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Alex 2004-01-05 23:42

Reproducing an instrument
We've been assigned a task at college to re-produce any instrument from
scratch by learning to use Reason 2.5. I've never used the program
before, so I'm just playing about with the module that creates the different
waves, with filters + envelope generators etc.

I've been messing around with it for ages and the best i can come up with is
a woodey glochenspiel sort of sound which sounds OK within about 1 octave.

Has anyone had any experience with this sort of synthesis or know how I can
produce a more realistic + recogniseable instrument???


leroybr0wn 2004-01-06 03:20

Re: Reproducing an instrument
Here is one resource:

Here is a good article:

********* * SOUND CREATION * *********

by Brian Cowell. Copyright 1998 by Brian Cowell. All rights reserved.


Class ID: 06 *SPECIAL* - "Sound Creation"

I thought that after 5 installments of the classes that we would take
a little 'time out' to have a look at what goes into actually creating
a sound. This is probably the greatest and largest field that anyone
trying to get into some synth programming has to contend with.

And although the majority of users have the knowledge and know how of
all of synth functions, it's the actual next step of trying to put an
idea from the head to the synth which creates the most pain for a lot
of people.

So I'll remove a bit of this 'programming FOG' and let a bit of sanity
take control of people's minds for a while. And the best thing about
what I'm going to tell you is that it will apply to all your synths
and not just to your Kurzweil.

So here we go...(make sure you are wearing Welding masks! Sparks will
start flying.) :)

A majority of sounds that most people want to program come from
hearing sounds from other sources, such as other synths or CDs.

Well, that's OK! Ask them to describe the sound, and they will say
something like "Its an organ, stringy, synthy type of sound..."

They've just described half the sounds in the world! And this is a
stumbling block.

So the first thing we must do is apply COWZAR's rule no.1.


Do not listen to the 'tone' of the sound. Listen to what the sound is
actually doing.

Confused by what I said?

Well, when you listen to the 'tone' of the sound, you end up with that
earlier description of a sound ("Its an organ,stringy, synthy type of

You've got no chance of reproducing this. The sound could be made up
of a few sounds layered on top of each other. And while you're
spending all your time trying to replicate the 'tones', your
enthusiasum slowly dwindles away.

OK! This is the starting point. Listen to the sound.

a.) Is the sound dull or bright? Does it start off bright, then become
duller? Or vice-versa?

b.) Does the sound start off quiet and become loud? What
characteristics are there in the volume of the sound?

c.) Is the pitch of the sound moving at all? Is the pitch

d.) Is there an effect at work here? Is it bouncing around in delay
lines, etc.?

Does all this sound basic?

Well, it is! :)

This is what you do when you program a 'digital' instrument.

You manipulate either the FILTER, VOLUME, PITCH, and maybe an EFFECT.
That's it!

But there are hundreds of ways to manipulate each of these.

Lets go back to a, b, c, and d:

a.) This is refering to the FILTER. FILTERs can be bright, airy,
rezzy, dull, etc. Maybe there is something making the sound go
dull/bright. Basically, this helps to understand what filter you will
use and whether there will be another component in an LFO or
another envelope, etc.

b.) This refers to the VOLUME. We call them either ADSRs, AMPENV, etc.
And we can decide whether the sound is in VOLUME terms, PIANOish,
BRASSish, STRINGY, PERCUSSIVE, etc. Maybe the sound's volume is also
being manipulated by another outside source such as a LFO, etc.

c.) This refers to the PITCH. Is there 'vibrato' or 'tremolo' on the
sound? Or maybe it just sweeps up/down? PITCH is usually manipulated
by things like an LFO and an envelope. And even by the VOLUME's

d.) This refers to the EFFECT being used (possibly). Sometimes, a
sound is pumped through an EFFECT to change the sound completely. Some
are obvious, some are not. All synths have very definitive EFFECTs;
for example one ENSONIQ effect--'CHATTERBOX'--causes the sound to take
on human vocal qualities.

In computer programming, the process of creating a program is broken
down into modules. The modules are then re-assembled to form the final
product. If you don't start breaking synth programming into smaller
components, then your final product may not be what you're after.
Sometimes, you may come across something you like.


Understand what you're trying to emulate or create. Is the sound of an
instrument, synth, or a special effect?

I tell people trying to emulate old 'analog' sounds to go and search
out sites on the internet and to find out as much as possible about
what they trying to emulate. That way, they don't over-complicate the
sound programming process. Because everything that is basically on an
'analog' machine can be very easily duplicated on a 'digital' machine.
The problem with 'digital' machines is that they have so much
flexibilty, which seduces the would be programmer to use something
they probably shouldn't.


Know what tools you have available to use. Know what you've got on
board your synth. Do you know the filters well enough to apply them?
Do you know what controllers do what?

This sounds hard reading it if you don't know what the filters do.
What I suggest you do is go through the sounds you've got and see what
filters are being used. There's a 99% chance that a filter has been
used in a way that is similar (but not exactly) to what you're looking

Knowing about the controllers can help you improve your programming
greatly. You've got software controllers...LFOs, ENVELOPES, etc.
You've got hardware controllers...DATA sliders, RIBBON, ModWheels,

What differs greatly from SYNTH to SYNTH is basically how these
controllers are applied. Sometimes, the controller you want to use in
a particular part of the process may not be allowed in the SYNTH that
you're programming.

For example, I've tried to emulate some sounds that I've created on my
Kurzweil K2000 on a WAVESTATION. Unfortunately, the WAVESTATION
doesn't let you modulate the PITCH with its AMP setting (AMPENV on a
Kurzweil). So the answer is to duplicate the AMP by using the
WAVESTATION's extra ENVELOPE called ENV1, which I use instead. And I
was *very* lucky that the sound didn't require another envelope!

This is what I mean by understanding what tools are available.

The basis of trying to reconstruct something is to understand its
building blocks.

If things become complicated a bit, grab a piece of paper and draw a
rough graph. Then with different colored pens, try and draw it. That's
right! Try to draw the VOLUME rising/falling on a graph. Then use a
different color and try and draw what is happening to the FILTER over
that time. Then do the PITCH.

It may seem a little childish, but these will just be 'notes' for when
you will actually get behind the keyboard and start programming.

I'll leave PANNING and TONES for another time.

Hope this has helped in some small way with your programming. If it
has, then it was worth my writing! :)


Vintage Drum Machine Sample CD - Over 20 top DM's

paulmack 2004-01-06 13:39

Re: Reproducing an instrument
Here is some good info for you too!
Sound on Sound magazine - Synth Secrets

adfielding 2004-01-06 15:51

Re: Reproducing an instrument
:We've been assigned a task at college to re-produce any instrument from
:scratch by learning to use Reason 2.5. I've never used the program
:before, so I'm just playing about with the module that creates the different
:waves, with filters + envelope generators etc.

Hmm, that's a pretty vague assignment. Was the assignment to specifically only use synthesis to reproduce these sounds? If not, you could sample an instrument yourself, which would give a much better representation of the real thing than using the Malstrom or Subtractor.

Just a thought :)

aiwatuni 2004-01-06 22:10

Re: Reproducing an instrument
hi, thanks - the article was helpful, I guess I really just need to spend lots of play time messing around with it!

We are supposed to make the sound from scratch tho - we cant sample an instrument I'm afraid!

Thanks for the input!


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