Yamaha DX7 Instruction manual

Basic FM Synthesis
on the
Yamaha DX7
by
Mark Phillips
Introduction
This booklet was written to help students to learn the basics of linear FM synthesis and to better
understand the Yamaha DX/TX series synthesizers. It is not intended to be a complete course of study on
either FM synthesis or the DX7. There are already several very comprehensive books plus a fairly
substantial users' manual that provide a mountain of information. The Complete DX7, by Howard
Massey, for instance, assumes no prior knowledge or experience in anything related to synthesis. It is a
good, fairly comprehensive "self-teach" method book for a rank beginner. As such, it is a lot to wade
through if you are not a beginner. This book is aimed at those students who do have some degree of
knowledge about conventional analog and subtractive synthesis and assumes at least a passing
acquaintance with the DX7 itself--such as can be acquired in a couple of hours spent with the manual and
the instrument. It is meant to be used with the manual (and/or an instructor), not as a substitute.
A significant aspect of this instruction manual is its use of OpCode's Editor/Librarian software for the
Macintosh computer. With it, one can see at once all of the data for a given voice. Screen-dumps from the
program, incorporated in the text, are shaded to draw attention to the pertinent data. If a Macintosh and
this software, and appropriate MIDI interfaces are available (and if you first master a couple of basic
Macintosh conventions and keep OpCode's user manual nearby for reference), this booklet will help you
acquire some fluency with the program as you learn about the principles underlying the DX7's method of
timbre production. It is quite possible to learn from these pages without a Macintosh, by accessing the
tutorial voices directly from a RAM cartridge which contains the voices and by performing these exercises
using the buttons and LCD display of the DX7.
This instructional package is still in its developmental stages. Your comments, compliments, criticisms,
and encouragements are welcome.
Note:
In voices where performance functions are relatively unimportant, the box in the diagram with "OK" written
in it will appear shaded. For these voices, you need not worry much about performance data. In voices
where these functions are important, the "OK" box will be unshaded, indicating that a significant aspect of
the demonstration timbre will be affected by one of the four controllers (generally the Modulation Wheel or
the Foot Control.)
Special note to Macintosh users:
These tutorial voices were programmed as TX voices so that function data could be incorporated in them.
Be sure to select "Yamaha TX" on the menu when you launch the program. Be sure also that there are
three menu items under the "Load/Send" menu that have a √ beside them: "Send on Select" (so when you
point and click on a voice it will automatically be sent to the Edit Buffer of the DX7 so you can hear it),
"Send Perf. to DX7" (to facilitate handling voices that need changes in performance data in order to work
properly), and "DX7/DX1/DX5 Voices." Be sure that the DX7 is set up to receive data from the Macintosh.
This means that the DX7 must have its Internal Memory "Unprotected" and System Information must be
"Available". (Press the brown FUNCTION button, then press button "8" repeatedly until the message SYS
INFO UNAVAIL appears, next press the "YES" button.) Both the DX7 and the Macintosh must also agree
on the MIDI channel.
DX7 I I-FD Users:
See Addendum at the end of this booklet.
© 1987 Mark Phillips
Basic FM Synthesis
-3-
1: FM Demo 1-A
(E.G. Control of Timbre)
General Description:
This voice is designed to imitate the familiar analog synthesis sound of slowly opening and closing a lowpass filter. Since the DX-7 has no filters, this subtractive synthesis sound must be obtained in a
completely different method: by linear frequency modulation (FM) using a dynamic index of modulation. In
other words, we will modulate the carrier sine wave with a second sine wave that varies in amplitude over
a given time.
• As the amplitude of the modulator increases, the sound gets brighter
(analogous to opening a filter).
• As the amplitude of the modulator decreases the sound gets darker
(analogous to closing a filter).
Patch Information:
Operator 1 modulated by Operator 2; both at maximum output; both at same frequency ratio (i.e. both
producing the identical frequencies when any given key is pressed); E.G. 2 controls timbre change.
Exercises:
1. Experiment with various frequency ratios for both the operators, especially that of the modulator
(Op. 2). Begin with various “Coarse” settings between .5 and 4 or 5. After you begin to understand
the timbral changes that result, try widening the range and incorporate also some changes in the
“Fine” settings.
2. Experiment with the Output Level of Op. 2 (settings from 60 - 99 will give audible results)
-4-
Basic FM Synthesis
2: MW-Demo 1
(Mod Wheel Control of Timbre)
General description:
This voice is also designed to imitate the familiar analog synthesis sound of opening and closing a low-pass
filter. The difference between this voice and the previous one is that the timbral changes are not
automatic, but are controlled in real time by the performer using the Modulation Wheel. (Refer to the
previous FM-Demo 1A.)
• As you rotate the Mod Wheel away from you, the amplitude of the modulator increases and the
sound gets brighter (analogous to opening a low-pass filter).
• As you rotate the Mod Wheel towards you, the amplitude of the modulator decreases and the sound
gets darker (analogous to closing a low-pass filter).
Note: If the Modulation Wheel does not cause the timbre to change in a manner similar to FM-Demo 1-A,
see Additional Help on the adjacent page.
Exercises:
Try duplicating the Mod Wheel's control of Op. 2 using another controller (i.e. the Foot Pedal, or the After
Touch. If you are using the Macintosh, simply click on the "EDIT" button, then select "Send Functions to
DX-7" and "Edit Settings" under the "Function" menu. You can then edit the settings with standard
Macintosh techniques. You must "Exit" (under the "File" menu) and click on the "EDIT" button or reselect
the same voice in order for your new Controller information to be transferred. You can also change the
controller information by running through the nine steps listed in the Additional Help, but substituting
the buttons 21-24 or 29-32 for buttons 17-21 on the right side of DX-7.
Basic FM Synthesis
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Additional Help for MW-Demo 1:
For original DX7:
If you are using the Macintosh librarian program, you can select the option "Send Perf. to DX7" under the
"Load/Send" menu, then re-select this voice.
If you are still unable to get the Mod Wheel to respond, or if you are not using the Macintosh, then you
should perform the following steps. When you have completed these, the parameters from your diagram
should be in effect on the DX-7 (i.e. maximum Mod Wheel range, Pitch and Amplitude "OFF", EG Bias
"ON").
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
8)
9)
Press the brown "Function" button on the left side of the DX-7
Press button "17" on the right side of DX-7
Slide the "Data Entry" fader down then push it all the way up
Press button "18" on the right side of DX-7
Press the "Data Entry-Off" button on the left side of the DX-7
Press button "19" on the right side of DX-7
Press the "Data Entry-OFF" button on the leftside of the DX-7
Press button "20" on the right side of DX-7
Press the "Data Entry-ON" button on the left side of the DX-7
Note:
If you are using the TX7, TX802, or the DX7II-FD, the function data (i.e. mod wheel, foot controller, etc.) is
stored separately with each individual “patch” so there should not be any problems if you are using one of
these newer synthesizers.
-6-
Basic FM Synthesis
3. FM Demo 1-B
(E.G. Control of Timbre using Velocity)
General Description:
This voice, too, is designed to imitate the sound of opening and closing a low-pass filter. The difference
between this voice and previous ones is that while the timbral changes are automatic as in FM Demo 1-A,
the amount of modulation achieved is dependent on how hard you play on the keyboard.
• The harder you hit a key, the more it sounds like FM Demo 1-A.
• The softer you hit a key, the less noticeable the modulation becomes.
(It is possible to play softly enough to hear none at all.)
Patch Information:
Nearly identical to FM Demo 1-A, except Op. 2 is velocity sensitive, meaning that the amplitude of the
modulating signal is dependent on how fast (how hard) you hit the keyboard.
Exercises:
1. Experiment with various settings of velocity sensitivity from “0” (no sensitivity) to “7” (maximum
sensitivity)
2. Experiment with various settings of the Op. 2 EG Rate 1. Macintosh users should experiment with
all three methods of editing the envelope: 1) “dragging” 2) typing 3) mouse button w/ arrow
Basic FM Synthesis
-7-
4. FM Demo 1-C
(E.G. Control of Timbre, with Rate Scaling)
General Description:
This is another voice designed to imitate the sound of opening and closing a low-pass filter. In this voice
timbral changes again are automatic and the amount of modulation is fixed, as in FM Demo 1-A. The
significant difference is that speed of the "opening" and "closing" (i. e. the EG attack and decay of Op. 2) is
dependent on how high or low you play on the keyboard. The lower end of the keyboard will sound more
like FM Demo 1-A. Change seems to occur more as a result of accelerating the given envelope (rather than
from slowing it down.)
• The higher you play, the faster the modulation sweep.
• The lower you play, the slower the modulation sweep.
Patch Information:
Nearly identical to FM Demo 1-A, except the EG of Op. 2 is subjected to "Rate Scaling"
(i.e. set to "5")
Exercises:
1. Experiment with various rate scalings from “0” (no rate scaling) to “7” (maximum rate scaling)
2. Experiment with control of Op. 2 EG Rate 1 and Rate 2 as you did with the FM Demo 1-B . Note
that if these rates are too short the effects of rate scaling will be insignificant.
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Basic FM Synthesis
5. FM Demo 1-D
(E.G. Control of Timbre)
General Description:
This voice is also closely related to FM Demo 1-A. The main difference is in the envelope shape of Op. 2,
which now has an attack every bit as fast as the carrier (Op. 1). Thus the sound begins with index of
modulation at maximum. You no longer hear the "filter opening" aspect of the sound, only the “closing.” A
similar effect may be achieved on an analog synthesizer using an envelope generator (EG) to control a lowpass filter's cut-off frequency. (Of course the “slowly opening and closing [of] a low-pass filter” in the
previous analog models for examples 1-A,-B, and-C could also have been accomplished using an EG--with a
slow attack--to control the low-pass filter rather than the implied manipulation of the filter’s control dial.)
Patch Information:
Nearly identical to FM Demo 1-A (i.e. Op. 1 modulated by Op. 2; both at maximum output; both at same
frequency ratio, etc.), except that EG rate 1 of Op. 2 is set at maximum speed (i.e. 99).
Exercises:
1. Experiment with various frequency ratios for both the operators, especially that of the modulator
(Op. 2) — as in FM Demo 1-A.
2. Experiment with the Output Level of Op. 2 (settings from 60 - 99 will give audible results)
Basic FM Synthesis
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6. FM Demo 1-E
Velocity Control of Carrier (i.e. Amplitude)
General Description:
This voice is closely related to FM Demo 1-D. The only difference is that now the voice responds to key
velocity. The harder (faster) the key is struck, the louder the sound and vice versa.
Patch Information:
Nearly identical to FM Demo 1-D, except that now the carrier (Op. 1) is set at maximum velocity
sensitivity.
Exercises:
1. Experiment with various settings of velocity sensitivity for Op. 2 and
Op. 1, both together and independently
2. Experiment with the Output Level of Op. 2
-10-
Basic FM Synthesis
7. FM Demo 1-F
(E.G. Control of Timbre)
General Description:
This voice is also closely related to FM Demo 1-D. The main difference is in the envelope shape of Op. 2,
which now has a perceptibly slower attack. The sound may also be perceived as a sped-up version of FM
Demo 1-A. A similar effect would be achieved on an analog synthesizer using an envelope generator (EG) to
control a low-pass filter's cut-off frequency. (Probably in combination with some filter regeneration to
emphasize the timbral extremes of the sound.)
Patch Information:
Nearly identical to FM Demo 1-D, except that EG rate 1 of Op. 2 is slower
Exercises:
1. Experiment with various frequency ratios for both the operators, especially that of the modulator
(Op. 2)--as in FM Demo 1-A.
2. Experiment with the Output Level of Op. 2 (settings from 60 - 99 will give audible results)
Basic FM Synthesis
-11-
8. FM Demo 1-G
(slower carrier E.G. with faster modulator E.G. affects timbre changes, too)
General Description:
This voice, too, is closely related to FM Demo 1-D. The main difference is in the envelope shape of Op. 1,
which now has a perceptibly slower attack. A similar effect might be achieved on an analog synthesizer
using an envelope generator (EG) to control the center frequency of a band-pass filter. This effect, achieved
with great ease and flexibility on the DX7 compared to many older analog synthesizers, is the basis for a
wide variety of sounds from the factory preset “Wasp Sting” to various simulated bowed string attacks.
Patch Information:
Nearly identical to FM Demo 1-D, except that EG rate 1 of Op. 1 is slower
Exercises:
1. Experiment with various frequency ratios for both the operators, especially that of the modulator
(Op. 2)--as in FM Demo 1-A.
2. Experiment with the Output Level of Op. 2 (settings from 70 - 99 will give audible results)
3. Experiment with various degrees of rate scaling (RSc) for Op. 1
-12-
Basic FM Synthesis
9. FM Demo 2-A
(E.G. Control of Timbre)
General Description:
While this voice may initially appear to be a duplicate of FM Demo 1-A, when later characteristics of the
sound are heard (i.e. when a key is held down for a while, or upon release of the key if it's not held down
long), it is clear that there are significant differences. They result primarily from the fact that the envelope
for the modulating Op. 2 is inverted--meaning that the beginning and ending are at maximum amplitude,
while the internal amplitude is much lower. Fairly slow internal rates allow the changes between the
amplitude levels to be quite apparent.
Patch Information:
Basic two operator patch (i.e. Op. 1 modulated by Op. 2; both at maximum output; both at same
frequency ratio, etc.), but Op. 2 has an inverted envelope.
Exercises:
1. Experiment with various settings for the envelope of Op. 2. Adjust both the EG Rates and Levels.
Try to get rid of the "release sound" by decreasing EG Rate 4 on Op. 2. Use all three methods of
editing the envelope:
1) “dragging” 2) typing 3) mouse button w/ arrow
2. Experiment with the Output Level of Op. 2 (settings from 60 - 99 should give audible results)
Basic FM Synthesis
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10. FM Demo 2-B
(E.G. Control of Timbre)
General Description:
This voice is derived from FM Demo 2-A. It has a similar inverted envelope for Op. 2, but the sustain level
is kept low. Thus it is indistinguishable from FM Demo 1-D, with its right-side-up envelope, until a key is
released. The "metallic" sound of the release is the characteristic sound and one of the primary uses for
inverted envelopes. The various DX7 harpsichord presets all use some version of this device.
Patch Information:
Nearly identical to FM Demo 2-A, except that Op. 2 has a low sustain setting
Exercises:
1. Experiment with various frequency ratios for both the operators, especially that of the modulator
(Op. 2)--as in FM Demo 1-A.
2. Experiment with the Output Level of Op. 2 (settings from 60 - 99 will give audible results).
3. Experiment with various degrees of rate scaling (RSc) for Op. 2.
-14-
Basic FM Synthesis
11. Pitch EG Demo 1
General Description:
This voice is designed to demonstrate obvious (and dramatic) use of the Pitch EG. The DX-7 has only one
envelope for pitch control. It affects all operators simultaneously, whether they be carriers or modulators.
There is no way to isolate the effects of the pitch envelope on any given operator, nor is there any way to
have more than one pitch envelope per voice.
Patch Information:
Op. 2 modulates Op. 1 (both at full output) with a slowly ascending and descending Pitch EG controlling
both simultaneously. A Level setting of “50” indicates normal pitch; numbers above “50” indicate a higher
pitch; numbers below “50” indicate a lower pitch. The amplitude EG for Op. 2 (the modulator) is set with
relatively slow rates so that changes in timbre accompany changes in pitch.
Exercises:
1. Try adjusting the shape of the Pitch EG by drastically changing the first two rates. If you are using
the Macintosh, simply "drag" the appropriate corners of the graphic display of the EG. (You may
need to "point and click" the mouse on one of the numerical settings of the pitch EG to bring the
graphic EG into the editing window.)
2. Make adjustment in the Level settings for the Pitch EG. Begin simply by altering the “non-50”
settings. Next start altering the levels set at “50”. Finally, try to make the Pitch EG change
directions more than two times by alternating levels (i.e. high-low-high-low, etc.)
Basic FM Synthesis
-15-
12: Pitch EG Demo 2
General Description:
This is another voice with dramatic use of the pitch envelope. A sine wave moves from a very high pitch to
normal pitch (“50”) in one smooth descent.
Patch Information:
Op. 1 is the only operator used so the Pitch EG operates only on it. Note that in order for the Pitch EG to
start way above normal, Level 4 needs to be up very high. This is the only way to have the sound begin
high suddenly. In other words the sound begins where it left off on Level 4 and then proceeds to Level 1 at
Rate 1. If you are using the Macintosh, note also that you can not "drag" the far left box of the EG graphic.
You must "drag" the Level 4 box, then the left box will move to whatever value you set for Level 4.
Exercises:
1. Try adjusting the shape of the Pitch EG by significantly altering Rate 1 and the Level 4. If you are
using the Macintosh, simply “drag” the appropriate corners of the graphic display of the EG. (You
may need to “point and click” the mouse on one of the numerical settings of the pitch EG to bring the
graphic EG into the editing window.)
2. Increase the Output Level for Op. 2 and make adjustments in its amplitude EG so that the timbre
of the voice changes over time as well as its pitch. Try to coordinate the two different types of
envelopes to achieve an interesting effect.
-16-
Basic FM Synthesis
13: TM Demo
(LFO Control of Timbre)
General Description:
This voice is designed to imitate the subtractive synthesis sound achieved by filter modulation or timbral
modulation (TM). The FM equivalent of this sound is arrived at using a low frequency oscillator (LFO) to
control the amplitude of the modulating operator. As we have seen before, changes in the amplitude of the
modulating operator result in changes in the overall timbre. In this example, the changes in amplitude are
controlled by an LFO.
Patch Information:
LFO controls amplitude modulation of Op. 2, which in turn provides for frequency modulation of Op. 1
(both at full output). Op. 2 response to LFO is effected by the Amplitude setting of the Mod Sensitivity
parameter (set to a maximum of “3” in this case--labelled AM on the Macintosh).
Exercises:
1. Experiment with changes in the Amplitude Modulation Sensitivity (settings range from 0-3). Note
the “blip” in the sound caused by imposing a limit (settings 1-2) on the range of amplitude variance-the result is a virtual "clipping" of the triangle waveform of the LFO.
2. With the AM sensitivity set on “3”, experiment with changes in the Output Level of Op. 2 (from ca.
40-99). Next try varying the output in conjunction with changes in the AM sensitivity.
3. Experiment with various waveforms for the LFO
4. Experiment with changes in the frequency (Speed) of the LFO.
Basic FM Synthesis
-17-
14: TM Demo-MW
(Mod Wheel determines depth of LFO control of timbre)
General Description:
This voice is also designed to imitate the subtractive synthesis sound achieved by timbral modulation (TM).
In this case, the amount of TM can be altered in real time. Specifically, the overall amplitude of Op. 2, as
well as the operator's responsiveness to the LFO amplitude modulation, is controlled by the Mod Wheel.
Patch Information:
Similar to the previous TM Demo except that the Mod Wheel is set to have maximum control (setting "15")
over Amplitude ("On") and EG Bias ("On"). Only Op. 2 is set to respond to either (by virtue of its AM/"3"
setting). Amplitude "On" results in the Mod Wheel controlling the degree of low-frequency AM of Op. 2; EG
Bias "On" results in the Mod Wheel controlling all the levels of amplitude EG for Op. 2. (With the Mod
Wheel rotated all the way forward the stored EG values for Op. 2 are functional. As the wheel is rotated
forward, all the levels are reduced proportionally until they reach "0.")
Exercises: (all exercises should incorporate rotations of the Mod Wheel)
1. Experiment with changes in the Mod Wheel Range. (rotate Mod Wheel)
2. Switch EG Bias to "Off" (rotate MW). Note that the TM sound still fades in and out as you rotate
the MW, but that the basic reference timbre is very bright--the result of having the full output of Op.
2 modulating Op. 1 until the LFO is brought into play by the MW.
3. Experiment with changes in LFO frequency (Speed) and waveform.
-18-
Basic FM Synthesis
15: TM-Organ
General Description:
This voice is designed to show how the basic concept of timbre modulation can be used as part of a more
complex, musically interesting sound. It is included here mainly to show what this discussion of simple FM
synthesis might lead to once these concepts are mastered. Though this voice is probably more complex
than a beginning synthesist might be expected to invent, most of the individual components of the sound
construction have already been discussed. What makes this voice complex (and musically satisfying) is the
interaction of several individually simple components.
Patch Information:
The "TM" aspect of the sound is caused by LFO amplitude modulation of Op. 2 (which modulates Op. 1).
Op. 2 is set for maximum sensitivity to the LFO modulation (see AM/"3" setting). This is similar to the
previous two examples. One small but significant difference in the LFO modulation is that LFO "Sync" is
turned off in this example. This means that the pattern of LFO modulation occurs independent of
keyboard depressions. The keyboard does not trigger the LFO to begin a new cycle, which means that each
note played is likely to occur during a different part of the continuously ongoing LFO cycle. Since the LFO is
controlling timbre, each note is likely to have a slightly different timbre depending on where in the LFO
cycle the key is depressed. Using a moderately gentle touch, tap out a rhythmic pattern on any one note on
the lower half of the keyboard. If you look at the parameters for Operators 3-6, you will note that they all
have some degree of Velocity Sensitivity programmed into them. The modulators, which we've seen control
timbre, have higher sensitivity settings so the harder/faster a key is depressed the brighter the timbre.
Including this touch sensitive portion of the voice allows the keyboard player instant control of the timbre
that will over-ride the LFO control of the timbre. This gives the player a great deal of expressive flexibility.
When you are playing easy unaccented lines and chords the LFO automatically provides subtle changes in
timbre (similar to a "Wah-Wah" pedal). When you want to call attention to a note by giving it a brighter
timbre simply accent the note. Try articulating a rhythmic pattern on one note in the middle or upper
register, but this time use occasional accents. The last touches added to the voice are Level Scaling on Op.
2 and Rate Scaling ("RSc") on Op. 3. The Level Scaling of Op. 2 causes the "TM" effect to be emphasized in
the lower register and de-emphasized in the upper register. The Rate Scaling of Op. 3 causes timbral
differences in the lower register between accented and unaccented notes to be less pronounced than in the
upper register. Experiment with various degrees of accents in different registers on the keyboard and listen
for this subtle difference in effect.
Basic FM Synthesis
-19-
16: "Wah" Organ
General Description:
This voice is very similar to the previous TM-Organ. The only difference is that the aspect of timbre control
previously accomplished automatically by the LFO is now effected by using the Foot Controller. Play
several notes on the keyboard in various registers while moving the foot pedal up and down and listen to
the effect on the timbre. Note that the timbre is still touch-sensitive in the same general way as the TMOrgan voice.
Note: If you have trouble getting a proper response from the Foot Controller, follow the instructions under
the heading Additional Help for MW-Demo, but substitute buttons 21-24 for buttons 17-20
respectively. Also — Make sure that the foot controller pedal is connected to the jack on the back of
the DX7 labeled “controller” NOT the one labeled “volume”
-20-
Basic FM Synthesis
17: LF Carri 1
General Description:
This voice introduces the concept of using an operator as a sine wave LFO by assigning it a very low fixed
frequency. Used as a modulator, this low, fixed-frequency operator could provide an alternative type of
vibrato control. In this voice, however, the low-frequency operator functions as a carrier, causing cyclic
changes in timbre.
Patch Information:
Op. 1 is set to a frequency of 1Hz, the lowest possible fixed-frequency on the DX7. (The fact that the DX7
does not allow its operators to be fine-tuned between 1 and 0 Hertz is a design flaw that has disappointed
many synthesists.) Op. 2 tracks the keyboard and modulates Op. 1 at full output.
Exercises:
1. Experiment with Op. 2 Output Level. Try settings between 50 and 99.
2. Experiment with the Mod Wheel. Note that its effects are simply added onto the low-frequency
effects already present.
3. With Op. 2 at whatever Output Level you find pleasing, experiment with Op. 1 frequency changes.
To do this, press the OPERATOR SELECT button on the left side of the DX7 repeatedly until the
display reads, "OP1" in the upper right corner. Then press the EDIT/COMPARE on the left side of
DX7, followed by button "19" (FREQUENCY/FINE) on the right. Listen to the frequency changes
as you hold down a chord while you slowly slide the data entry fader up and down. This is one of
the few instances where data changes are heard while a key is depressed. (The other buttons
controlling oscillator frequency and the buttons for LFO Wave and Speed also respond this way.)
Usually the sound is not updated until you press another key down.
4. Return Op. 2 to Output Level 99 and program a Level Scaling on it. To do this in an easy manner,
press button "25" (DEPTH) once or twice until the lower left corner has an "R" in it, then slide the
data entry fader around until the number in the lower right corner is between 25 and 40. If you are
using the Macintosh you can do this even more simply by pointing and clicking on the "0" to the right
of the A-1 beneath Op. 2 and simply typing in a number between 25 and 40. The default setting on
Level Scaling is a negative linear curve with a break point of A-1 (the lowest A on a piano) which is
off the DX7 keyboard. By programming a negative linear curve to the right of that Low-A, you've
constructed a sound with a brighter timbre on the lower end of the keyboard.
18: LF Carri 2
General Description/Patch Information:
This voice simply expands on the concepts of the previous voice. The settings for Op. 1 and Op. 2 are
identical in both voices. In this voice Op. 3 and Op. 4 are added, with settings that nearly duplicate Op. 1
and Op. 2. The only difference is that the Op. 3 has a different Fixed-Frequency setting.
Exercises:
1. Hold one note down and listen to the complex beating pattern that results from the interaction of the
slightly out-of-tune LF Operators. Play several notes one at a time and hold them down. Notice
that beating patterns are not in sync with each other, so that each note swells and fades
independently of the rest.
2. Make minor changes in Fine Frequency settings for Op. 1 & 3. (repeat 1)
Basic FM Synthesis
-21-
-22-
Basic FM Synthesis
19: LF Carri 3
General Description:
This voice is designed to expand still further on the basic concept of low- frequency carriers. In this voice
another pair of operators with an LF carrier is added.
Patch Information:
The settings for Op. 1, Op. 2, Op. 3, and Op. 4 are identical to LF Carri 2. Now, Op. 5 and Op. 6 are
included, with settings that nearly duplicate those of the other pairs. The fixed-frequency value for the LF
Op. 5 is the only difference. In order for Op. 5 to function as a carrier, algorithm 5 is used for the first time
in these studies.
Exercises:
1. Hold one note down and listen to the complex beating pattern that results from the interaction of the
slightly out-of-tune LF Operators. Play several notes one at a time and hold them down. Notice
that beating patterns are not in sync with each other, so that each note swells and fades
independent of the rest.
2. Make minor changes in Fine Frequency settings for Op. 1 & 3. (repeat 1)
Basic FM Synthesis
-23-
20: Addsynth 1
General Description:
This voice is constructed using additive synthesis. With only six sine waves to sum, the DX7 is not a
powerful tool for this method of sound construction. But it does provide the basics for using it alone or in
combination with FM synthesis. Algorithm 32, with all six operators functioning as carriers, allows
maximum additive synthesis power and flexibility.
Patch Information:
In Algorithm 32, all six operators are used as carriers. The Output Level for each is set at the maximum
("99"). Frequency Ratios are set to the ascending whole integers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, producing the first six
harmonics. All other settings, including envelopes, are left at the Voice Initialization default values. (Now
you know basically how cheap organs get their sound!)
Exercises:
1. Isolate the sound of each operator by turning off all but one of them at a time. Use the OPERATOR
ON/OFF switches on the DX7 (buttons "1-6") or, with the Macintosh, use the mouse to click in the
box with the "X" in it (next to the big operator numbers).
2. Experiment with the Output Levels for all the operators.
3. Experiment with the Coarse Frequency Ratios of all the operators, making sure that you set them all
to different integers.
4. Experiment with the Fine Frequency Ratios of all the operators. The sounds you are most likely to
construct this way will be examples of non-harmonic additive synthesis.
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Basic FM Synthesis
21: Addsynth 2
General Description:
This voice is similar to the previous Addsynth 1. In fact, the steady-state sound of a note that has been
held down 3 or 4 seconds is absolutely identical. The only differences occur at the beginning of the sound.
The envelope generators are designed so as to bring in each harmonic of the sound separately.
Patch Information:
Identical to Addsynth 1 except for EG settings. Ops. 2-6 all have a rather slow EG Rate 1 (ranging from 7
to 23) which is combined with a Level 1 setting that is too low to be audible. This combination serves to
delay the the audible "attack" which is provided by a moderate EG Rate 2 ( ca. 50) in combination with a
maximum Level 2 setting.
Exercises:
1. Try altering the order of harmonic entrances by adjusting EG Rate 1 on Ops. 2-6. If you "get lost"
and want to get back to the original sound to try again, or before going on to Exercise 2, simply recall
a fresh copy of the voice to the Edit Buffer. (Select "Compare" under the Edit menu for Macintosh or
CARTRIDGE button followed by button "21" on DX7)
2. Experiment with the Coarse Frequency Ratios of all the operators, making sure that you set them all
to different integers.
3. Experiment with the Fine Frequency Ratios of all the operators.
Basic FM Synthesis
-25-
22: Addsynth 3
General Description:
This voice is similar to the previous Addsynth 2, but this time the entrances of the various harmonics have
a stronger, more bell-like attack and are higher pitched than before. The sound also dies away more
slowly.
Patch Information:
EG settings similar to Addsynth 2 (Ops. 2-6: Level 1 is ca. 50, Rate 1 ranges from 6 to 23), but now Rate 2
is above 90 (bell-like attack) and all operators have a Rate 4 of 30 (slow decay). Frequency Ratios range
from 3 to 8.
Exercises:
1. Try adjusting all the EG Rate 4 settings to cause the harmonics to decay at different rates, becoming
inaudible in the same order as their attacks.
2. Assign the same Rate Scaling value to each operator so that time-delays for entrances of the
harmonics vary according to the highness or lowness of the key depressed. Try several different
"across-the-board" values.
-26-
Basic FM Synthesis
23: Addsynth 4
General Description:
This voice is derived from Addsynth 1 and shares an identical steady-state sound with it. The only
difference is that the harmonics smoothly, but quickly fade in one by one over a short span of time (ca. 1
sec.). Notice that this effect is very similar to the sound of a low-pass filter controlled by an EG, which in
turn we've seen to be similar in effect to the linear FM sounds introduced at the begining of this book. (i.e.
Using an amplitude EG to control a sinewave which then modulates a sinewave carrier.) So we now have 2
utterly different ways of approximating that common subtractive synthesis sound on the DX7.
Patch Information:
Identical to Addsynth 1, except EG Rate 1 settings for Ops. 1-6 descend by a factor of 10 as the harmonic
ratio ascends by whole integers.
Exercises:
1. Assign the same Rate Scaling value to each operator so that time-delays for entrances of the
harmonics vary according to the highness or lowness of the key depressed. Try several different
"across-the-board" values.
2. Try adjusting the EG for Ops. 2-6 to give the illusion of closing a low-pass filter. Hint: Put all Level
3 and Level 4 settings for Ops. 2-6 to "0" then adjust the Rate 2 settings so they read something
like 20, 25, 30, 35, 40.
Basic FM Synthesis
-27-
24: Addsynth 5
General Description:
This voice, too, is derived from Addsynth 1 and shares an identical steady-state sound with it. It also
shares with Addsynth 4 the concept of harmonics fading in one by one over a period of time. The differences
this time are that the harmonics enter in opposite order, from high to low, and take longer to enter. This is
of course similar to opening up a high-pass filter.
Patch Information:
Identical to Addsynth 1, except EG Rate 1 settings for Ops. 1-6 ascend from 15 to 70 as the harmonic ratio
ascends by whole integers.
Exercises:
1. Assign the same Rate Scaling value to each operator so that time-delays for entrances of the
harmonics vary according to the highness or lowness of the key depressed. Try several different
"across-the-board" values.
2. Try adjusting the EG for Ops. 2-6 to give the illusion of sweeping the center-frequency of a band-pass
filter from high to low. Hint: Put all Level 3 and Level 4 settings for Ops. 2-6 to "0" then adjust the
Rate 2 settings so they read something like 30, 35, 40, 45, 50.
-28-
Basic FM Synthesis
Expressive Pitch Bend with Timbre Variation
On many acoustic instruments, expressive pitch bending also results in changes timbre (or tone color).
Often (as in a saxophone or harmonica, for example) it is a matter of losing some of the original brilliance or
edginess of the sound as the pitch is bent downward. This effect can be achieved on a synthesizer with a
dedicated pitch wheel, such as the DX series of keyboards, only by incorporating simultaneous and parallel
use of another controller. I experimented with the Pitch Wheel in various combinations with the Breath
Controller, Foot Pedal and After Touch, but was not quite satisfied. The results were often interesting, but
not very “natural-sounding,” because even after much practice it was still difficult to achieve the necessary
degree of physical coordination. Though it first seemed the least likely prospect (my left hand was already
busy with the Pitch Wheel at the time, right?), I have settled on the Mod Wheel as the easiest, surest way
to coordinate changes of timbre with pitch bend. Achieving the best results with this effect requires
cultivating a two-fingered, dual-wheel technique with your left hand and a little minor reprogramming of
the patches you want to use. The dual-wheel technique involves using the index finger on the Mod Wheel
and the middle finger on the Pitch Wheel, each doing exactly the same thing at the same time. The
reprogramming is necessary so that the timbre will be "normalized" when the Mod Wheel is half way up. It
also compensates for the reduced sweep of the Mod Wheel from the half-way point down to minimum-which coincides with the most frequently used pitch bend range ( i.e. from middle, or "0" on down) for
instruments such as harmonica and saxophone. To reprogram a patch for use with this technique, simply
follow these steps.
1. Choose an existing patch or timbre and determine which operators are carriers and which are
modifiers. For our tutorial example let's use the original DX7 factory ACCORDION preset. It uses
algorithm 4, which means that operators #1 and #4 are both carriers and operators #2, #3, #5, and
#6 are all modifiers. (I know the accordion is not noted for its expressive pitch bends, but by the
time we’re through it'll make a dandy harmonica patch.)
2. Determine which modulating operators feed directly into a carrier and program them for amplitude
modulation sensitivity. (On the DX7, enter the edit mode and press button 16; on the DX7II, enter
the edit mode, press button 11, and move the cursor over to the "Ams" column. Then select the
specific operators you wish to program.) In the ACCORDION preset, operators #2 and #5 are the
modifiers which feed directly into the carriers. Program these modulators so they each have an
amplitude modulation sensitivity setting of "2."
3. Now, program the Mod Wheel so that it will control only E.G. Bias with maximum range sensitivity.
This may require removing pitch modulation (vibrato) or amplitude modulation (tremolo) from Mod
Wheel control. (On the DX7, while in the function mode, buttons 17, 18, 19, and 20 will allow you to
program this: Range should be "99", Pitch and Amplitude should be "OFF" while E.G. Bias should
be "ON." On the DX7II, enter the edit mode and press button 25 repeatedly until "Modulation
wheel" appears in the upper left of the edit window: Pmod should be "0," Amod should be "0," and
EGbias should be "99.") If you want to be able to control vibrato/tremolo effects, too, as I usually do,
then I'd recommend programming After Touch to control these.
At this point, push the Mod Wheel all the way up and listen to the sound of the patch you are
working with. It should sound the same as it did before you started. When you return the mod
wheel to "0" you should get a much darker sound.
4. Next, place the Mod Wheel exactly in the middle of its range (so its finger groove lines up with the
pitch wheel finger groove).
5. If you are modifying the ACCORDION patch, adjust the operator outputs as follows: Operator #2
goes from "79" to "81"; Operator #5 goes from "70" to "75." (On the DX7, in the edit mode, press
button 27. On the DX7II, enter the edit mode and press button 10 once or twice until you read
">Level" in the edit window.) This is done so that when the two wheels are used together with
notches aligned, the patch will have its original timbre when the pitch wheel is at "0."
If you are using a different starting patch, simply go to the modulating operators on which you set up
Mod Wheel control and begin nudging their output values upward while testing the audio results by
playing on the keyboard. Keep experimenting until the voice sounds more or less the way it
originally did. Hint: tweak each output level a little before going too far with one operator.
Basic FM Synthesis
-29-
Now you can use your index and middle fingers together to control pitch bend and timbre simultaneously by
moving the two wheels together. Using pitch bends in the minus range with parallel movements of the Mod
Wheel will vary the patch's timbre between its original sound and one several shades darker in direct
correlation to the amount of pitch bend. With only a couple of practice sessions I think you will find that
moving the two fingers in tandem becomes second nature and only slightly more physically demanding than
working only the pitch bend wheel. The resulting sound, however, is much more interesting and expressive
than mere pitch bend!
Extras. I find that a pitch bend range of "1 or 2" (half or whole step) works best to give natural sounding
bends while still creating effective timbre changes when the two wheels are used together. Also for this
particular patch, I set up After Touch to activate a somewhat exaggerated tremolo/vibrato effect using a
rather fast LFO speed setting (ca. 45). On a DX7, set a comfortable After Touch range for your playing
style and simply turn on the Pitch Mod and Amplitude Mod options. On a DX7II, where it's possible to
make such distinctions, I might use about twice as much amplitude modulation or tremolo (ca."60") as
pitch modulation or vibrato (ca."30"). Other suggested modifications for this particular patch below:
A. Get rid of the very slow "beats" created by the extreme detuning of operators #2 and #3. (Adjust
detuning values of "+0" for operators #2 and #3. Or you might desire to leave in a subtle detuning
effect by setting operator #3 to ca. "+3" instead of "0.")
B. Raise the sustain levels of the modifying operators (especially #5 and #6) so that the Mod Wheel can
exercise stronger control over the timbre of long-held notes. (Once the E.G.'s reach the lower sustain
levels on a long-held note, you cannot raise the output above those levels with the Mod Wheel.)
-30-
Basic FM Synthesis
Addendum/Update for Basic FM Synthesis booklet
Though the demos in this booklet were written for the original DX7, the concepts behind these demo
sounds are applicable to any Yamaha FM synthesizer. All of the actual patches in the booklet are
completely compatible with any 6-operator FM synthesizer such as the TX7, DX7II,TX802, SY77 (which
are all available in both studios at O.U.). In fact since many of the demos use only two sine wave
operators, they can be duplicated on 4-operator synthesizer such as the TX81Z and the V50 which are also
available to students at O.U.
Yamaha DX7 I I-FD
Since the DX7 II-FD has the benefit of a disk drive which allows you to load the sounds directly into the
synthesizer, without a computer or other software, you may want to begin your exploration of these demos
on this synthesizer.
Steps for exploring Basic FM Synthesis on the Yamaha DX7 I I-FD :
1. Push the button labeled “EDIT” to the left of the display screen.
2. Push the button #14 under the “UTILITY” menu (you may need to push it repeatedly) until the top
line reads: “>Master tuning Memory Protect >INT >CRT”
3. Use the CURSOR buttons at the far upper left of the DX7II to move the cursor to the arrow (>) in front
of “INT” (which stands for “Internal”)
4. Push the “– 1/OFF” button to turn the internal memory protect off.
5. Insert the disk containing the demos into the drive at the far left corner of the DX7II. (It may be there
already, so you may wish to jump to the next step.)
6. Push the button #16 under the “DISK” menu (you may need to push it repeatedly) until the top line
read says: “DISK INT >DIR >SAVE etc.
7. Push the CURSOR buttons to move the cursor to the arrow (>) in front of “DIR” (which stands for
Directory) and push the “+1/Yes” button
8. Press the “– 1/OFF” and/or the “+1/Yes” buttons until you see the file name “fm-demos” on the
bottom line.
9. Press the right arrow cursor two times so that the cursor is at the arrow (>) in front of “Load” — then
press the “+1/Yes” two times.
10. Press the ‘SINGLE” button (which should have a red light above it. HOWEVER—If the red light
above the “PERFORMANCE” button is on then press that button first, then the “SINGLE” button.
11. Now you will be able to simple press the button corresponding to the specific demo you wish to
examine. (Be sure that there is no red light above the “1–32” button or you will be selecting patches
33–64 instead of 1–32. If the red light is on simply push the button and it will go off.)