What is a synthesiser? 1


A selection of definitions from the web on what a synthesiser (synthesizer) is:

  • An electronic instrument often played with a keyboard and producing complex sounds, such as those of various other instruments.
  • An electronic musical instrument which produces audio signal either by the direct manipulation of an electrical signal (“analog”) or by using mathematical functions to alter a stream of numbers (“digital”).
  • A musical instrument that can generate audio WAVEFORMS electronically and modulate them to create new audio waveforms.
  • A musical instrument that generates sound electronically and is designed according to certain principles developed by Robert Moog and others in the 1960s. A synthesizer is distinguished from an electronic piano or electronic organ by the fact that its sounds can be programmed by the user, and from a sampler by the fact that the sampler allows the user to make digital recordings of external sound sources.
  • Electronic instrument that produces a wide variety of sounds by combining sound generators and sound modifiers in one package with a unified control system.
  • An electronic music device that allows the control of the pitch, timing and tone of one or more signals.
  • An electronic apparatus with a keyboard capable of duplicating the sounds of many musical instruments, popular among Post-Modernist composers and musicians.
  • An electronic device that can generate and modify sounds electronically as in “synthesizer programming” in music (as used by the group Emerson, Lake, and Palmer).
  • A synthesizer (spelling var. synthesiser) is an electronic musical instrument designed to produce artificially generated sound, using techniques such as additive, subtractive, FM, physical modelling synthesis, or phase modulation to create sounds.

History and Introduction to Synthesizers

These resources are useful as a starting point for history and information about synthesizers:

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One thought on “What is a synthesiser?

  • Sheryl Jones

    As a kid, I listened to a recording of Christmas music that was no vocals, just synthesizer. My dad’s friend recorded many of the tunes as ‘filler’ after a Glen Campbell Christmas album – on a reel-to-reel tape.

    The one tune I can totally recall (this was in the 60s) is Good King Winceslas – which reminded me of the sound a caterpiller might make crawling along…remember–i was a kid!!

    Any thought about what recording that could have been?! I’d love to get my hands on a version of it, but have no clue where to start–and sadly, both men are no longer with us.

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