Sine, square, triangle, and sawtooth are the basic wave shapes. Filters change “range of frequencies and give the most character to synths” (“Synthesizers for Dummies”). Cut off and resonance are usually a part of the filter. “Cut off controls the level of filtering and resonance controls the level or return of the filter” (“Synthesizers for Dummies”). Envelop is the “change of volume or level of an audio signal” (Russ 410). It contains attack, decay, sustain, release. Attack is the “initial segment of the envelope” (404). The higher the attack, the slower it takes to hear the sound. Decay is the “fall of amplitude or level” (408). Sustain is the level that which the “envelope will decay and remain while the key is held down” (430). Release is the final part of an envelope; it controls how long the sound stays after letting off the key. Finally, the last part of a basic synthesizer is the amplifier. It controls the “loudness of the waveform” (404). There are many more features synthesizers could have, but these are the basic essentials needed for a great synth.
There are two main types of synthesizers: analogue and digital. Analogue synths use voltages and currents directly represent both audio signals and any control signals (71).
The History
Synthesizers have been around for long time, it is not just a recent technology. In the late 19th century, “American inventor Thaddeus Cahill acquired a patent for his instrument known as the Telharmonium, or Dynamophone” (“A Brief History”). The Telharmonium weighed “200 tons” and is “driven by 12 steam-powered electromagnetic generators” (“A Brief History”). Played in “real time using velocity-sensitive keys, it could generate several different sounds” (“A Brief History”). In 1919, “Russian inventor Leon Theremin...

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