Easy Synth Programming – Oscillators

Easy Synth Programming – Oscillators

Oscillators sound like an unholy union of ocelot and alligator.

The Oscillator in it’s natural habitat

It’s because of this forgivable confusion that I made this week’s video.  In it, I walk you through basic noise making fundamentals you’ll need on your synth journey.  I’m using a program called Syntorial to help me.  Click here to check it out.  Follow along with my Easy Synth Programming narrative starting here.

The Way You Move

Just like there’s a process for starting your car, there’s a process for how a synthesizer makes sound.  The first thing it needs is an ON message.  Your MIDI is responsible for that, in your computer.  On an analog synth, that might be as simple as turning the thing on.  Where does that ON message go?

Well, at some point you have to make a sound.  That’s why it’s called “synthesis”, after all.  The things that make sound are called oscillators.  They got that name because they move in an oscillating way i.e. repetitive and in time.

By now you now oscillators makes noise by repeating in time.  You probably also know that sound happens from about 20Hz-20kHz.  1Hz is one cycle per second, so oscillators go fast to be audible.  But what do they look like?

Seeing Sound

That’s where the various waveforms come into play.  If you just have the oscillator pumping on and off then you get something known as a square wave.  That’s because it’s instantly on and instantly off and so looks like a square.  If you were to instantly flip a light switch then you know what to expect.

In contrast, what if you use a dimmer?  Flip the switch up then slide down the dimmer slow and that gives you a sawtooth waveform.  It has a jagged appearance like a saw |\.  Now slide the dimmer up and down smoothly.  That results in a sinusoidal (sine) waveform and it looks like a smooth squiggle or ~ sign.

I’m Listening

I’d be remiss to leave out what the oscillators sound like.  That’s where I direct you to watch the video below to hear the audio examples.  Also make sure to download the free trial of Syntorial to follow along with the first 22 lessons.  By signing up for my Hexie Dose Newsletter, you’ll get inboxed updates about when I upload new content and more!  Sign up today – don’t delay 🙂

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