Understanding The Signal Path Of Each Synthesizer! (pictures inside)

Halma

New member
Hey guys,

this is something I´ve been thinking of a very long time.

There are way to many "how to make a wobble" or "how to make a badass reese" tutorials on the internet but only a few good ones that go further in understanding sound synthesis in general. Well, there are a lot of websites out there that contain a lot of useful information (e.g. soundonsound synth secrets) but most of them are overwhelming you with so much information that somebody who is new to this would stop experimenting.

On the other hand most of the people I know are using presets and mostly because they don´t have a clue how to manipulate the frequencies on their dedicated soft synth in the "right way". They turning a lot of knobs without having a plan what to do and in the end they are very frustrated and stop experimenting. Believe me, I know what I´m talking about. It took me a long time to understand "what comes next" and "why does nothing happen when I´m turning those knobs?". But this could be so rewarding if you only understand the signal path inside your synth.

So everytime you work on a (new) synth the first thing you should do is try to understand the signal path of it.

And after some time it will be an ease to work with other synths as well because they all have some similarities.

But for now I will show you two free softsynths and how to read them properly. Both of them are using subtractiv synthesis. Basically that means you start with a lot of frequencies (f.e. a saw osc)and cut away those frequencies you don´t need to get your timbre. Most of them share a signal path that looks like this ...

Osc -> Filter -> Amp.

Here we go...


1) This is how the iblit softsynth looks like...very clean and easy to understand if you know how it works.

210611111246_iblit_clean.jpg


2) First things first: the oscillator section. This is where you start selecting your waveform (saw or pulse in this case). This will have the most impact on your further sound. I won´t go into detail which waveform to choose from but this is something you could try on yourself. Here we have 3 different oscillators (on the left side) and the mixer where you can enable/disable all of them, adjusting the level of them and add some kind of noise.

210611112314_iblit_osc.jpg


3) The filter section. After the oscillator comes the filter section. This is where you cut (or boost) those unneeded frequencies. But keep in mind that most of the time you can assign an (gate triggered) lfo or envelope to it (there are two depth knobs: one with negative/positive values for the env and one lfo depth with only postive values). Right now they have "no depth" which means no modulation neither from the envelope nor the lfo.

210611112621_iblit_filter.jpg


4) The amp section. Normally the amp section of each synthesizer is triggered by an ordinary ADSR envelope. This is where you assign the behavior of your sound when you press a key on your midi keyboard. If you want to have a pad you probably need full sustain with a little bit of attack and release. If you want a short bass sound you only need a little bit of decay and release.

210611113551_iblit_amp.jpg


5) MOVEMENT!!! The last section will be the modulation section. This is where you bring additional movement to your sounds (f.e. a vibrato). Here we have only two lfos and both of them have been already assigned to either the oscillators or the filter cut off frequency. (see filter section and lfo depth for the amount of it). You also see a restart button. This one is common on most synths (sometimes labelled as "key sync"). If you have enabled this one the lfo cycle restarts every time you trigger a key on your keyboard. If you disable it the cycle runs and runs and runs...

210611114436_iblit_mod.jpg


6) Now that you know where to start and what comes next on the iblit try it on your own and do some nasty shit. :) ... or move on to the next synth which will be SUPERWAVE P8. Looks complicated? Only at first glance.

210611115653_superwave_p8_clean.jpg


Take a look at the top. This is where the smart author of it shows us the signal path (thx for that). This will help us a lot understanding this synth.

210611115931_superwave_p8_signal_path.jpg


As you can see the signal path looks the same like the iblit. Thx to subtractive synthesis for this one. :)

1) The osc section. I wont go into detail but here you can see a lot more options than at the iblit. Take a closer look at the super wave section. This one only has some kind of impact if you also enables "super wave" in the Osc Mode Section (single, dual, super). So turning those knobs while having single mode enabled won´t do anything to your sound. :)

210611120158_superwave_p8_osc.jpg


2) The filter section.

210611120236_superwave_p8_filter.jpg


3) The amp section.

210611120414_superwave_p8_amp.jpg


4) The delay section. On other synths this is where you will find further effects like a delay, chorus etc.

210611120534_superwave_p8_delay.jpg


5) The modulation section. Now here we have a lot more routing options. It´s up to you where you need an lfo (osc pitch, filter cut off frequency etc).

210611120624_superwave_p8_modulation.jpg


6) Some misc. stuff. Other than the iblit which is monophonic (only one note at the time) this one could also be polyphonic (which means you could trigger multiple keys at the same time and hear all those notes simultaneously).

210611120720_superwave_p8_misc.jpg


7) And this is how osc1 goes through all of this. :)

210611120957_superwave_p8_osc1_sp.jpg


Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed this little post and got some information which will help you understanding your synth a little bit more. I hope you start experimenting right now because all you need is to understand the signal path and the rest is up to you. :)

Cheers
Halma
 
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Bit Depth

Who Knows?
On the other hand most of the people I know are using presets and mostly because they don´t have a clue how to manipulate the frequencies on their dedicated soft synth in the "right way". They turning a lot of knobs without having a plan what to do and in the end they are very frustrated and stop experimenting. Believe me, I know what I´m talking about. It took me a long time to understand "what comes next" and "why does nothing happen when I´m turning those knobs?". But this could be so rewarding if you only understand the signal path inside your synth.

I could not agree more. I've recently started a blog on sound design (link below) and I'm currently writing a new post on "leaving presets behind". One of the aspects I am covering in this post is understanding signal flow. IMO this is vital no matter what form of synthesis of effect you are dealing with. (This latest post should be up later this week.)

Anyway good effort. :):):)
 

Halma

New member
Thank you for your kind words. I already bookmarked your site. Looking forward to see more stuff from you. :)

Yeah, discovering the signal flow is a crucial part of sound design especially when you deal with semi- or full modular synthesizers. After understanding the signal flow you will be able to start with a "clean" oscillator sound (e.g. no filter, no modulation, ADSR amp envelope with A0, D0, S full and R0) which will lead you further in the progress.
 

bandcoach

Zukatoku - Mod Scientist
Thank you for your kind words. I already bookmarked your site. Looking forward to see more stuff from you. :)

Yeah, discovering the signal flow is a crucial part of sound design especially when you deal with semi- or full modular synthesizers. After understanding the signal flow you will be able to start with a "clean" oscillator sound (e.g. no filter, no modulation, ADSR amp envelope with A0, D0, S full and R0) which will lead you further in the progress.

Hey Halma, great post.

I remember the days of reading the signal flow on the top of rack units or from the manuals. Then with softsynths it just seemed to die away - you were expected to know or look for yourself without any guidance as to where you might find it.
 

Monserrat

New member
Yeah, discovering the signal flow is a crucial part of sound design especially when you deal with semi- or full modular synthesizers.
Agreed. Other way round you may end mapping 128 knobs of Arturia Moog Modular to your MIDI device wondering why 80% of them do not affect the sound :D
 

quantumleap

New member
Hey guys,

this is something I´ve been thinking of a very long time.

There are way to many "how to make a wobble" or "how to make a badass reese" tutorials on the internet but only a few good ones that go further in understanding sound synthesis in general.



I've been interested in learning how to make sounds that are on my keyboard..Like basic sounds on any keyboard. You have the different set of strings, basses, pianos, guitars, choirs, brass, etc. I've heard that Welsh's Synthesizer Cookbook does a great going into that..But I havent been able to make that purchase yet......But reading you say that there are sooo many "wobble bass", "reese", and even "hoover" style tutorials....which are great....where are all the other tutorials at?! lol
I have a yamaha psr-e403....has a few hundred sounds on it...but you cant modify them, or create your own...its not that type of keyboard...but using software i'd like to learn how to create those sounds...but all i can find is how to create this/that bass or west coast synth lol
 
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Halma

New member
I've been interested in learning how to make sounds that are on my keyboard..Like basic sounds on any keyboard. You have the different set of strings, basses, pianos, guitars, choirs, brass, etc. I've heard that Welsh's Synthesizer Cookbook does a great going into that..But I havent been able to make that purchase yet......But reading you say that there are sooo many "wobble bass", "reese", and even "hoover" style tutorials....which are great....where are all the other tutorials at?! lol
I have a yamaha psr-e403....has a few hundred sounds on it...but you cant modify them, or create your own...its not that type of keyboard...but using software i'd like to learn how to create those sounds...but all i can find is how to create this/that bass or west coast synth lol

I don´t know the Welsh one (because I don´t own it :D ) but heard a lot good things about it. But I always thought that Welshs Cookbook covers more the reverse engineering of real sounds. But that´s a good thing too.

Anyway, those tutorials arent´all that bad. But after you´ve watched a few of them, what comes next? Most of them tell you nothing about waveforms, frequencies, amplitudes and modulation possibilities. You have to discover most of the stuff by yourself. And for that you have to understand the signal flow of your synthesizer. You can't choose a particular waveform of a synth if you don´t know how it sounds "pure". You have to know the possibilities of your synth and how to build "workarounds".

Why don´t you start like this. Take a softsynth, try to identify the signal flow and disable everything but OSC1 and probably the Amp Env with full sustain. Now you have ONE (!!!) clean OSC signal. Listen to all of your waveforms carefully. Try to understand what´s the difference between them and search the internet for those kind of information (classic waveforms like saw, sine, square, triangle). Try to understand what´s the difference between a sine wave and a saw and why a saw sounds so ****ing bright and the sine does not. Try to figure out what happens when you change the pulswidth. These are the basics you should do for the first time. Concentrate on only one OSC.

After that enable a second one. Now take two saw waves with the same octave and listen carefully. After that detune them against each other (+5/-5). Listen again. Try to understand what happens to the waveform. Play a little bit with the "balance" or "mix" button. What happens if one of the osc is louder than the other? Now transpose the second one 7 semitones higher or even 1 or 2 octaves.

We haven´t touched any of the filters, lfos etc yet.

Now play around with the cutoff frequency of your filter. Try a low pass filter. Try to understand how it works and what resonance will do. Is it a ladder lp filter? Or is it state variable? What´s the difference between a LP, HP, BP, Notch and format? Whats the difference between a 6pole, 12 pole, 18 pole and 24 pole filter? What happens to the frequencies? Google for that if you don´t know what they mean. Perhaps you will learn something about the history of synths (perhaps that Bob Moogs constructed a much sought after 4 pole ladder filter that has been emulated numerous times).

Now you have a name. What´s a moog? How does it sound like? Could there be a manual of it?

Anyway,we have only scratched the surface from this yet. So many possibilities to modify the waveforms. Put an lfo on the osc amplitude, connect the ADSR env to something else, think about velocity...so many things to do. And we are only talking about subtractive synthesis. I haven´t touched additive or granular yet (I´m not that good in using those).

It all breaks down to the signal flow of your synth (or device). Know how it works and you know what to do when to do. Ask google for everything you don´t understand.

But most of it will be covered by few websites. I´m way to lazy to post those links over and over again (sry for that) so I link one of my own posts.

---> https://www.futureproducers.com/for...em-creating-synth-sounds-371192/#post49148453

Enjoy what you do and welcome to the kingdom of wave sculpting. :D

Cheers,
Halma
 

quantumleap

New member
I don´t know the Welsh one (because I don´t own it :D ) but heard a lot good things about it. But I always thought that Welshs Cookbook covers more the reverse engineering of real sounds. But that´s a good thing too.

Anyway, those tutorials arent´all that bad. But after you´ve watched a few of them, what comes next? Most of them tell you nothing about waveforms, frequencies, amplitudes and modulation possibilities. You have to discover most of the stuff by yourself. And for that you have to understand the signal flow of your synthesizer. You can't choose a particular waveform of a synth if you don´t know how it sounds "pure". You have to know the possibilities of your synth and how to build "workarounds".

Why don´t you start like this. Take a softsynth, try to identify the signal flow and disable everything but OSC1 and probably the Amp Env with full sustain. Now you have ONE (!!!) clean OSC signal. Listen to all of your waveforms carefully. Try to understand what´s the difference between them and search the internet for those kind of information (classic waveforms like saw, sine, square, triangle). Try to understand what´s the difference between a sine wave and a saw and why a saw sounds so ****ing bright and the sine does not. Try to figure out what happens when you change the pulswidth. These are the basics you should do for the first time. Concentrate on only one OSC.

After that enable a second one. Now take two saw waves with the same octave and listen carefully. After that detune them against each other (+5/-5). Listen again. Try to understand what happens to the waveform. Play a little bit with the "balance" or "mix" button. What happens if one of the osc is louder than the other? Now transpose the second one 7 semitones higher or even 1 or 2 octaves.

We haven´t touched any of the filters, lfos etc yet.

Now play around with the cutoff frequency of your filter. Try a low pass filter. Try to understand how it works and what resonance will do. Is it a ladder lp filter? Or is it state variable? What´s the difference between a LP, HP, BP, Notch and format? Whats the difference between a 6pole, 12 pole, 18 pole and 24 pole filter? What happens to the frequencies? Google for that if you don´t know what they mean. Perhaps you will learn something about the history of synths (perhaps that Bob Moogs constructed a much sought after 4 pole ladder filter that has been emulated numerous times).

Now you have a name. What´s a moog? How does it sound like? Could there be a manual of it?

Anyway,we have only scratched the surface from this yet. So many possibilities to modify the waveforms. Put an lfo on the osc amplitude, connect the ADSR env to something else, think about velocity...so many things to do. And we are only talking about subtractive synthesis. I haven´t touched additive or granular yet (I´m not that good in using those).

It all breaks down to the signal flow of your synth (or device). Know how it works and you know what to do when to do. Ask google for everything you don´t understand.

But most of it will be covered by few websites. I´m way to lazy to post those links over and over again (sry for that) so I link one of my own posts.

---> https://www.futureproducers.com/for...em-creating-synth-sounds-371192/#post49148453

Enjoy what you do and welcome to the kingdom of wave sculpting. :D

Cheers,
Halma



I do appreciate the post and the time you took to type it....maybe other people will benefit from it more than i will though...you covered the basics..and I understand everything you mentioned. But I am checking out the link you posted, and checking out the links you posted in the other post to see what is there for me to learn..Lately people ask "how to re-create this sound" on here, and for the most part, I feel I do a decent job at recreating them, and explaining to other people how to do the same....Although I still am learning.. Most synth sounds, as in pop music, and dance music, I find somewhat easy to emulate......But when it comes to the sounds on my keyboard, such as Saxaphones, Guitars, Accordions, etc. I have yet to be able to emulate those sounds well enough to pass it off as said sounds. Perhaps I'm not using the correct type of synthesizer, as you mentioned mainly Subtractive...Theres are also additive, Granular, FM, etc. For the most part, I use FL Studio's 3xOsc....its a basic Subtractive Synth. I like playing with it. Then FL Studio has Sytrus, which is more diverse, covering Subtractive, RM, and FM, the interface, in my opinion, makes it not so much fun to play with..so I rarely use it.
Thanks again for your post and contributions to the site though...I'll continue to read, learn, and practice, and of course I look forward to future posts!

QuantumLeap
 

Halma

New member
Hey quantumleap,

I think now I get it. :D Sry for that. And kudos for helping other people. I appreciate that. Sharing experiences and learning constantly new things that´s why I´m on FP.

But if you already know a good amount of the basic stuff then you should be able to adopt the theoretical aspects to your dedicated synthesizer. So beside all those basic analogue stuff I recommend you to start reading from part 24 of the synth secrets series.

Part 24: Synthesizing Wind Instruments

Part 25: Synthesizing Brass Instruments

and

Part 26: Brass Synthesis On A Minimoog

Part 27: Roland SH101/ARP Axxe Brass Synthesis

The first and the second one will cover a lot of the theoretical stuff while the other ones show you how to adopt those settings on a synth (espexially the minimoog which is a monophonic synth using substractiv synthesis).

I´m not sure about FM/PM synthesis because good tutorials are quite rare (most of them cover harsh bass or electric piano sounds, probably some bells and stuff like that). But as far as I know someone should be able to create every real instrument with FM synthesis because of the concept of it.

I haven´t found a lot of it but a few that were quite good (but I´m far away from building my own sounds with that)so probably the following ones could be interesting:

Basic Stuff

FM Spectrum Graphs

F.M. Synthesis

If you are interested in it you should give it a try and try to find some good sites which describe how to build up a Hammond Organ from scratch with FM synthesis.

Also if you can get your hands on a wavetable synth like a PPG Wave (emulation) you should give it a try. They had some special wavetables on it like brass and piano instruments where you sweep through the wavetable osc to get a a full and varying sound with different timbres.

I tried to emulate real instruments on my synths and failed. That was one year ago and I haven´t tried it since then. :D I´m still learning about synthesis and hope that sometimes I will be able to produce some of them. I´m more into discovering new modulation routings and timbres that cover the spectrum of some real instrument. For example I have tons of stringslike sounds that won´t sound like a real one but they sound nice and fulfill their purpose. Same with other instruments. Or I try to recreate patches from oldschool analog synths comparing sounds on youtube, demo wavs from fansites, original manuals etc. and try to find the sweet spot between my possibilities and the original.

Btw for recreating real instruments Welsh should be your 1st choice. But again for that you need a good amount of knowledge to understand what exactly you are doing.

I hope this time it covers more of the stuff you are interested in. :)

Cheers
Halma
 
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quantumleap

New member
Thanks for another great post, Halma....I have yet to check out all these links but I have saved them and will do so when I have more time to sift thru them.

And I did get your PM.....I sent one back, but I don't know if it worked? I've sent other people messages before but have no idea if they ever got them since in my "Sent Items" folder, there remains absolutely nothing! So if you did not receive my message, I agreed with you, and am interested in helping where I can.
 

bandcoach

Zukatoku - Mod Scientist
Thanks for another great post, Halma....I have yet to check out all these links but I have saved them and will do so when I have more time to sift thru them.

And I did get your PM.....I sent one back, but I don't know if it worked? I've sent other people messages before but have no idea if they ever got them since in my "Sent Items" folder, there remains absolutely nothing! So if you did not receive my message, I agreed with you, and am interested in helping where I can.

On sending PM's, you have to check something in your general settings to keep a copy of sent messages. You can also request a read receipt by using the advanced reply feature checking the box right under the editing pane.

BC
 

infradead

Moderator
have you looked into the east coast vs. west coast synth design and the ideas behind it?

fascinating stuff for sound design

moog vs. buchla or serge

Grant Richter of WIARD has a great brake down of it here
East Coast vs West Coast -

carbon11 has explains it pretty well in his Serge Creature manual on page 10
http://www.carbon111.com/serge/creature_manual.pdf

---------- Post added at 11:55 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:55 AM ----------

have you looked into the east coast vs. west coast synth design and the ideas behind it?

fascinating stuff for sound design

moog vs. buchla or serge

Grant Richter of WIARD has a great brake down of it here
East Coast vs West Coast -

carbon11 has explains it pretty well in his Serge Creature manual on page 10
http://www.carbon111.com/serge/creature_manual.pdf
 
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