[LAD] Monophonic synths (was: Plugin 1/oct frequency controls)

Fons Adriaensen fons at linuxaudio.org
Fri Aug 24 23:36:09 UTC 2012

On Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 02:32:43PM -0400, David Robillard wrote:

> Another thought on the more artistic side of things that occurred to me
> last night: isn't making the computer a cheap version of an analogue
> synthesizer much the same as making a synthesizer a cheap version of
> other instruments?

In a sense, yes, but the analogy fails in some respects.

* It can take years for a player to develop the motoric skills
required to e.g. get a decent sound from a violin. But once
those are in place, that is something quite difficult to
emulate by either analog or digital electronics, yet it is
an essential part of any music made on such an instrument.
OTOH, an analog synth and a software emulation of the same
can have exactly the same human interface, nothing is lost.

* There's limit to what can be done with analog eletronics.
There's virtually no limit to what can be done in software.
A 'perfect' emulation of an analog synth, including all its
defects, *is* possible. The brute force method is to build
a Spice model of it, and run it on a system that is fast
enough to do that in real time.

> I think the most exciting thing about computers is the unique
> possibilities they bring as an instrument unto themselves.  Things like
> plugins with pretty pixmap UIs designed to look exactly like some box
> with knobs on it has always struck me as silly, and missing the point.

I agree. You need to emulate the function, the visual ergonomics,
but that doesn't mean things have to be 'photo-realistic'.

> ... Maybe this will become less true as
> touchscreens become more pervasive, but at least from a UI perspective,
> a lot of this blind emulation of physical things on a screen is terribly
> unusable with a mouse.

Which is why musician prefer hardware controllers. And not only
musicians. I find using a 'real' mixer, even a digital one with
assignable knobs and switches much more productive than any DAW.

> Sonically.. I'm not sure.  I suppose anything FFT based is pretty
> inherently a 'computer' sound...

Doesn't have to be. The FFT is just a mathematical trick, it doesn't
imply anything regarding the sonic results. What makes things sound
'computer' is ignoring the complexity of most real sounds.



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