I often talk to people in the open-source music community that want to learn more about sound synthesis, and this is my answer: a series of screen-cast tutorials on that very topic! In this first part, I look at the basic components of a traditional analogue synth, using Xsynth-DSSI as the example.
Linux has some powerful and interesting soft-synths, including PHASEX, Minicomputer, and of course ZynAddSubFX (and its fork Yoshimi). Why, then, am I talking about Xsynth-DSSI? There are a few reasons:
- It’s simple — Xsynth-DSSI has a very straightforward design, so it’s easy to get to grips with its components and what they do. It’s also very easy to get your hands on the controls, since they’re all in one cleanly-arranged window.
- It’s traditional — the design of Xsynth-DSSI is based heavily on classic 70s analog synths; the synths that shaped all that have some since. Most modern synths are just extensions on these same ideas, and even those that are radically different still borrow some components from the classics, so knowing your way around a traditional analog-style synth will stand you in very good stead when learning other synths.
- It’s accessible — just about every distribution includes Xsynth-DSSI packages, and because it’s a DSSI plugin, it’s very easy to use inside DSSI-compatible sequencers like Rosegarden and Qtractor. If you’re not using a DSSI sequencer, you can use the “jack-dssi-host” tool to launch a stand-alone copy:
- It’s good! — despite its simplicity, Xsynth-DSSI is still capable of some great sounds. It’s also resource-light, so even an older PC won’t break a sweat hosting multiple instances of it.
So, without further ado, here’s the video, introducing the Xsynth-DSSI GUI and providing a quick overview of its basic components. NOTE: If you’re using Chrome or Firefox, there’s a high-res Ogg Theora video should work for you here.