Not Waving but Sounding

Today's syllogism: Sounds are waves. Synthesisers make waves. Therefore synthesisers make sounds.

If you know what a wave is in physical terms, good. If you understand it in mathematical, newtonian or psychoacoustic terms, great. But as a musician you don't need to. You just need to know that different shapes of wave have different sounds.

This is a sine wave:

It's an extremely boring sound - rather like a flute, but without the breath noises of the player. Superimpose several of them at octave intervals, and you've got one of these:

Hammond organ, wurlitzer, calliope, that amazingly annoying child's toy organ - all basically a few sine waves on top of each other.

This one's called (for amazingly obvious reasons) a square wave:

Soundwise it's somewhere between a clarinet and a church organ. Make it assymetrical, and you've got a rectangle wave:

More, and it's a pulse wave:

That opening chord from "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" - each note is a half dozen of these, very slightly out of tune with each other.

This is a sawtooth:

By far the most commonly used wave, and also the "richest" sounding. There are tracks where all the instruments are nothing but overlayed, slightly detuned sawtooths. Or possibly sawteeth.

Squeltchy basslines, lush strings, sharp stabs, brass blasts - all based on this one wave.

Lean a sawtooth over, and you've got a triangle:

It doesn't sound much like any mechanical instruments - aka "real" instruments. It's a distant relative of the rhodes piano...or electrical mains hum, if you're feeling less charitable.

What if you lean a sawtooth halfway over? You get a ramp wave - good for some thrumming bass sounds.

There are other shapes that don't have common names, but can also be useful.

A pinched triangle - sounds like an 80s videogame:

A squared-off sawtooth:

A pinched sawtooth that's a bit like a pulse:

An inverse sine wave:

Oh, and there's white noise, which has absolutely no pattern at all:

Now, all of these waves are digitally perfect. Which makes them mathematically simple, and sonically about as interesting as a year in Alaska with a family of calvinists.

Happily, synthesisers which use analog circuitry to make their waves are ludicriously inaccurate. In much the same way as guitar amplifiers are hopeless at preserving guitar sounds when overdriven. Rock and roll: Founded on technological failure.

Even more happily, the ludicrous inaccuracy of expensive synthesisers and amplifiers can be replicated by cheap software.

Kraftwerk used synthesisers from the Moog corporation. This is the moog's attempt at a sawtooth:

The moog square:

And the moog attempt to fuse the sawtooth and triangle into one: designing a software synth. Which I want to have a signature sound - that is, a signature deviation from perfect but boring waves. So I'm approximating the standard wave shapes by bolting together segments of sine waves.

This is my sawtooth:

My square:

And my pulse. Feel my pulse:

So, welcome to Kapitano's method of songwriting. Step one: Build an

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