What is a Synthesizer?
A synthesizer is an instrument that generates sound electronically. As opposed to an acoustic instrument like a piano, which uses vibrating strings to create sound waves in the air, a synthesizer generates electronic signals which require an amplifier or loudspeaker to be heard. There are a wide range of synthesizers, both in form and in the types of sounds they produce. They can be used to mimic the sound of acoustic instruments, or they can generate sounds, textures and effects that cannot be produced with traditional instruments. While there are many different types of synthesizers, they all have some things in common: they generate an audio signal electronically, and they allow you to control the timbre of the sound as well as how that sound changes over time.
Synthesizers in music
Thanks in large part to synth pioneer Dr. Robert Moog, synthesizers became popular in music in the late '60s and early '70s. Many songs are instantly recognizable by their synthesizer sounds, like The Who's Baba O'Riley, Pink Floyd's On The Run, and Rush's Tom Sawyer just to name a few. Around this time adventurous composers began experimenting with synthesizers for sound design too, such as Wendy Carlos' score for "A Clockwork Orange".
Synthesizers became a mainstay in popular music with the '80s synth-pop phenomena, as musicians like Kraftwerk and Thomas Dolby experimented more and more with electronic instruments. Since then, electronic music has branched into numerous sub-genres such as techno, house, trance, drum 'n' bass, acid, hardstyle, and countless others, with each sub-genre being defined in large part by the types of synthesizer sounds used (as well as other characteristics such as tempo, arrangement and so on). Outside of electronic music, synthesizers remain an indispensable tool for producers in a variety of musical styles including pop, hip hop, and R&B.
Different types of synthesizers
The wide range of sounds that synthesizers can produce is only matched by the numerous different types of synthesizer designs. Subtractive synths, additive synths, frequency modulation synths, and wavetable synths are just a few of the most common, and all have their own distinctive sonic characteristics. Modular synthesizers allow you to mix and match various modules to design whatever type of synthesizer you want. There are many software synthesizers that aim to re-create classic synth designs, and there are also many that combine elements of different types of synthesis to create hybrid instruments. Learn More
Sweetwater's Sales Engineers are regarded as the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the music industry, with extensive music backgrounds and intense training on the latest products and technologies. They are available to offer you personalized product advice any time you need it.