A musical instrument that brings electronically generated
sounds using different techniques is called a synthesizer. Synthesizers
use the method of direct manipulation of electrical voltages and mathematical
manipulation using computers to create sound. A combination of both the
methods is also used. In the closing stage of direct manipulation, electrical
voltages cause vibrations and the sound which is synthesized is contrasted
with natural sound. The mechanical energy of the sound wave is thus transformed
in to a signal which will then be converted again to mechanical energy
Synthesizers usually have a keyboard which a human interface.
Each key of the keyboard functions as a switch. The user can also use
strings, drum pads or a computer to control the synthesizer apart from
keyboards. Synthesizers can be made to imitate any other instrument and
the positive side of the synthesizer is that it will help create completely
new musical notes for different purposes.
Types of synthesizers
There are basically two types of synthesizers- analog
synthesizers and digital synthesizers. Analog synthesizers
generate sounds electronically with the help of an analog computer and
operational amplifiers. Analog synthesizers were mostly replaced by digital
synthesizers and samplers in the 90s. The arrival of retro analog synthesizers
led to an increased demand for analog in the later period and paved way
for the development of analog modeling synthesizers.
Digital synthesizers are synthesizers
that use the method of digital signal processing to make music. Early
forms of digital synthesizers used simple hard wired digital circuitry.
With the development of microprocessor and digital signal processing technology,
wavetable synthesis and physical modeling became popular. The advantage
of digital synthesizers is onboard accessibility with switchable front
panel controls. This provides the benefit of perusing its functions.
The invention of MIDI helped in synthesizers becoming
easier to integrate and synchronize with electronic instruments. MIDI
interfaces are now omnipresent and are available on computers.
What are the different
kinds of synthesizer methods?
The different types of synthesis methods which are mathematically
related apply to both analog and digital synthesizers. One method of synthesis
is by subtracting overtones from a sound through means of sound synthesis.
Subtractive synthesizers are associated with voltage controlled synthesizers
because it needs very simple circuitry to generate source signals like
pulse waves, square waves etc.
Additive synthesis is an audio synthesis technique which
creates musical timbre that is composed of multiple harmonics. Natural
tones can be produced with the help of certain digital synthesizers and
they are called as wavetable synthesis. Frequency synthesis is another
method by which the timbre of a simple waveform is modulated, which results
in a complex waveform and a different tone.
There are also other methods of synthesis like Granular
synthesis, Digital Sampling, Physical Modeling synthesis etc.
Tips on buying synthesizers
Set your needs
The first and foremost thing when you go for buying a synthesizer is to
define your needs. Assess the requirement and then set the target. If
you are in need of a 5 octave synthesizer you do not have to go for a
fully weighted wooden key board. If you already have a keyboard with MIDI,
then you can very well select a keyboard-less synth module. Likewise,
setting your targets at first will help in determining budget and avoiding
last minute confusion.
Think what exactly you are looking for in a synthesizer. You can go for
a workstation if you are looking for composing your tones and setting
up all musical arrangements by yourself. Buying a workstation, which consists
of polyphonic voices, effects units and drum kits, is like buying complete
stereo integrated equipments. If you are looking for the popular jazz
and guitar music, a workstation would be an apt choice. Thus, determine
priorities and select the one which suites best.
Do not go for the lowest
If you go for the cheapest of synthesizers, you need to sacrifice the
quality and performance of the keyboard in many ways. For instance, you
may not get the number of sounds you are looking for in the synthesizer
and have to be satisfied with the limited number of sounds as well. Take
quality and priority as the prime factors and get the best synthesizer
at an affordable rate.
Computers as synthesizers
Computers are known to create or compose music. Computers can be used
today as synthesizers with the help of software synthesizers. These software
synthesizers can actually beat the quality and performance of many hardware
synthesizers. You need a MIDI enabled keyboard connected to the PC to
play a software synthesizer. Buy two sound cards incase you need the additional
functionality of audio recording in the computer.