237 – Synthesizers
Guest: Rutger Vlek Host: Markus Voelter Shownoter: Jochen Spalding
Late 2016, during a trip to the Netherlands, I visted Rutger Vlek of River Creative Technology in his home studio to record an episode about synthesizers. We talked about the basics of sound generation, various enveloping and filtering techniques, sound design, the different fundamental approaches of sound synthesis, as well as a couple of classic synths. Rutger illustrated lots of approaches with samples from some of his many synthesizers.
Introduction of the Guest00:02:27
Rutger Vlek | River Creative Technology | Rutgers Band | Sony Aibo | University of Groningen | Tinnitus | Dynamic range compression | Noise gate
Not gonna solve Tinnitus today, let's talk about synthesizers!00:10:54
Low-pass filter | Frequency | Decibel | Pitch (music) | Fundamental frequency | Timbre | Sine wave | Equal-loudness contour | Sound Envelopes | Pitch contour | Spectral density | Shepard tone | Shepard tone example | Dream Theater | Electronic oscillator | Nord Modular G2 | Triangle wave | Sawtooth wave | Square wave | Low-frequency oscillation | Robert Moog | Voltage controller | Envelope generator | Voltage-controlled amplifier | Voltage-controlled oscillator | Crystal radio | Voice stealing | Beat Frequency | Amstrad CPC | Dubstep | Voltage-controlled filter | Don Buchla | Band-pass filter (Video: Psychedelic jam session - KORG ms-20, TR-8, analog four, line6, volca - (BURG - The saucer people)) | Zener diode | Vacuum tube
Sounddesign & Input devices01:19:30
Yamaha DX7 (Video: Modular Synths - Benge explains creating a sequence on a modular syntheziser) | Roland | Hammond organ | Music sequencer | Convolution | Vocoder | Pitch wheel | Haken Continuum | Linnstument (Aftertouch - Keyboard expression) | Theremin
(Daft Punk - Around The World | Britney Spears - Toxic | Jean Michel Jarre - Equinoxe 5 | Bodyrox - Yeah Yeah) | VC Slew Limiter | Neal Morse discography | MiniMoog | Switched-On Bach | Nucleus demo | River Creative Technology Nucleus | River Creative Technology Crux | River Creative Technology Ocean | Dieter Döpfer | Phillips Synthesizer | Doppler effect | Mellotron | Polyphonics | Roland Jupiter-8 | Oberheim Electronics | Yamaha CS-80 (Van Halen - Jump | Harold Faltermeyer - Opening Theme (Top Gun)) | Tonewheel | Leslie speaker
A truly great podcast with its mix of artistic understanding and technical explanation. One artist I would have added to the discussion is Isao Tomita who was doing extraordinary interpretations of classical music using early Moog synths. I was interested in synthesizers since the 70s and built one from Elektor magazine in about 1980 (though I’m not really a player). I feel it is worthwhile for synth players to understand better how they work and what they can do to alter the sounds generated.
At the beginning of the Show you were looking for the right word, for driving an amplifier in saturation. Thats called “clipping” and occurs when the Output Signal is equal to the supply voltage. On an osci this would look like an increase of sinus-shaped amplitude up to DC.
@David Woods: indeed, Tomita is too easily forgotten in the Western perspective on electronic music. As is Susumu Hirasawa by the way. Love his “logic airforce”!
There’s a documentary called I Dream of Wires that covers invention of synthesizers both east coast vs west coast. It’s awesome.
Thx! Do you happen to have a link?
This is one of my favourite episodes ever. I’ve messed around with synthesis before using the Reason software package from Propellerhead. There are a lot of buzzwords that I was familiar with from Reason, such as wavetable synthesis but I always thought they were just a Reason branding thing. Now I see that Reason has actually given a huge nod towards the history of electronic music and I understand things that before I only had passing familiarity with. Excellent episode. Great job!
I steamed about 9 months ago but can’t find that link now on Netflix or Amazon.
Absolute fantastic episode!!! Good job, Rutger and Markus!
I really liked this episode! Nice audible examples and a good intro to the different facets of synthesizers. I like when you reproduce known sounds / samples with your equipment – it feels like a “making of” of music and sounds which I always took for granted and never questioned the creation of that exact sound. I would like to hear more of those deconstruction / construction of popular sounds, but I think I may find some videos on youtube on that topic (if not – that would be an interesting show!).
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These podcasts continue to astound me with their quality. I just loved the interaction between interviewer and interviewee, and the exploration of the boundary between science, technology and art. (Not that I’m recommending a permanent deviation from your usual technical focus. It’s all good.) Thank you so much!
I discovered and re-discovered this podcast because of all the aviation related stuff, which is always incredibly interesting.
But so far this must have been the most fascinating issue. Great topic, amazing guest, very good questions, it’s as good as a podcast can get.
Thank you guys so much for taking the time and effort to record it! :)
Thanks Yurgon :) I have forwarded your comment to Rutger.
Hi Markus, this episode was truely superb. I’m a bit of a synth nerd myself and I feel you and Rutger managed to squeeze in pretty much all the relevant basics on the topic and more than once Rutger added some background to stuff I sort of already knew. It doesn’t get a lot better than this in podcastland and I’ll make sure to promote your podcast and this episode in particular wherever I go online.
Thanks Michael :-)
Wow, I’m deeply grateful for all your wonderful comments!
Can you please do this episode again and dive into every little aspect once more, but for two hours each? I _love_ this episode. It’s a unique mix of technical depth, musical insights (where I lack quite a bit), and great examples.
I have been an avid listener to OmegaTau for a while, but this is clearly a major highlight. Thank you very much!
Thanks Steffen :-))
First: Your podcasts are great, keep it going. I just had the same feeling you had at 2:29:25 (“I’ve heard that before”) when Rutger played the 60’s organ. Check out The Doors – When the music’s over ;)
Maybe these videos about Modular Synthesis are of some interest for listeners as well.
Maybe of Interesse
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This is absolutely my favorite episode so far! I put away the headphones and waited until I was home to listen through my home system (home-build class A tube amp driving a pair of Polk 10s) The recording quality was truly excellent, and well worth playing through a good system. I had forgotten my old love of synthesizers. I built a couple when I was young, the first one just had a separate oscillator for key on a one-octave keyboard, then replaced with a top octave chip when those became available. Then I got distracted by computers and forgot about synths (until now!)
Anyway, a wonderful pix of technology and art, and I’m now inspired to look up some of the music you mention in the episode.
Greatly enjoyed this podcast. I have always been interested in this topic, and as usual Markus finds the right guest and goes into the detail I was hoping for.
I’ve done some web searching for a similar analysis of guitar sounds, but have come up empty. Can you suggest any?
This may be old news for people familiar with the topic, but I am having big fun playing with the concepts mentioned in this episode using an Open Source “virtual modular synthesizer”: https://vcvrack.com/
It you are on a Mac, installation is as simple as `brew cask install vcv-rack`.
Spitzenepisode! Jetzt ist meine alte Liebe zu Synthies wieder aufgeflammt, und ich überlege ernsthaft, mir einen Korg Minilogue anzuschaffen!