Introduction to Synthesis: Oscillation

Jack Vaughan
A free video tutorial from Jack Vaughan
Composer, Producer and Teacher | LeanMusician.com
4.7 instructor rating • 2 courses • 5,886 students

Lecture description

In part 1 of the introduction to synthesis in Logic Pro we look at Oscillation - the fundamental building block of any instrument, drum kit or synthesiser. 

Learn more from the full course

The Ultimate Guide to Logic Pro X Instrument Plugins & VSTs

Understand & master all of LPX instrument plugins and build any sound you want into your music production & sound design

12:34:26 of on-demand video • Updated September 2020

  • Understand and use every single button, dial and fader in every single Logic Pro X instrument.
  • Understand the core concepts of synthesis.
  • Edit and understand any patch that you open up in a Logic Pro X VST.
  • How to create your own sampled instruments. Build your own drum kit from scratch.
  • Build your own extensive patches within logic with ease and know immediately how to emulate the sounds you hear in commercial music.
  • Master modulation, the key to dynamic and musical sounds that sit well in your mix.
  • Create endless variations and super interesting drum grooves.
  • Resample Sounds Copyright Free (make sure you get legal advice first!)
  • Understand advanced synthesis methods like: granular synthesis, additive synthesis, granular synthesis, spectral synthesis and formant.
English [Auto] So in this video I'm going to give you an overview of synthesis and sound production not just in regards to creating and using the instruments instead of Logic Pro but I know the principles which are universal and will hopefully give you some really cool thoughts and concepts about how to build your instruments in logic and in other scenarios. So what you see in front of you here is the logic template I've set up for this part of the course. The value of using this template is that you can follow along with everything that I cover in it and you can dive into the exact settings and tweak stuff because the main way that we're going to get better at learning how to do synthesis is by opening up patches. That is the instruments and their specific settings and messing around with them and trying to recreate stuff. So we're going to start from the bare bones level. So hopefully by now you know a little bit about how sound works. I assume you kind of know that basically sound is created in vibrations and waves. I'm not going to go deep into that sort of concept but basically it's really vital to understanding how instruments work and particularly synthesis. So what you do is I'm going to open up this folder here as I start talking. These are track stacks if you're not aware of them tracks that in logic are a way of us just organizing folders. You can either do it so that all of the sounds come through one fader or you can do it like a folder and I have it set up in a folder view. I can't go through exactly how to use them because it's not within the scope of this course but suffice it to say you just need to click on this little arrow here and open up each track stack. So under my first one here the synthesis overview we have the first instrument. These are all in order here and you'll see it's called Test oscillator. Now if you don't know about the test oscillator it's kind of an instrument within logic although it's you don't find it under your standard instrument so let's hear what you find it under is under utility. You have a number of things in here. Clip guys I think I could pronounce that well. Extel instrument which is where you control other instruments outside of your computer via a midi. And the test oscillator. Now the test oscillator is used by audio engineers to kind of calibrate speakers and such. And there's also other tasks. But what I'm going to do is I'm going to just play a simple tone and then we're going to talk about it. So we just get an muter And you'll notice that actually I'm not playing anything on the keyboard this is a constant tone that's just outputting from the instrument which is why I have it muted. I'm sure you've heard that sound before. And if you don't know the name it's called a sine wave. It's the simplest form of oscillation. So we all know that when we're listening to music waveforms are arriving at our ears and that when we're listening say a violin or baby crying or a window smashing the sound of that wave is different or the shape of that way is different. Hopefully you know that by now the simplest form of wave is the sine wave. And if we have a look at it here I'll just show you what a hundred thousand Hertz Sein-Way looks like. What we need to do is we need to open up this audio file. What I've done is I've rendered the test oscillator as an audio file and if I double click on it we see that we have a track the opening up of the audio waveform. Now this just looks like a long band right. If we have a little listen to make sure that I've got the right tracks on muted. Here we go. It's a little higher up than we had 500. If I zoom in a little bit you can zoom in using here. I've got a short cut that I use. Nothing's happening. And we're starting to see an isolation. Now here you can see the oscillation it's got these little ridges in it. But if I zoom out a little bit you'll see that kind of actually those ridges disappear a little bit and this is how I want you to think of the sine wave. It's a very very simple perfect waveform which just oscillates up down up down at a certain frequency and that's how the sine wave works. What you're seeing when we zoom in there is actually just the samples and the sample rate of all of this actually recording has to do with audio. You can ignore that. Just think about the shape. So if I close that a second and then we maybe go to the 80 Hertz sine wave and have a little listen to that much lower. So let's open up that waveform and do the same thing. So the waveforms here I mean I've zoomed in quite a bit and you be able to see the same thing the waveforms here are moving a lot slower and that's the reason why pitch changes is because we've got less cycles per second. So a thousand Hertz means that there are a thousand cycles per second and 80 Hertz means that there are 80 Hertz cycles per second and that sounds very different. You hear this one lower and then you hear this one time. OK. Now the waveform there was perfect and smooth as we were saying the test oscillator creates a number of different waveforms and the sine wave is this perfect sound. You can't create that sound in real life. It's it's a perfect kind of computerized version of oscillation. If we go down to this one here I have a little listen to it. A little harsh or isn't it. Right it's called a squarewave. And basically the clues in the title if we zoom in a little bit you'll see that the waveform looks very very different and zooming in on the wrong window here. Zoom in on this one. So we have the oscillation completely goes up in a very very sharp left here and then a very very sharp sharp drop there and that gives it a very very different tonal quality. What we start to get are different structures. So when I say different structures I mean different upper structures and this is a really really important point in sound production. So the fact that we've changed that initial wave gives us different upper partials. Now if you don't know what I'm on about just stay with me on explain. So what I grew up here is the channel E Q inside of logic and that's going to be listening to this 80 Hertz sine wave. Right. And it would be I've turned on the analyzer here which means that we all see where in the spectrum from low to high the sound is being most produced because it's a sine wave we'll just see one area B.S. that we have one tone which is around the sort of 75 80 mark here 80 cycles per second which is exactly what that is. Right. If we did the same thing on for example the test oscillator as you remember the test oscillator what we can do. I'm just going to initialize and EKG by double clicking here and I am oh we can hear what we can see. Actually it's picking up so late even though we've muted it. If we open up the test oscillator we can actually change the frequency so you can see here 500 500 turn the level down so we're not all dying in C I can move it all the way up the spectrum. That's fun. OK. So that's how the audio spectrum works. Now that was a bit of a tangent but the reason I did that is because if we look at this 500 Hertz squarewave right as opposed to a sine wave which creates or one part of the spectrum it's going to create a couple that's have a little lesson. Well more than a couple have a look at that. The very fact that we've changed the way form itself to be a different shape creates upper partials in relation to what's called the harmonic series. Don't worry about that if you've never heard of that before and it creates a different sound. So for example when you hear a violin or a cello for example let's have a look and a listen to this cello here. It's a very complex sound trite and if you change notes incredibly rich spectrum of different sounds we see it we have all of the low sounds and all of the high sounds and what we can do with channeling. Q If you've never done this before. If we play that again and we can put this loop on the high and then we're hearing this part of the spectrum really quietly. So the higher end we're just hearing low or we can see it we can also do the opposite of that alcohol and will get really tinny radio. Cello OK. So these two concepts the waveform which we had to look at here we zoom in again the square away form here and the spectrum as seen in the analyzer of logic. Q Are two really important concepts to mess around with whenever you're playing with instruments. So what I've done here is I've bounced the sound from the test oscillator and exported in audio and then put it back into this here hopefully you know how to use it. I'm sure you'll be able to find out on YouTube. I did a cello the other day and created the waveform so that we can have a look at them. This is the way that you'll actually look at the waveform and you'll be able to zoom into it. You can also get a little tool which I find really really useful if we initialize this tool. I've got it's free online. I'm just going to go into my list to or plug in a list. So what this is actually going to be listening to is the sound of the test oscillator. If I go and then hit play we can see that the oscilloscopes I can't pronounce it. The Zillo scope is actually visualizing this. And you can zoom in and you can see the waveforms of different things live. So that's that's another option linked to that in the notes of this video. But you can you can do that. So the principles that we've just learned here can then be used in our understanding of logic's virtual instruments. Now in this chapter we're not going to go into detail of the instruments that you'll see but I want you to think big picture 10000 feet over the principles so I don't know if not this one here which is the retro synth. And I'm going to just show you a couple of things. Now if you've never looked at this before probably like oh my god it looks so crazy. It's actually kind of straightforward once you understand the principles behind stuff. And that's the purpose of this course. I want you to look just at the left here what we have is an oscillator which is what we've been talking about here. An oscillator inside of a synthesizer is just a very very simple wave creation system you see in the oscillator of logic's Retros since we have two of them right. And you see these little icons are along the left. These are the types of waves. So you remember the 500 Hertz squarewave that we had in the side of the test oscillator you remember that we can change the actual type of sound that's coming out of this from things like sine wave. If we admit that to squarewave. And then also strange things like needle pulse and pink noise and white noise. Going to turn that off. So this is basically exactly the same thing going to turn off all of the other things in here and all of that off and we want to click on the instrument and let's make sure what we've got here is we've got a slider which is going between the two oscillators. I'm just going to use one of these oscillators and what we've got is fairly close to a simple square wave. Got loud. OK but we can change that here we're changing the way form very slightly you can see we're moving more towards that kind of shape. Listen to what the sound does. Or if we go to this one which is a sawtooth wave if we get to this one which I don't actually know the name of it just looks a bit more complex. Oh it's noise. That's it. So it's just white noise that so that is basically the creation of that instrument. So let's let's have a listen to those with the channel we cue up and see what happens. So you can see the sawtooth wave has sort of been less of a homiletics which is going almost into infinity. So that's what gives it its sound. And then if we change it to a squarewave that has a different sound but I want you to realize that the sound or the pitch that you're hearing is the fundamental tone here. The stuff above it gives it very very different quality. Now you know what we did earlier when we did this we pulled the cue's shelf in and took off the high end. Just going to get rid of that and I'm going to go over to here and I get a total mess and this is what. Another thing that happens quite often in sight of logic synthesizers is called a filter and it's doing very much the same thing as what we're doing there. So you see this here has a shelf and it's pulling off the high end. I'm just going to put it all way up to the top that we didn't hear it put it back. OK. And we're already creating a very very different sound. So hopefully those principles have landed a little bit and you're feeling a little bit more aware of how synthesizers are going to kind of unfold and how they work in regards to oscillation and filtering. Let's just briefly review by looking at another instrument and how we can create up a partial So let's go onto the greater isn't here which is the second one where it's called harmonics. And what I'm going to do is going to bring in the here again and we'll just explore how we can bring in those upper partials to change the sound. So here in this parish that you'll have you'll have exactly the settings here. Quote very very simple tone. But what we can do is we can add in this setting harmonics. Right. You see here just do it. FM synthesis will get into this later on. But he was cycling through but we're leaving behind the original tone. So you can have a play with that just to understand how harmonics work. And I would also Google the Harmonic Series in music and get some explanations about that. OK. So I'm just going to close these windows. So as I said innocent the size of the task of tone generation falls to a component called the oscillator in all synthesizers in Logic Pro. They have this oscillator the production of a fundamental tone with potentially rich overtones of it and the standard waveforms we've seen are the sign and square. We've also seen a sawtooth briefly and there's also a triangle and a pulse wave. Those are the standard waveforms that you'll find but there are also many others. So beyond that point is what makes each individual synthesizer so interesting sculpting that initial tone and related harmonics into another sound is achieved by routing the signal and Mischel waveform through different components like the filter that we saw. But many others as well like drive and then modulation and many other effects. These components are called modules hence why you've heard of potentially the term modular synthesizer in a typical modular synthesizer signal routing is achieved by physically cabling modules to each other. But in modern outboard synthesizers the routings all wired in and the variations are changed by using knobs and buttons in digital synthesizers which is what you're using inside of logic. Everything regarding the signal flow is digital. It's just to do with binary descriptions. But the principle stays the same in most of them. So in general outside of logic pro and just in the world you've got different types of synthesizers. You've got analog synthesizers which use circuits which are controlled by voltage and create sounds simply just by electricity. So these are kind of the old school analog synthesizers you've seen this digital which is basically a digital synthesizer as I described earlier and hybrid analog and digital which has a mixture of them both. But the thing that you want to know about is virtual analog because that's most of the things inside of logic. So this is really a digital synthesizer that mimics the architecture and idiosyncrasies of the original analog synthesizer. So imagine finding an old synth that's really retro and kind of out of tune and then try thinking about emulating that sound right. This is exactly what the instruments inside of logic do. The programmers of these instruments try to recreate that characteristic sound of the old school hybrid analog or analog synthesizers. So if what we've done so far still isn't quite making sense I've left in a few tones here to mess around with what we call an initial oscillation of 500. We've got an oscillator at 490. And if we put it together we can kind of create our most basic type of synthesizer. It's a bit like within the retro synth here we have two oscillators which we can use but we've used the test oscillator and we've changed to one of them to be ever so slightly different than the other. And let's listen to what that sounds like. That's creating its own interaction. Right. Doesn't sound quite as simple as a sine wave anymore. And that is basically the simplest type of synthesis you can create inside of logic. Another simple but probably silly example of using the test oscillator is actually running it through an amplifier. So this is just yet another idea of taking a simple sine wave or a simple what is a sine wave in this case or another form of wave and pushing it through an effect like an amplifier. It's like it's pretending to be a hybrid analog digital synthesizer even though it is all digital it's just virtualizing the amplifier. So what we've got is the amp here. I just open that and we're running the test oscillator through it. So it sounds a bit funny and if we turn it off we just get back to that test oscillator. So this is just another simple example of the some of the things we're going to get up to it's really rubbish examples musically speaking but it's that the principles are universal to how we start messing around with synthesizers cool. So I hope this video has been useful so far. And the next video we're going to go through filters and then in the subsequent videos all of the other essential fundamental principles that you're going to need to know going forward and understanding the logic instruments. The problem with larger instruments is when you open them up they look hideously complex but if you know what you're looking for and what generally these instruments have you can to understand it a lot quicker and be able to use it to create the sounds that you want.