Timbre composition

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Timbre composition is the art of creating new timbres. It is often performed electronically, either by combining sine waves (additive synthesis) or by filtering out harmonics from more complex waves (subtractive synthesis).

Timbre quality of a musical note or sound or tone

In music, timbre is the perceived sound quality of a musical note, sound or tone. Timbre distinguishes different types of sound production, such as choir voices and musical instruments, such as string instruments, wind instruments, and percussion instruments. It also enables listeners to distinguish different instruments in the same category.

Sine wave mathematical curve that describes a smooth repetitive oscillation; continuous wave

A sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical curve that describes a smooth periodic oscillation. A sine wave is a continuous wave. It is named after the function sine, of which it is the graph. It occurs often in pure and applied mathematics, as well as physics, engineering, signal processing and many other fields. Its most basic form as a function of time (t) is:

Additive synthesis is a sound synthesis technique that creates timbre by adding sine waves together.

Timbre composition is also significant for players of the electric guitar. The guitarist's relative proximity to his or her amplifier alters the sound produced. The sound can be modified further via equalizers, filters, and various effects pedals.

Electric guitar electrified guitar; fretted stringed instrument with a neck and body that uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals

An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitar player strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which being relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.

Equalization (audio)

Equalization or equalisation is the process of adjusting the balance between frequency components within an electronic signal. The most well known use of equalization is in sound recording and reproduction but there are many other applications in electronics and telecommunications. The circuit or equipment used to achieve equalization is called an equalizer. These devices strengthen (boost) or weaken (cut) the energy of specific frequency bands or "frequency ranges".

Audio filter

An audio filter is a frequency dependent amplifier circuit, working in the audio frequency range, 0 Hz to beyond 20 kHz. Audio filters can amplify (boost), pass or attenuate (cut) some frequency ranges. Many types of filters exist for different audio applications including hi-fi stereo systems, musical synthesizers, sound effects, sound reinforcement systems, instrument amplifiers and virtual reality systems.

Timbre composition with acoustic instruments is usually very subtle. Minute altercations in performance change the sound produced by the instrument. Percussionists use specific sticks and mallets to yield desired timbres. Players of wind instruments alter the tone simply by changing the pressure of their lips. One could argue that the act of choosing which instrument to play or write for is in itself timbre composition.

Timbre composition is used in vocal techniques such as throat-singing where the main focus of the music is timbre as opposed to pitch.

Overtone singing – also known as overtone chanting, harmonic singing, or throat singing – is a type of singing in which the singer manipulates the resonances created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out of the lips to produce a melody.

Music that has been composed solely using the art of Timbre composition is called Timbre-centered music.

Timbral listening is a technique used in both the composition and reception of Timbre-centered music which has been created using Timbre composition.

Timbral listening is the process of actively listening to the timbral characteristics of sound.

Notable composers working on this genre include Helmut Lachenmann, Panayiotis Kokoras, Iancu Dumitrescu.

Helmut Lachenmann German composer

Helmut Friedrich Lachenmann is a German composer of contemporary classical music. His work has been associated with "instrumental musique concrète".

Panayiotis Kokoras Greek born classical contemporary music composer

Panayiotis Kokoras is an internationally award-winning composer and computer music innovator. Kokoras's sound compositions use timbre as the main element of form. His concept of "holophony" describes his goal that each independent sound (φωνή), contributes equally into the synthesis of the total (ὅλος). In both instrumental and electroacoustic writing, his music calls upon a "virtuosity of sound," emphasizing the precise production of variable sound possibilities and the correct distinction between one timbre and another to convey the musical ideas and structure of the piece. His compositional output is also informed by musical research in Music Information Retrieval compositional strategies, Extended techniques, Tactile sound, Augmented reality, Robotics, Spatial Sound, Synesthesia. He is founding member of the Hellenic Electroacoustic Music Composers Association (HELMCA) and from 2004 to 2012 he was board member and president.

Iancu Dumitrescu is a Romanian avant-garde composer.

Related Research Articles

Audio signal processing is a subfield of signal processing that is concerned with the electronic manipulation of audio signals. As audio signals may be represented in either digital or analog format, processing may occur in either domain. Analog processors operate directly on the electrical signal, while digital processors operate mathematically on the digital representation of that signal.

Electronic musical instrument musical instrument that produces its sounds using electronics

An electronic musical instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound using electronic circuitry. Such an instrument sounds by outputting an electrical, electronic or digital audio signal that ultimately is plugged into a power amplifier which drives a loudspeaker, creating the sound heard by the performer and listener.

Subtractive synthesis is a method of sound synthesis in which partials of an audio signal are attenuated by a filter to alter the timbre of the sound. While subtractive synthesis can be applied to any source audio signal, the sound most commonly associated with the technique is that of analog synthesizers of the 1960s and 1970s, in which the harmonics of simple waveforms such as sawtooth, pulse or square waves are attenuated with a voltage-controlled resonant low-pass filter. Many digital, virtual analog and software synthesizers use subtractive synthesis, sometimes in conjunction with other methods of sound synthesis.

Trumpet musical instrument with the highest register in the brass family

A trumpet is a brass instrument commonly used in classical and jazz ensembles. The trumpet group contains the instruments with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpet-like instruments have historically been used as signaling devices in battle or hunting, with examples dating back to at least 1500 BC; they began to be used as musical instruments only in the late 14th or early 15th century. Trumpets are used in art music styles, for instance in orchestras, concert bands, and jazz ensembles, as well as in popular music. They are played by blowing air through nearly-closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound that starts a standing wave vibration in the air column inside the instrument. Since the late 15th century they have primarily been constructed of brass tubing, usually bent twice into a rounded rectangular shape.


A harmonic is any member of the harmonic series. The term is employed in various disciplines, including music, physics, acoustics, electronic power transmission, radio technology, and other fields. It is typically applied to repeating signals, such as sinusoidal waves. A harmonic of such a wave is a wave with a frequency that is a positive integer multiple of the frequency of the original wave, known as the fundamental frequency. The original wave is also called the 1st harmonic, the following harmonics are known as higher harmonics. As all harmonics are periodic at the fundamental frequency, the sum of harmonics is also periodic at that frequency. For example, if the fundamental frequency is 50 Hz, a common AC power supply frequency, the frequencies of the first three higher harmonics are 100 Hz, 150 Hz, 200 Hz and any addition of waves with these frequencies is periodic at 50 Hz.

An nth characteristic mode, for n > 1, will have nodes that are not vibrating. For example, the 3rd characteristic mode will have nodes at L and L, where L is the length of the string. In fact, each nth characteristic mode, for n not a multiple of 3, will not have nodes at these points. These other characteristic modes will be vibrating at the positions L and L. If the player gently touches one of these positions, then these other characteristic modes will be suppressed. The tonal harmonics from these other characteristic modes will then also be suppressed. Consequently, the tonal harmonics from the nth characteristic modes, where n is a multiple of 3, will be made relatively more prominent.

Karplus–Strong string synthesis is a method of physical modelling synthesis that loops a short waveform through a filtered delay line to simulate the sound of a hammered or plucked string or some types of percussion.

Wah-wah is an imitative word for the sound of altering the resonance of musical notes to extend expressiveness, sounding much like a human voice saying the syllable wah. The wah-wah effect is a spectral glide, a "modification of the vowel quality of a tone".

Binaural recording method of recording sound that uses two microphones

Binaural recording is a method of recording sound that uses two microphones, arranged with the intent to create a 3-D stereo sound sensation for the listener of actually being in the room with the performers or instruments. This effect is often created using a technique known as "dummy head recording", wherein a mannequin head is outfitted with a microphone in each ear. Binaural recording is intended for replay using headphones and will not translate properly over stereo speakers. This idea of a three dimensional or "internal" form of sound has also translated into useful advancement of technology in many things such as stethoscopes creating "in-head" acoustics and IMAX movies being able to create a three dimensional acoustic experience.

Wavetable synthesis is a sound synthesis technique used to create periodic waveforms. Often used in the production of musical tones or notes, it was developed by Wolfgang Palm of Palm Products GmbH (PPG) in the late 1970s and published in 1979, and has since been used as the primary synthesis method in synthesizers built by PPG and Waldorf Music and as an auxiliary synthesis method by Ensoniq and Access. It is currently used in software-based synthesizers for PCs and tablets, including apps offered by PPG and Waldorf, among others.

Sample-based synthesis is a form of audio synthesis that can be contrasted to either subtractive synthesis or additive synthesis. The principal difference with sample-based synthesis is that the seed waveforms are sampled sounds or instruments instead of fundamental waveforms such as sine and saw waves used in other types of synthesis.

Prepared guitar

A prepared guitar is a guitar that has had its timbre altered by placing various objects on or between the instrument's strings, including other extended techniques. This practice is sometimes called tabletop guitar, because many prepared guitarists do not hold the instrument in the usual manner, but instead place the guitar on a table to manipulate it.

A multiphonic is an extended technique on a monophonic musical instrument in which several notes are produced at once. This includes wind, reed, and brass instruments, as well as the human voice. Multiphonic-like sounds on string instruments, both bowed and hammered, have also been called multiphonics, for lack of better terminology and scarcity of research.

Korg DW-8000

The Korg DW-8000 synthesizer was an eight-voice polyphonic hybrid digital-analog synthesizer 61-note keyboard instrument released in 1985. By the time of its launch Korg had already begun a common trend in 1980s synthesizer design: using numerical codes to access or change parameters with the Korg Poly-61, which was widely regarded as the company's first 'knobless' synthesizer. This was a move away from the heavily laden, complex control panels of earlier designs.

Korg Wavestation synthesizer first produced in the early 1990s

The Korg Wavestation is a vector synthesis synthesizer first produced in the early 1990s and later re-released as a software synthesizer in 2004. Its primary innovation was Wave Sequencing, a method of multi-timbral sound generation in which different PCM waveform data are played successively, resulting in continuously evolving sounds. The Wavestation's "Advanced Vector Synthesis" sound architecture resembled early vector synths such as the Sequential Circuits Prophet VS.

Synthesizer electronic instrument capable of producing a wide range of sounds

A synthesizer or synthesiser is an electronic musical instrument that generates audio signals that may be converted to sound. Synthesizers may imitate traditional musical instruments such as piano, flute, vocals, or natural sounds such as ocean waves; or generate novel electronic timbres. They are often played with a musical keyboard, but they can be controlled via a variety of other devices, including music sequencers, instrument controllers, fingerboards, guitar synthesizers, wind controllers, and electronic drums. Synthesizers without built-in controllers are often called sound modules, and are controlled via USB, MIDI or CV/gate using a controller device, often a MIDI keyboard or other controller.

Woodwind growling is a musical technique where the instrumentalist vocalizes into the instrument to alter quality of the sound. Growling is used primarily in rock and blues style playing, it is also frequently used in klezmer music; it is popular in the woodwind family of instruments, especially the saxophone. It is commonly used by mainstream artists such as Ben Webster, Illinois Jacquet and Earl Bostic. Outside of these styles and instruments, it is often considered a novelty effect.

Phase music form of music in which the same part (a repetitive phrase) is played on two musical instruments, in steady but not identical tempi

Phase music is a form of music that uses phasing as a primary compositional process. It is an approach to musical composition that is often associated with minimal music, as it shares similar characteristics, but some commentators prefer to treat phase music as a separate category. Phasing is a compositional technique in which the same part is played on two musical instruments, in steady but not identical tempi. Thus, the two instruments gradually shift out of unison, creating first a slight echo as one instrument plays a little behind the other, then a doubling effect with each note heard twice, then a complex ringing effect, and eventually coming back through doubling and echo into unison. Phasing is the rhythmic equivalent of cycling through the phase of two waveforms as in phasing. Note that the tempi of the two instruments are almost identical, so that both parts are perceived as being in the same tempo: the changes only separate the parts gradually. In some cases, especially live performance where gradual separation is extremely difficult, phasing is accomplished by periodically inserting an extra note into the phrase of one of the two players playing the same repeated phrase, thus shifting the phase by a single beat at a time, rather than gradually.

Korg Z1

The Korg Z1 is a physical modelling sound synthesiser released in 1997. Touted as a polyphonic Prophecy, the Z1 implements 13 synthesis types, all derived from the original OASYS synthesizer.

"Dreamsong" is a 1978 recording created by American computer music musician and composer Michael McNabb at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics in Stanford University. The composition has been discussed by numerous composers and book authors, one of them including Adrian Moore who labeled it a "pioneering work" of electroacoustic music. It is significant for being one of the earliest examples of works that combine natural and non-natural "new" sounds in a sophisticated manner with digital processing. MUS10, a compiler developed from Max Mathews' Music IV synthesis software that had a huge amount of flexibility in designing and synthesizing sounds, was used for the instrument design and synthesis of "Dreamsong", a project primarily intended to create an unlimited amount of obtainable new sounds.