Signal Generating and Processing Components
Generate the basic signal. This is usually a waveform that is rich inharmonics. Many synthesizers offer more than one oscillator.•
Used to alter the basic signal by filtering out (removing) portions of thefrequency spectrum. Many synthesizers offer a single filter, which is applied universally toall oscillator signals. Multioscillator synthesizers can provide multiple filters, allowing eachoscillator signal to be filtered in a different way.•
Used to control the level of the signal over time. The amplifierfeatures a module known as an envelope, which is broken down into several elements thatprovide level control for the beginning, middle, and end portions of your sound. Simplesynthesizers generally offer a single envelope, which is used to control the oscillator (andfilter) over time.Modulation and Control Components•
Used to modulate the signal-generating and processing components.Modulations can be machine-based—automatically generated by a synthesizercomponent—or can be manually activated by using the modulation wheel, for example.Most synthesizers provide a component called an
LFO (low frequency oscillator)
toprovide a waveform that modulates the signal.•
Affect the overall characteristics of your synthesizer sound, such asglides between notes, pitch bend, monophonic or polyphonic playback, and more.
The audio signal of a synthesizer is generated by the oscillator. Usually you would choosefrom a selection of waveforms that contain differing types and varying amounts (more orfewer) of harmonics. The level relationships between the fundamental tone and theharmonics of the chosen waveform are responsible for the basic sound color or timbre.
Common Synthesizer Waveforms
The qualities of the most common synthesizer waveforms are discussed below.
Clean and clear-sounding, a sine wave contains no harmonics but the first harmonic; inother words, it is the fundamental tone. The sine wave—used standalone—can be used tocreate “pure” sounds like whistles, the sound of wet fingers on the rim of a glass, tuningforks, and so on.The symbol for a sine waves typically looks like this: