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What is Frequency Modulation? Part 1: The Concept

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The first in a two part series on frequency modulation, this installment focuses on the basics of FM synthesis and has some very helpful visuals to accompany the content to help you understand it better.

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Now, obviously this is not FM8 but the videos were just too good to pass up. I wanted to share it with the whole community specifically because of the visual aides of the waveforms throughout the lessons, as well as I know that there are whole lot of Ableton Live users out there and that the familiarity with the interface would help you gain a certain level of comfort right from the start.

Using some simple sine waves and a few operators, YouTube user LoudonYukon kicks off this series with the basic theory and mechanics of frequency modulation synthesis and shows how it can produce certain types of sounds very easily. A lot of which are very difficult to come close to with the more common process of sound design more people are familiar with called subtractive synthesis. Th fact that you can actually see in real-time the cause and effect take place in the waveforms on the screen while each change is made in the synth, really does help you wrap your mind around what exactly is happening.

You may have a moment where you are watching this video, or one of the many others already available here on the site, that you realize it isn’t really all that different than how an LFO filter works to modulate a sound at the core of the concept. You then just begin to add extra layers of complexity, and therefore opportunity, when you bring into play the rules of ratios and frequencies and the fact that multiple operators can be working to modulate an original wave to create very different sounds. Then you can introduce some feedback on one, some or all of the operators which generates even more complexity. And so it goes…

I have decided to post these videos over a couple of days to give you all a chance to go and play with the very basic ideas of the first steps of the sound design process with FM synthesis. Try not to get to far ahead of yourself and get much further than what was covered in the first video, and instead just focus on repetition and getting some good muscle memory built. Soon you will be able to whip out sounds like you do in NI Massive, or any one of the many soft synths that are more subtractive in their focus. It’s actually all quite intuitive once you get the hang of it all.

Cheers,
ΩhmLab





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