Music Series: Requinto Jarocho

The requito jarocho (also known as guitarra de son or javalina) is a stringed instrument originating in south eastern Mexico. The instrument resembles a small classical guitar with only four nylon strings and a standard tuning of ADGc, although other tunings are sometimes used. It is generally made from a single piece of wood.


The requinto jarocho is traditionally used to accompany the son jarocho, a style of Mexican folk music. The instrument can be found in the song La Bamba by Los Lobos.


Instrument Series: Kantele

The Finnish kantele (also known as the harppu in Sami) is a stringed instrument in the zither family. It is traditionally made of a single piece of wood with five or six horse hair strings that run from wooden tuning pegs to a metal bar in wooden brackets. Modern kanteles are often made from multiple pieces of wood and have between 5 and 40 metal strings. Although the tuning varies depending on the size, the five string kantele is traditionally tuned to the first five notes of either a major or minor scale.


The exact origins of the kantele are unknown. It is debated whether the instrument originated in Byzantium (now Istanbul) or in Uralic – Altaic antiquity and was taken to Finland by the Slavs, whether it originated in FInland (as per the epic Kalevala), or whether it originated in Asia. It is believed to be 2000 – 3000 years old.

The kantele was traditionally used to accompany Rune singers and in folk music. Though it’s had limited use in pop music, it can be found in the jazz music of Karelia and an electric version is sometimes used by the heavy metal band Amorphis. It can be found in the song Salt in Our Wounds by HIM.

Instrument Series: Caxixi

The caxixi is a percussion instrument originating in Africa. It consists of a bell shaped wicker basket that is filled with seeds, shells, pebbles or beads and closed with a flat piece of gourd. Some modern caxixis are made of sheet metal, filled with plastic pellets, and closed with fiberglass.


The instrument is played by shaking it so that the seeds inside hit either the sides of the basket or the gourd. the caxixi is often used to accompany the berimbau to provide music for capoeira.

Instrument Series: Mbira

The Mbira (also known as the thumb piano and the sanza, or the marimbula or kalimba in the Caribbean) is a percussion instrument originating somewhere along the west coast of Africa around 3000 years ago. The instrument consists of 20 – 28 flattened metal or bamboo tines of varied length, with each length being a different pitch, attatched to a soundboard. It is sometimes placed inside a calabash resonator and played by stroking the tines with the thumbs and right index finger.


Traditionally, the mbira is used for ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals, for religious events, and for attracting spirits to those seeking their advice. Though its use in pop music is sparse, it can be found in the music of David Bowie, Wilco, King Crimson, Tinashe, and Nine Inch Nails to name a few. It can also be found in the songs Broken Drum by Beck and Evil by Earth, Wind & Fire.

Audio Basics: Propagation, Amplitude, Frequency, and Timbre


Propagation of sound is the transmission of sound waves (or the travel of sound) through a medium. The speed of sound is usually around 340 meters per second (or 1 mile per five seconds) but it can vary based on the type of medium it passes through, the temperature, the air pressure, and the altitude.


Amplitude is the size of a sound wave, it affects the volume of a sound. Amplitude is measured in decibels. Amplitude of sound in the air is measured in dBSPL (or decibel Sound Pressure Level), with 0dBSPL being the quietest, while amplitude of sound in a computer is measured in dBFS (or decibel Full Scale), with 0dBFS being the loudest.

Amplitude vs Loudness

The terms amplitude and loudness are often used interchangeably, however, they are not the same thing. Amplitude is a set level that can be measured. Loudness is how the individual perceives volume. For example, one person may perceive the volume level of a television to be barely audible while another person perceives the same level to be too loud, this would be loudness. The volume range of the television would be the amplitude.


The frequency of a sound is how many times per second the sound wave pulses. The higher the frequency is the higher the amount of pulses per second will be, the lower the frequency is the lower the amount of pulses per second will be. Frequency is measured in hertz, with one Hz being equal to one pulse. The human hearing range is generally between 20Hz and 20kHz.


Timber is what enables us to differentiate between notes played on different instruments at the same pitch and amplitude. Also referred to as tone color or tone quality, timber is the collection of sound in multiple frequencies.

To summarize: Propagation is the transmission of sound waves through a medium. Amplitude is the size of a sound wave and affects the volume of a sound. Frequency is the amount of times per second a sound wave pulses and timbre is the collection of sound in multiple frequencies.

The Usage of the Five Most Important Synthesis Modules: Oscillators, Filters, Amplifiers, Envelopes, and LFOs

I’m Peyton Haynie from Bay City, Tx. This is for week seven of Introduction to Music Production at I will be talking about the usage of the five most important synthesis modules.

Synthesis is described as the manner in which instruments are imitated by synthesizers and timber is defined. It is the process of defining the differences in timber between instruments and defining the beginning and ending of musical notes. The five most important modules of synthesis are: the oscillator, the filter, the amplifier, the envelope, and the LFO.

The Oscillator

The oscillator is used to generate sounds based on waveforms such as sawtooth waves, square waves, sine waves, etc. The sounds are usually described as bright and aggressive and are generally not fit to be used in recordings as is.

The Filter

The filter (or Voltage Controlled Filter) is used to get rid of unwanted frequencies. Depending on the complexity of the synth, it might have one or multiple filters. Low pass filters are considered the most important as they eliminate high frequencies and allow low frequencies through, dulling the sound.

The Amplifier

The amplifier (or Voltage Controlled Amplifier) controls the volume of sounds as well as the way they develop over time. Because synthesized sounds are not static and have potential for change over time, time is an essential factor when considering synthesis.

The Envelope

Envelopes are modulators used to control the main amplifier, allowing you to change the amplitude over time. Envelopes can also be used to  manage pitches and filters.


Also modulators, LFOs (or Low Frequency Oscillators) are used to control the pitches of oscillators. As they are cyclic in nature, LFOs are perfect for representing vibrato. They are termed “low frequency” oscillators because they are usually used in the 0 – 20 Hz range, although they can go up to 100 Hz or more.

To summarize: The oscillator is used to create sounds based on waveforms. The filter is used to eliminate unwanted frequencies. The amplifier is used to control the volume of sounds and how they develop over time. Envelopes are modulators used to control the main amplifier and LFOs are modulators used to control the pitch of oscillators.