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The process of creating a new sound through the use of existing sounds, and usually filters or envelopes. This can be accomplished using audio software, hardware, or a combination of both.

Types of synthesis:

Additive Synthesis

The incorporation of two or more sounds to create a new sound. (e.g. - Record a sample of a hammer pounding in a nail and add a sample of rice being emptied into a pot to the end of it. With some tweaking, it should sound like a very dry snare drum.)

Frequency Modulation Synthesis

The use of one sound (the modulator) to affect the parameters of another (the carrier). (e.g. - Use a drum loop's volume changes to change the cutoff frequency of a pad to create a wobbly sound.)

Granular Synthesis

Similar to Additive Synthesis, but the sounds used in the composition are extremely short, and generally unrecognizable on their own.

Physical Modelling

The creation of a sound based on controlling the properties of the sound source. This generally requires specialized software or hardware. (e.g. - A bass guitar sound module might allow the selection of a wood type, string type and gauge, as well as technique (finger, pick, or slap).)


The recreation of an existing sound from scratch. (e.g. - Perhaps you have a sample of a horn riff that is too distorted to clean up. You could use a synthesizer to remodel the sound and then program the riff.)

Subtractive Synthesis

The removal of sound(s) from an existing sound. (e.g. - Delete the attack of a bass drum to be left with just the warm hum that follows the hit.)

Wavetable Synthesis

The wavetable is basically a database of sounds stored on a sound card, in a sampler or synthesizer, or on another storage device. Generally, this type of synthesis refers to the use of those sounds that can be seamlessly looped to create longer sounds. (e.g. - A sound card might have a sound in it's wavetable for the initial strumming of a guitar that plays once and then another for the sustain of the tone that is looped.)

Waugh, Ian Quick Guide To Analogue Synthesis (Tonbridge, U.K.: PC Publishing, 2000)5-7.

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