Yamaha describes FM Synthesis like stepping on a cat’s tail


I love looking through old (i.e. 1980s) synthesizer and keyboard manuals. I am sure no matter how excited Yamaha’s employees are about a particular model, they must get a bit bored sometimes when writing manuals. The cure? Inject some humour into the proceedings.

Take the mid-1980s B200 digital synthesizer. This pretty detailed manual includes an appendix which explains FM Synthesis, which lies at the core of the machine.

First off, it tries to educate the reader on “interesting sounds versus boring sounds”, suggesting that the early bleeps and buzzes of electronic music is simple to create but boring for a human to listen to (I think some might disagree, but each to their own). It then explains the FM Synthesis as “an easy yet powerful way to create the complex sounds that make real instruments sound so good.”

Then we come to the explanation of vibrato:

“You can probably guess that the greater the modulation, the more complex the resulting sound will be. (The harder you step on a cat’s tail, the louder it complains!)”

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Well, what do you think of that? More importantly, were any cats harmed in the creation of this manual?

Yamaha B200 Cat Tail

If you’re interested, you can download the entire manual in two parts here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).