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, now known as the Theremin. From that point, synthesizers have undergone a remarkable evolution from prohibitively large mid-century models confined to university laboratories to the development of musical synthesis software that runs on tablet computers and portable media devices.
Throughout its history, the synthesizer has always been at the forefront of technology for the arts. In The Synthesizer: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Programming, Playing, and Recording the Ultimate Electronic Music Instrument, veteran music technology journalist, educator, and performer Mark Vail tells the complete story of the synthesizer: the origins of the many forms the instrument takes; crucial advancements in sound generation, musical control, and composition made with instruments that may have become best sellers or gone entirely unnoticed; and the basics and intricacies of acoustics and synthesized sound. Vail also describes how to successfully select, program, and play a synthesizer; what alternative controllers exist for creating electronic music; and how to stay focused and productive when faced with a room full of instruments. This one-stop reference guide on all things synthesizer also offers tips on encouraging creativity, layering sounds, performance, composing and recording for film and television, and much more.
Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication:
27 February 2014
Professional and scholarly
Foreword by Michelle Moog-Koussa ; Preface ; 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 ; Filters ; EQs & Filter Banks ; Analog Sequencers ; Arpeggiators ; Reverb ; Analog Delay ; Digital Delay ; Loopers ; Other Effects ; 3. Choosing Your Synthesizer(s) ; What's Your Budget? ; Musical Tastes & Goals ; Hardware vs. Software ; Portability & Power ; Programmability: Pros & Cons ; Expandability ; As Others Have Done ; Perspective ; Modular Synthesizers in the 21st Century ; An Overview ; Modular Synth Shopping ; More on Eurorack Modular ; More on FracRak Modular ; More on Serge Modular ; Connectivity ; Convincing Analog & MIDI Synths to Coexist ; MIDI-to-CV Conversion ; CV-to-MIDI Conversion ; Controllers ; Synths & Controllers with Keyboards ; Alternative Controllers ; Wind Controllers ; Touch Controllers ; Hand-Held Controllers ; Struck Controllers ; Controllers for Microtonal Tunings ; 4. Composition, Programming, & Performance Techniques ; Composition ; 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 ; Performance ; 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 ; Index
Building on his life-long interest in music, Mark Vail discovered synthesizers in 1973 and bought his first in 1976. After earning an MFA in electronic music in 1983, he served on the editorial staff at Keyboard magazine from 1988 to 2001. The author of Vintage Synthesizers and The Hammond Organ: Beauty in the B, Mark is internationally acknowledged as a foremost authority on synthesizers.
Reviews for The Synthesizer: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Programming, Playing, and Recording the Ultimate Electronic Music Instrument
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, Roger Linn Design * 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 its easy to get to; you'll be using it a lot. * Don Buchla, Composer and Instrument Designer, Berkeley, California * 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 * Synthesizers are wonderful musical instruments that cover a very wide range of implementations and uses. Mark Vails 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 *