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 Coursera.org. 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.

The LFO

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.

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