So, how do synthesizers work? Well, this is a really big subject. I did consider writing a very in-depth article on the topic, but instead I decided to just give a quick overview and then provide some really informative videos. Hopefully, by the end of this, you will have a better understanding of how synthesizers make sounds and how you can use them to make great sounds in your own music.
What types of synthesizers are there?
The problem with asking a question such as “how do synthesizers work” is that there are so many different types of synths. Here is a very quick summary of the main different types of synthesizers:
- Modular – made up of lots of different parts that you connect together with cables.
- Analog – notes are represented by varying voltages.
- Digital – notes are represented as numbers.
- Monophonic – only one note can be played at a time.
- Polyphonic – more than one note can be played at a time.
- Subtractive synthesis – sounds are modified by using filters to remove certain frequencies.
- Additive synthesis – sounds are created by adding multiple sine waves together.
- Sample-based synthesis – sounds are stored as recorded samples, which can then be modified in various ways to change the final sound.
- Software synthesizers – although originally all synthesizers were hardware-based, it is now possible to do the same things using software.
So, how do synthesizers work?
Here is a quick video giving an overview of what sound synthesis is:
Here is a short video by musician Zoë Blade explaining how her modular analog synthesizer works:
If most of that went over your head, maybe this next video will help make it clearer:
So there you go, hopefully, that has given you an idea of how synthesizers work. I could have gone into more depth, but this topic is so vast that it could have just gone on and on, and there’s only so much information your brain can take in at any one time. Also, with a topic like this, I think once you start to grasp the basics, the rest can be learned just by having a go yourself.
So what are you waiting for? Get yourself a synthesizer and start making your own sounds!
Happy music making!
P.S. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them below and I will reply as soon as I can.
By the way, here is another video about how synthesizers work.