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2.1 What Is a Synthesizer?

What do you get if you cross an oscillator with a keyboard? A synthesizer! In this lesson, I'll briefly introduce these fantastic musical instruments and try to convince you to make one for the web.

2.1 What Is a Synthesizer?

Synthesizers are musical instruments that generate musical notes or tones electronically. While various forms of synthesizers have been around for over 100 years now, the version that most people think of, is something like this, a Moog synthesizer. A keyboard connected to various knobs, and switches that creates a variety of buzzing sounds. You may have seen something even more complicated like this. A synth like this uses an electronic circuit to create an oscillator, which generates a signal that is then manipulated by various filters to produce different sounds. While the inner working of such a synth can be quite complicated if you're not familiar with electronics, the concepts behind generating, or manipulating a sound are fairly straightforward. And we'll be using these concepts to create our very own synth in the browser. You may be thinking, why on Earth would I want to do such a thing? Well traditionally, it's been quite hard to make an instrument. If you wanted to make a synthesizer from scratch, either you need a degree, or knowledge in engineering, or with a type of person who's not phased by the prospect of blowing themself up. If you wanted to make one on your computer, a safer option, as a VST or an Audio Unit, then, you'd probably need to know C, or C++, which aren't the friendliest of languages. Now using the Web Audio API, we can use our good friend JavaScript. We're not going to make a synthesizes on the browser just because it's easier to make. There actually is some great potential. Imagine making a musical instrument, then posting it on the web for anyone to play with. I've been making websites for over 15 years, and I still think the thought of that amazing. Okay, still want to make a synth? Let's go.

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