How The Synthesizer Aids Music Production
The synthesizer has been an integral part of music production since its inception. It is not limited to one genre, nor does it have a defined purpose. A classic example is the use of the instrument in songwriting.
A writer will often add synthetic sounds or effects to give the piece more depth. Or they may choose to completely replace the voice of a instrument to create a new tone that fits the rhythm or style of the song.
The sound possibilities are endless! That is why the synthesizer is so powerful as an instrumental tool. And although there are newer technologies like MIDI-based instruments, the classic synth still remains a staple for musicians looking to expand their sonic palette.
Synthesis was once expensive technology, but this no longer the case. Technology has come a long way, making the cost accessible to even novice producers.
Many artists now rely heavily on the synthesizer for enhancing the depth and texture of their songs. Many find it to be a helpful device in creating their own musical styles.
History of synthesizers
The first true electronic instrument was built in 1935 by Russian inventor Alexander Elecktrichnikov (known as Aleksei Sergeievitch Musik). He called his new device an “Electronic Harmonium” or, more commonly these days, synth.
The main component of a synth is what determines its function-the oscillator. An oscillator can produce any tone you want it to, from low frequencies for bass sounds to higher ones for lead melodies.
Oscillators are typically made out of discrete components such as transistors, which enable us to make them much smaller and less expensive than other instruments that use vacuum tubes, which have longer lifespans but are bigger and costlier to manufacture.
Since most music is comprised of multiple tones mixed together, we need lots of different types of sound produced at once by a single piece of equipment. That's where another key element comes into play-the effect unit.
Affect units like reverb, chorus, flange, and others add depth and texture to your songs. They take one part of the sound and spread it around to give the impression of something larger-and-lighter.
How the synthesizer changed music
The most significant impact that electronic music has had is not what genre it belongs to, but how it built upon earlier musical forms.
Music is made up of notes that are organized into melodies and rhythms. Melodies can be sung or played an instrumentally. Rhythmically, there are many styles like rhythmical patterns for dancing, or pulse-based songs with a steady beat.
Both of these components can be modified and mixed together in different ways to create new types of music. For example, you could have a song with no vocals where the only element is a rhythmic pattern. Or you could have something like Dance Hall Prog (a type of progressive house) which mixes heavy bass, strong drums, and synth parts which all blend together in harmony.
The technology used to produce music has evolved over time. Early instruments were limited to playing one note at a time, and some even required physical contact with another piece to play a chord!
With digital technology becoming more advanced every year, musicians are able to produce and mix and match sounds in limitless amounts. This allows them to create newer and better music products.
Popular uses of synthesizers
The use of synthesis in music production has never really gone away, and it still plays an important role in music making to this day! Some of the most well-known songs that feature synthesizers include:
The song: Dance or “Dance” (Artist: Lady Gaga)
Synthesizer line: Aahhh… like a snake going up a mountain!
Many consider this to be one of the greatest synth lines ever written! It is used heavily throughout the track, building up into a very powerful climax.
The song: Power Ballad (Artist: Madonna)
Synth part: I want to tell you a story about a girl … her name was Luna
This synth part repeats several times, creating a seamless transition between each iteration. This also creates a sense of longing, as it sounds like there could have been more conversations but they were cut off due to time.
The song: Use Your Heart (Artist: Ariana Grande)
Lead vocal melody: If we are dancing then let’s dance with our hearts
This short phrase is repeated over and over again, setting up what seems like a big explosion. Instead, it fades out leaving your ears hanging onto the last note for a few seconds before letting go.
Tips for using a synthesizer
A lot of people get confused when starting to use synthesis, making it difficult to identify what settings need to be changed or how to properly manipulate different features.
There are several types of synthesizers that offer various functions. Some examples include piano keyboards, string instruments such as guitars and basses, drum machines, and most prominently, software-based programs.
Most music production studios have at least one piece of equipment in this category. The best way to learn the instrument is by experimenting with it! Many companies will also provide you with their software and documentation, which can help you dive into the tool deeper.
Some musicians find that once they become familiar with the synthesizer, their sound changes completely; some even say it shapes their style.
Record and produce
As we learned before, musicians have been creating music for centuries! Ancient civilizations like the Greeks and Romans had musician troupes that would perform their songs and dances for people.
In the Renaissance era, more advanced musical instruments were created such as the violin, trumpet, guitar, and piano. These instruments are still in use today!
With the advent of electronic technology, synthesizers became popular. Technically speaking, a synth is not an instrument per se but a tool to make other instruments. A typical syn-is contains waveform generators (such as sine waves or square waves) along with effect units (reverb, chorus, etc.).
These effects can be applied directly to another audio source (like a microphone), or they can be connected to other effect modules. Some examples of products that contain syn-is engines include Logic Pro, GarageBand, Ableton Live, and even some smartphone apps!
Not only do these devices offer easy production opportunities, but they also provide powerful features for making music.
Examples of synthesizers in music
There are many different types of synthesizers, all with their own unique sounds. Some use sound waves to create your music, while others use algorithms to combine frequencies to create new ones!
Some examples of popular songs that contain synths include Use it or lose it!, I’m On A Boat, and Close (These Are The Days) by Ariana Grande.
I’m On A Boat features an autotuning synth that is almost like having a baby grand piano in the song! This type of instrument uses software to tune itself according to what note is being played, making it very easy to produce beautiful music.
The bass line in Use It Or Lose It! was produced using two oscillators at slightly mismatched frequencies. When these are mixed together, they form a lower frequency wave which creates the steady rhythm for the bass part of the song.