Computer-Music.com contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music. Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com

Computer-Music.com  contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music.
Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com



 

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MIDI Synthesizers

Synthesizers are devices that electronically synthesize sound. In our case we are synthesizing music but it could just as easily be a dog barking or an explosion that is triggered by our incoming MIDI data. There are several varieties of synthesizers based on the technology they use to imitate musical instruments. The most common synthesizer today is some form of sampling synthesizer. In my last article I talked about digital audio and samples being measurements of sound pressure at a moment in time which are strung together to make a graph of sound pressure over time so a digital signal processor can use these measurements to reconstruct an audio waveform. This means digital audio is sound broken down into numbers and then numbers used to reconstruct the original sound. Just like a sequencer can change the MIDI data before sending to the synthesizer, the digital audio numbers can be changed by digital audio editing software so that the sound you play back is different than the sound that was recorded. Sampling synthesizers use that ability to take a recording of a few notes from an instrument and figure out what the non-recorded notes should sound like. Not only does a Sampling Synthesizer, commonly called a Sampler, use numbers representing samples of sound pressure and string them together to make whole sounds; it also takes small samples of whole sounds from musical instruments (or anything else) and uses them to make up all the notes of those instruments. The mid priced sampling type synthesizers don't have the ability to record samples, only to manipulate them and play them back. These devices must get the samples from a CD-ROM, floppy or hard disk. The least expensive sampling type synthesizers can not record samples and can not receive new samples from the outside at all and must rely on whatever samples are permanently encoded in their limited sample ROM. There are synthesizers even simpler than this that rely on single cycle wave forms and put them together in formulas to try to imitate real instrument sounds. The waves are organized in the form of a table and the table is referred to when the synthesizer is told which formula to use to make a particular sound. The are true Wave Table Synthesizers. The earliest sound cards trying to sound better than FM synthesis used wave table synthesis and this quickly become a multimedia marketing buzz word so when the better Sample Based Synthesizers came along they were forced to declare themselves "Wave Table" synthesizers to avoid being thought inferior by the synthetically-challenged general public. Today nearly all decent sounding sound cards or synthesizers are actually based on sampling synthesis but if they are found in a product for a personal computer they are probably referred to as Wave Table synthesizers. Some manufacturers have tried to shrug off that name by simply calling them Wave Synthesizers. Since ALL synthesizers generate sound waves they are certainly not lying.

MIDI synthesizers are simply synthesizers that play music in response to incoming MIDI data and can also often save their present settings by sending them as MIDI data to a sequencer for safe keeping. At our last stop the train unloads its cargo of MIDI messages into the MIDI Synthesizer and musical notes are generated. In order to hear these sounds you will have to hook up an amplifier and speakers to your MIDI synthesizer but remember what I said about only following one type of signal at a time? The sound generated by your MIDI Synthesizer is not MIDI data. It is audio data just like what comes out of your home stereo system. Unlike what comes out of your home stereo system MIDI triggered, synthesized music is not carefully controlled to avoid destroying your amplifier and speakers so you should use caution when working with synthesizers to protect your equipment and your hearing. A MIDI synthesizer is often found as part of your MIDI controller keyboard and vice versa just as I said that a sequencer also sometimes found in a keyboard/synthesizer so you should not assume that the three stations our MIDI train used means you necessarily need three separate pieces of equipment.

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