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How to Learn to Program Any Synthesizer in a Few Seconds

May 08, 2017 2 min read

How to Learn to Program Any Synthesizer in a Few Seconds


You have just been admitted to the prestigious "Synth Programmer in Seconds" program. This college-level course consists of two fundamental steps:
  1. Learning the three pillars of synthesizer architecture 
  2. Learning to find the pillars on any synthesizer 

The three pillars of synthesizer architecture

Any synth is made up of the following things:
  1. Sound source: read oscillators or wavetables. They make the basic sound. There are usually two or three but with technology and software, some have an almost infinite number. You won't need that much. Just combine a few and find a tone you like. 
  2. Modifiers: read filters and effects. They alter the sound of our basic sources. Turn knobs, press buttons and hear the effects on the sound sources. 
  3. Controllers: read LFOs and envelopes. They alter the shape of the modifiers over time (volume, filter and effects). A simple example would be the infamous dubstep "wobble", where you automate the turning of the filter knob, using an internal parameter of the synth (those dreaded LFOs and envelopes). 
"Create sound > Alter its sonic qualities > Automate the sonic alterations"

That's all a synthesizer really does! I know a lot of synth manufacturers like to create complex-sounding technologies, but that's just marketing tactics. Fear no more.

Just learn to find these three basic components and you will be able to manoeuvre your way around any hardware and software synth. The rest is just more subtle ways to achieve the basic formula highlighted in bold.


Fire those presets away!


P.S. This oversimplification will sound like synth heresy to some. I care not. The keepers of the grail always hid the truth behind parables and metaphors. Heads up: the truth is always staring you in the eye. The grail was always inside of you to begin with.

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