Friday, April 27, 2012

The Problem with Partials

It would seem that with my new collection of additive synths I would go down a road before and start delving into how partials effect timbre. I guess at some level this appeals to the geeky mathematician in me. But I also concluded a long time ago that pattials where really not that important unless we speak in broader terms of shape. In fact, this is why Blade and Razor will be more successful than Cube because they focus on broader shapes of partials than the individual partials themselves.

I have a knob on my Moog Voyager for waveform and you would think that by moving the knob one would hear dramatic differences in sound. Guess again. You can hear a change but not nearly as dramatic as sweeping a filter.

I did another experiment last night on looking at the 1st twenty odd partials and the 1st twenty odd partials with only the primes. I could barely discern a difference.

I am going to make a statement that some in the world of psychoacoustics would shudder at. That what happens in the frequency domain (partials) is co- dependent with what happens in the time domain.

Let me clarify before I seem to geeky. What we hear and respond to musically is change and not just in notes but timbre. By sweeping a filter over a waveform we can experience the waveform in a way we can just by listening to it. I also suggest that where partials do matter is in broad shapes. For example, creating peaks in partials will create formants which firm the basis of all the vowels in language.

Our brains are also hard wired to hear partials. In some sense our brains are powerful spectrum analysis tools but I suggest the brain follows movement. The same is true visually. If we are standing in an otherwise motionless environment our brains will sense motion even on the periphery.

I suggest to you that the new additions to the additive world would not be very interesting if they were only about partials as much as modulating them. Both Blade and Razor do this in there own way.

I think at least the partial motivation for these synths is Dubstep. Why is Dubstep popular? One reason - Wob Wob Wob. Modulation and that is where it's at. Not that I am a Dubstep fan but it's a useful illustration.

1 comment:

Mark Van Hoogstraten said...

True, and i discovered there are a lot more appealing sounds, other than wopwop, can be created using additive synthesis. My favorite vst-instrument for this is Morphine.

I find most younger musicians tend to go for the extreme when doing sounddesign. They like the rudeness like a lot of overtones, distortion, loudness or rhytmicly gated volume.

I did too, some 20 odd years ago, by for instance listening to sped up tapes and such. ;-) Using the double-speed copy of my trusty double tapedeck.

Nowadays i'm much calmer and i tend to look for the interesting sounds that linger between static or warm electronic, and the sounds from acoustic instruments.

Thanks for sharing those thoughts of you :-) very interesting.