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The Synthesizer : A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Programming, Playing, and Recording the Ultimate Electronic Music Instrument - Mark Vail

The Synthesizer

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Programming, Playing, and Recording the Ultimate Electronic Music Instrument

By: Mark Vail


Published: 27th February 2014
RRP $46.95
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Electronic music instruments weren't called synthesizers until the 1950s, but their lineage began in 1919 with Russian inventor Lev Sergeyevich Termen's development of the Etherphone, what we now know of as the Theremin. The past century has seen remarkable developments in synthesizers, documented in the first chapter of this book by a historical look at the most important instruments and how they advanced methods of a musician's control, of sound generation, of improved capabilities for live performance, of interfaces that improved the musician's interaction with the instrument, and of groundbreaking ways to compose music. Chapter two covers the basics of acoustics and synthesis, including descriptions of individual synthesizer components and how they affect the generation of sound and the production of music. Today's synthesizer industry covers a vast range of devices, from affordable to expensive workstations, from analog to digital to hybrid forms of sound generation, from the expanding universe of software instruments to the vigorously revived world of modular synthesizers, from state-of-the-art all-digital instruments to those that function directly with analog machines of the past, and from synthesizers and controllers sporting traditional interfaces such as the organ- or piano-style keyboard to those that appeal to musicians in search of novel approaches to making music. Chapter three addresses many of the valuable considerations to make when shopping for synthesizers. The final two chapters outline strategies noted and successful synthesists use to program, compose and perform with, and record the ultimate electronic music instrument.

"Synthesizers are wonderful musical instruments that cover a very wide range of implementations and uses. Mark Vail's The Synthesizer is a must-read for anyone who has interest in learning about these engineering marvels. It is a great introduction if you are new to synths, but also very informative and up-to-date for the seasoned synth player." --Dave Smith, Dave Smith Instruments
"A hugely detailed, exhaustively researched and splendidly idiosyncratic work which nails its extensive subject matter. Mark Vail enthusiastically charts the development of the synthesizer from the Trautonium to the latest software instruments, and also gives us valuable insights and tips from leading electronic composers, including legendary synth pioneer Wendy Carlos." --Dave Stewart, Keyboardist
"In the past few decades, the synthesizer has finally come of age. Mark Vail's extensive work documents this journey from its austere and rarified beginnings to its present technologically sophisticated state. His well-illustrated book is filled with anecdotes and insights, amazing successes and ridiculous flops, expert advice on how to roll your own, lots of commentary on artists, their gear and their methodology, and finally, a guide to recording and
disseminating your own musical masterpieces. Stash this volume where it's easy to get to; you'll be using it a lot." --Don Buchla, Composer and Instrument Designer, Berkeley, California
"Mark Vail is the best explainer and historian of music synthesizers that I know. I highly recommend this book, which is a whole lot of fun to read." --Roger Linn
"If it has anything to do with synthesis or processing synthetic sounds, it's in here!" -- Tape Op Magazine

Foreword by Michelle Moog-Koussa
About the Companion Website

1. Trendsetting All-Stars

2. Acoustics & Synthesis Basics
Real-World Acoustics
Types of Synthesis
Audio Sources: Oscillators, Noise, & More
VCAs, Envelopes, & LFOs
Envelope Followers & Pitch-to-Voltage Converters
EQs & Filter Banks
Analog Sequencers
Analog Delay
Digital Delay
Other Effects

3. Choosing Your Synthesizer(s)
What's Your Budget?
Musical Tastes & Goals
Hardware vs. Software
Portability & Power
Programmability: Pros & Cons
As Others Have Done
Modular Synthesizers in the 21st Century
An Overview
Modular Synth Shopping
More on Eurorack Modular
More on FracRak Modular
More on Serge Modular
Convincing Analog & MIDI Synths to Coexist
MIDI-to-CV Conversion
CV-to-MIDI Conversion
Synths & Controllers with Keyboards
Alternative Controllers
Wind Controllers
Touch Controllers
Hand-Held Controllers
Struck Controllers
Controllers for Microtonal Tunings

4. Composition, Programming, & Performance Techniques
Scoring to Picture
Composing for Living Art
Following Through on a Thought
Sage Advice from a Master
Scoring with Intent, Even When Intimidated
Patching, a.k.a. Programming
Encouraging Synthesists' Creativity
When & How to Experiment with Sounds
The Good & Bad of Non-Programmability
Programming for Progress
Fun with Modular Synths
Layering Synth Sounds
Programming for Expression
Tools of the Trade
Dependence on the Tried & True, but Moving Forward
Modular Apparitions
Defying the Dependence on Visuals

5. Recording the Synthesizer
As It Was & How It's Become for the Switched-On Innovator
Serial vs. Random-Access Media
Strategies for Recording Film & TV Scores
Harnessing the Power of Modular Synths with Ableton Live
Automated Mixing
Outboard Processing: Preparing Audio for Recording
Recording Direct & Expanding for Surround-Sound

Appendix: Selected Bibliography, Museums & Films, Manufacturers, Blogs, Dealers & Stores


ISBN: 9780195394894
ISBN-10: 0195394895
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 432
Published: 27th February 2014
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 28.1 x 21.7  x 2.8
Weight (kg): 0.92