Things that interest me

One thing that has completely absorbed my interest over the holiday has been this simple item right here

Sine of the times

Yes Ladies & Gentlemen, a simple sine wav. Sounds like this & if you’re interested and a great tutorial on the whole concept here. What makes it fascinating is that practically all synthesizers use that very basic waveform to create every imaginable sound under the sun. There are a million ways to approach synthesis, be it FM, Ring modulation, wave table, sample-based, additive (which I used to make that particular form) and what seems like millions of others.

Harmor - Which sounds even better if you say it like Arnold would - Haaahmah
Harmor, by Image-Line

I’ve been tinkering around with Harmor & Sytrus because I own them with FL Studio and there’s plenty of videos and tutorials on them. And the more I learn, the less I know. I can pretty much tell you what every knob on Harmor does in respect to the partials it generates, but I can’t figure out the why or how.

As an analogy as to what I mean, imagine you’ve got a great art set. You understand each paint type, can recite where pigments come from, know how each paint type will react with the canvas, but for the life of you, you can’t figure out how to mix white & black together correctly to get grey. It’s much like that.

I understand the basics behind the functions, but if I wanted to come up with a particular sound in my head, I’m lost. I have no idea where to start or how to even approach peeling apart an existing sound to mimic it. There are forums where people are given an mp3 and they easily seem to recreate the sounds in short order. I lack that ability.

I’m always tempted to buy new synths because they all come with massive libraries of cool sounds, but I know deep down that I’ll be limited to simply tweaking those sounds a little randomly if I ever want anything different. I need to figure out how to hear things and recreate them, and that does not appear to be something you can learn by reading things on the web.

As a complete tangent – I wonder what kind of music the classical masters like Bach, Beethoven, Grieg, and Mozart could create if they had modern tools. Think about it, they knew music inside and out and could compose on paper things they knew how they would sound when given to an orchestra. However, they were limited to the sounds they had at the time.

They would write stuff that they knew would sound good on a piano, oboe, violin, or any other instrument at the time, and wrote specifically to target those timbres but what they couldn’t do was think “I will write this for an instrument that sounds like an elephant reaching climax while jumping on a sheet of metal”.

Also, most of them wrote on piano or a single instrument. Imagine if they could compose with the entire orchestra sitting right there at their beck and call? The immediacy of how something sounds can be a powerful influence.

I take small solace in knowing, however, that even the great composers of old probably couldn’t grab Harmor and even remotely make a sound like an elephant reaching climax while jumping on a sheet of metal any more than I could. Unless it was by accident.

posted by by Robb Allen @
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