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What is Music Production? – Part 5 – Synthesis

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

Composition, A Putting Together

Modular Synthesizer
Modular Synthesizer

So far in this on-going series of articles on music production, we have learned about the roles and goals professionals play in music production, about digital audio workstations, the studio as an instrument, and microphone basics. In this installment of this series of posts on music production, we be introduced to musical sound, sound waves, and synthesis, as well as some examples of early musical synthesizers.

What Is Sound?

In physics, Sound is a vibration propagates as a longitudinal wave (or pressure wave) through a medium such as a gas, liquid, or solid (the air).

In physiology and psychology, sound is the reception of these waves by the ear and perception of them by the brain.

For practical purposes, when any object vibrates, it causes movement in the air particles. These particles bump into the particles close to them, which makes them vibrate too causing them to bump into more air particles. This movement, called sound waves, keeps going until they run out of energy. Even inaudible sounds can effect us. This is why you can feel bass sounds.

Sounds can be audible or inaudible to us, meaning within or outside of the human hearing range which is 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Sounds under 20 Hz are infrasonic and sounds over 20,000 HZ are ultrasonic. The average person can hear sounds down to about 0 dB about that of rustling leaves. Some people with very exceptionally good hearing can hear sounds down to -15 dB. If a sound reaches 85 dB or stronger, it may permanently damage to your hearing, especially after prolonged exposure. The amount of time you listen to a sound affects how much damage it will cause.

Multi-color Patch Cables
Multi-color Patch Cables

The word "synthesis" comes from the Greek word, synthesis, meaning a "composition, a putting together." In electronic music, synthesis is the process of creating sounds using synthesizers. A synthesizer (or synth) is an instrument that creates sounds via electronic signals and amplifies them with loudspeakers. Many, but not all, have musical keyboard like a piano. Others control devices include ribbon controllers, trackpads, patch cables, dials and knobs, etc. Synthesizers are unique when compared to conventional musical instruments, as their capabilities encompass sounds far beyond the range and versatility of conventional musical instruments.

An assortment of synthesizers

What Is a Sound Wave?

As mentioned above, sound waves are longitudinal waves that travel through a medium, like air or water. When we think about sound from a musical perspective, we often consider about how loud it is (dynamics) and what musical pitches we hear (notes). From the perspective of science dynamics are expressed through a wave's amplitude and is measur