Understanding synthesis


What did you read or see that made you understand synthesis? What gave you your eureka moment?






Hmm, years of working with it in software, learning D by doing. When I bought my first hardware mono synth though, it really clicked on another level. Something about having these knobs and such direct control of a sound that did it for me. Since then I’ve been reading things like ‘synth secrets’ by Gordon Reid, a huge collection of articles by Sound on Sound, which is free to read. It’s really interesting!


For me initially computer music magazines always had really good beginner tips. Then of course curiosity and trying to find out how each vst works, and finally once I got my touch on the A4 and the direct control it provides with twisting knobs and stuff it gave me a real tactile feel. I also watch a ton of youtube videos and read forums for specific questions :slight_smile: If you’re Elektron user of course, read the manual and that should be a good starting point.


Syntorial and Synth Secrets, plus aimlessly pressing buttons and turning encoders. Also trying to explain some of my findings to my kids doesn’t hurt. And you can always try to reverse engineer patches that you like.


+1 on Syntorial


I bought a synth and just starting messing with it. I wasn’t really in a big hurry to understand it all, but slowly it made more sense as I experimented and read the manual…
It was a moog and they make good manuals, check out this tutorial on pg. 63:
It gives a nice little explanation on basic subtractive synthesis…




Save your money, get a real Analog Synth. It will teach you. A DSI Prophet teaches best (1 knob per function…mostly)


Yes or a DSI Mono Evolver and a good pair of monitors


Keep away from the P12, in this regard its a monster.

Good reads about the synthesis is the virus bible: (applicable to all synth more or less.)



The computer music tutorial
By Curtis Roads


For me it was understanding and learning how waveforms work, what they are, and how acoustic instrument waveforms look and behave. When you see the waveform for a trumpet, then go into a synth and make a brass patch with the intention of making it sound like a trumpet, it really teaches you deeply about waveforms, base frequencies, harmonics, and even envelopes. This also helps a lot with sound design in general and even working with samples etc.


I got an MS20 mini and tweaked knobs for about two weeks until it made sense



I jumped down this rabbit hole quite unprepared and started with a Korg MS20/MS50 combination and a good book with theoretical and practical explanations about synthesis of this kind of synthesizers. And I believed that a synthesizer was supposed to create every kind of sound, which human kind can imagine.

Well … this lead to the realisation … after some time … that I was completely wrong … and to a long lasting love for a world of electronic instruments and sounds and music creation methods.

There are so many options since the first electronic instruments had been developed and there is nothing like the one and only machine or method that my advice would be, start with “subtractive synthesis”, because it’s the most often used form of synthesis, which, I guess, must have some reason :wink:

Get yourself a synth, listen to the “one-knob-per-function” advice, one ore more books, quality information from the internet (there have been named many sources already) and be open to learn and learn and learn …

And never forget … have fun and make music :smiley:


I think after years struggling to program my Virus, I had a Nord Lead A1 for about three weeks and it opened my eyes to synthesis. They are really simple to program with lots of shortcuts. I then found myself going, ok I can make that bass sound real easy with the A1, let me try that the long way with the Virus. I then started to uncover a lot of stuff I had previously looked over with the Virus.



Rob Hordijk’s Synthesis Workshops - aimed at Nord G2 Modular but not specific to it, covers a lot of universal synthesis topics.

P.S.: I’ve compiled a PDF of Rob’s workshops for my private use. Let me know via PM if you would be insterested in it :wink:


my korg poly 800 gave me my initial introduction to synthesis, that was in 1992 or so