Audio School: Intro to Synthesis

Image from Andrew Huang's video "FM SYNTHS in under 4 minutes"

Easy-to-follow resources for beginners.

First up: Andrew Huang takes a moment between his regular videos about creative music production techniques and gear talk, to offer one of the best, most concise explanations of FM synthesis ever:

That’s the concept – and there’s more on FM Synthesis here – but what does it look like in practice? And how do all those boxes and wires add up to those sounds we hear?

Fundamentals

In The Mix comprehensively runs through Basic Waveforms, Additive and Subtractive Synthesis, Unison, Filters, Envelopes (ADSR), LFOs, and FX Processors in this guide to Sound Design and Synth Fundamentals:

Try It Yourself

Ableton offers a free online synth school for beginners – and you don’t even need their software, just your web browser. Learning Synths is an interactive web site that teaches you, step by step, the basics of how synthesizers work:

Ableton | Learning Synths
Ableton | Learning Synths

If you have Ableton Live, you can experiment with synthesis and create your own sounds from scratch, as a playable virtual synthesizer, using the native Wavetable device, introduced here in another 4 minute explainer:

… and if you’re ready to dive deeper into the device, you can work your way through Ableton’s series of short tutorials on Wavetable.

Ready for more?

Don’t let the visual aesthetics fool you: this fantastic three-hour presentation from the 1980s covers all the fundamentals so comprehensively, it can take you step-by-step from zero to synthesis hero:

In The Mix follows up that video on fundamentals with an Advanced Sound Design and Synths Tutorial:

Intro to Modular Synthesis looks at combining different devices, or modules, to create all kinds of sounds: