Simple tutorial for 15 year old on electronic music tech?
January 11, 2011 10:57 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend's son is in a band, and he wants to start adding synth/electronic stuff to his music. I personally some stuff, and could write some stuff up, but I'm looking for a really good basic overview of the technology (not necessarily too detailed, but if it got into details later, it would be ok, perhaps).

What I'm looking for is something that explains the differences between samples and synths, what a sequencer is, MIDI, drum machines, and the basics of Waveforms/Oscillators, LFOs, envelopes and filters.

I also want to give him some free software to use (which is the best way to learn - by playing), but not sure what's good. I've used audacity and renoise (though that's not free, nor the easiest to use).

I saw bram bos now has stuff for free, so I'm thinking of sending a link to Tuna Fish and maybe hammerhead?
posted by symbioid to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well, he could play around with the Reason demo, which is a fun and instructive way to learn a fair amount about both synths and sequencers, with a bit of historical context ta boot. It runs for 20 minutes only (but then you can just restart it) and you can't save or export, but it's still pretty good for all that. I'm betting there are open source equivalents out there too but I don't know of them off the top of my head...and it seems like a lot of them are built for Linux by default.

And maybe this is too boring but the Wikipedia articles on synthesizers and sequencers have some pretty decent introductory material. I think you're right though, just playing around with something like Reason would teach him a hell of a lot more about something like an LFO than reading about LFOs.
posted by dubitable at 12:27 PM on January 11, 2011

(I forgot the part about samples, but if I recall you can use samples in Reason too, at the very least there is a drum sequencer in there that I think loads up samples...)
posted by dubitable at 12:28 PM on January 11, 2011

Best answer: Reaper may be an option for him to play with's extremely cheap ($40 for a personal use license) and there is a 30 day free trial. (I understand it only nags you after 30 days, it doesn't shut down)...
posted by AltReality at 4:01 PM on January 11, 2011

Best answer: AudioTool.
posted by proj at 4:26 PM on January 11, 2011

Best answer: Aside from the software issue:

Wanting to add a bit of synth in a live band: the microKORG.

This is pretty state of the art these days: does almost everything, emulates analog sounds, has a vocorder, can filter external sounds, 4 voices. Note: but for a keyboard, little keys.

Costs less than $400, and there are deals out there.
posted by ovvl at 5:12 PM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions on the software - maybe I shouldn't have focused on that... Mostly I want a good tutorial... I think software and stuff to work with to learn is good, but I still think having something to start with to at least understand what all the knobs are, etc... is a good idea. I may just end up writing something. Still hoping someone has a link to a tutorial/faq or something that's easy for a kid.
posted by symbioid at 10:13 PM on January 11, 2011

Best answer: The only good laid-out explanation I've seen is in the Dance Music Manual but it's pretty technical. The first chapter is about waveform shapes and oscillators. But it might be worth a look.
posted by proj at 8:46 AM on January 12, 2011

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