Adventures In Audio

Additive synthesis from first principles (less boring)

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In this less boring video, I create a tone using additive synthesis, all the way from first principles. Then I load my tone into a sampler plug-in and play it from the keyboard.

Automated transcript

So i received a comment the other day saying that my video was too long and too boring so guess what here it is again but it's often useful to consider other people's points of view so it's a little less long and hopefully a little less boring additive synthesis from first principles here we go so i'll start off by making some new tracks and i think i'm going to need around about 12 tracks to make this work well so we've got 12 tracks and i'll start with the first track and highlight a region of 30 seconds what i'm going to do with that is use the signal generator and i'm going to generate a sine wave of 220 hertz i'm using 220 hertz because it shows up the effect well it's not too high that it's piercing and hard to listen to and it's just it's a good frequency and it's a musical note as well it's the a below middle c so let's make that so we've got 220 hertz there let's hear it okay that's good i'm just going to shrink that down a little bit because it makes it easier

so on the next one i'm going to do the next harmonic the second harmonic which is uh twice 220 hertz so it's 440 hertz

so here we've got 440 220 and both together

okay not bad so we'll go further up the harmonic series and we'll go to the third harmonic which is 660 hertz and render that so we've got okay so you're probably getting the gist of this by now we'll go to the next harmonic the fourth which is 880 hertz and render and we'll go to the fifth which uh i'll get my calculator i don't want to make any mistakes which is 1100 hertz and render

and the sixth which is six times 220 equals 1 320 hertz and render

the seventh

1540 hertz and render the eighth

is 1760 hertz and render and the ninth nine times 220 is 1980 hertz and render

and the 10th i don't need the calculator for that is 2 000. two hundred hertz

and the eleventh

is two thousand

two thousand four hundred and twenty

and render and the last one that i'll do here is the 12th harmonic which is 2000

640 hertz and render so let's just have a listen to some of these harmonics i'll go on to the mix screen makes it a bit easier just deselect all of those so let's work downwards from the top

okay not too bad i'm going to make a master fader just so it's easy for me to control the overall

level of this so let's hear the whole thing as it is what i'm going to do is i'm going to add um some level to each of the harmonics and i'm just going to do it the way that i feel like doing it so whatever pleases me to my ear so you can do it the way it pleases you so let's hear it

i like this one because that's just it's just a little bit out of tune with the fundamentals so that one adds um a little bit of spice the seventh


okay so we have here already an example of additive synthesis from first principles we've made a pleasant sound from simple sine waves so we've gone from this to this

but it's a little bit static it's a little bit static so what can we do to make it a bit more interesting what i'm going to do here is i'm going to phase the introductions or shall we say sequence the introduction of the harmonics i don't need the signal generator anymore let's get rid of that so what i'll do now is i've got a grid of 100 milliseconds and i'm going to make it like this so we start off with the fundamental

we'll shrink that so we can see all of those and we'll go back to the start so what we'll hear now is we'll hear them each of the harmonics coming in in sequence it's just like fairies dancing isn't it it's uh a bit the introduction of each one's a bit sudden just at the moment so i'm going to put a fade on the beginning of each one

i'm just doing it in the simplest way possible it's all sorts of different ways you could do this

so it should be a bit of a softer approach now here we go

okay that's interesting i'm going to make it a little bit more interesting by adding some variation to the one of the harmonics i just need to choose which harmonic


i'm going to choose the seventh so let's expand that out a bit and what i'll do here is i'll go to the volume automation so we'll put a break point in here and i'm going to go up there like that down there like that and up there like that and down there like that and i'll just have a little listen to it just to make sure i'm going on the right track yeah that's fine a bit loud but we'll fix that in a moment so i can duplicate that all the way along

so let's just get that going to the end okay that's uh far enough and i'll bring that one down to zero so i can just fade it oh yes i've got the automation on uh what we'll do here is uh put um the trim plugin there

so let's just take that right down

so you can see this going up and down in level but we've got it trimmed right down so let's just bring in enough to make a difference okay that's fine so we'll play the the whole thing

okay that's good i'm just going to put in some more of these higher harmonics

okay that's not a bad bit of additive synthesis what we'll do now is we're going to take this stage further and actually do something useful with it so um

i'm going to bounce this so let me just check everything

okay the level here is fine that will suit my purpose perfectly so let's bounce it so go to the bounce dialog i'm going to make it um multiple mono because i'm just going to use the mono file eventually i'm going to import it after the bounce and i'm going to do it offline so we don't have to wait too long and it's going to be called additive synthesis one apparently that's the name it's automatically chosen and that's fine so let's balance that and we'll re-import it to a new track it's made into a stereo trap but we'll fix that shortly so let's just listen to that

okay that's nice that's everything we've done so far so these original files that uh tracks that i used i don't need them now so i'm going to delete them okay there they go and this one file i don't need that interest in stereo so i'm going to split it into mono and i'm going to delete the original

and one of the mono trucks and pan that center so listen to that

okay that's nice let's make it a bit bigger what we'll do now is we'll make a new track and i'll make it a stereo track

and we'll make an instrument track so here we'll get an instrument and it's going to be it's going to be the the contact sampler so we'll make a new instrument so we do that and we'll go to the toolbox and we will go to the mapping editor so what i'm going to do now is i'm going to find that file which is additive synthesis one and we'll put it in contact so we've got that in the mapping editor and we can stretch it out of the entire keyboard what we need to do now is to set the key at which the sound will play at the correct pitch which is 220 hertz which is a below middle c which is just just there so we drag that

down to the a and it should now play at the correct pitch so i can play it on the keyboard

and i can play it in chords in fact i'm going to make it sound a bit lower in pitch

to make that sound a little bit nicer we can add a reverb to it so let's go for the altiverb and i'm just going to leave it on the default program and we'll set the mix a little bit lower than that and a bit longer with reverb time so with a bit of sustain pedal

so my presentation might be boring but additive synthesis what's not to like and you can try it at home i'm david mellor course director of audio masterclass thank you for listening.

Comments on this video

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Michael Held:  Hey David, I'm glad to see you back on Youtube. I kind of wondered where you were for so long. ThxAloT for this interesting video. I appreciate having seen how to build up an additive synthesis from the scratch. This delivers fundamental knowledge for rather developing something unique by ourselves rather than using "disposable" VSTs. And yes, explaining this takes time but is unavoidable inspiring, too. Have an excellent day. Yours, Michael

Audio Masterclass replies to Michael Held: I hadn't really gone away, just doing some other things for a while. Regarding plug-ins and instruments, some people have a head for having a hundred plug-ins or instruments and knowing how they all work, like a good DJ knows their their way around their collection of 5000 albums. I prefer having a smaller set of tools that I know well, but I still like exploring what's new that I might like to add. DM

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Thursday March 10, 2022

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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