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Synthesisers

The Synthesiser, or "synth", is a comparatively new instrument and is most often refers to a keyboard instrument where the sounds are generated solely from electronics. Today this usually means sounds that are stored or "sampled" in an instrument's "memory" and played on demand from the keyboard ... quite often changing tonal characteristics via dynamics and/or other controllers, such as modulation and pitch bend. However, many synths include the ability to modify the sounds and/or to create entirely new sounds through the control of filters, oscillators and envelopes (sometimes called ADSR ... Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release ... allowing changes to the sound over time from first striking a note, holding the note down and then releasing it).

Synthesised music, while relatively young, has a very rich history of innovation which began in the late 19th century when the first "electric" instruments were developed as a consequence of discovering the characteristics of the electromagnetic oscillator. Oscillators produced pure sine waves that could be set to any frequency ... including musical notes of course. All that was required to create a new instrument was the ability to change frequencies as required. One of the earliest instruments was the Theremin which allowed a skillful user to change pitch and dynamics moving their hands near.

With more oscillators you can theoretically add various harmonics to emulate many natural acoustic instrument tones. This is known as addittive synthsesis and was the basis of the earliest electronic synthesisers such as the Moog.

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