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BasicSynth Paperback – 13 Jan 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: (13 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0557022126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0557022120
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 226,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Big Ben TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 May 2013
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Daniel Mitchell's book is first rate.
But you will need to be up to speed on C++ (or something similar) to get the best from it.
That's not compulsory, and you could (as I did decades back with another book) use his examples to get a feel for the language.
If you can code for an Arduino, you are half-way there, so it's far from impossible, and the examples are very well described.
If you already do some coding, this is a Rosetta Stone for getting started in the Digital Signal Processing of musical instrument synthesis. Respect!
I'm an analogue hardware synthesist from the 1970s who usually struggles with 'object oriented' coding and prefers assembler, but I found this very readable and extremely useful, as well as reasonably priced.
Highly recommended for those with a keen interest in this topic, and the ability to get their heads around it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ms. L. E. Mckee on 28 April 2014
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Really well written and a great insight in to the dark art of programming soft synths! Definitely a buy I did not regret.
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Good, but a bit more infor on realtime implementation, and on how to get long reverb times
would be useful
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An extremely valuable resource 7 May 2009
By Y. Dreyband - Published on
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I don't normally write reviews for products I buy but I thought that I would put in my two cents about the book Basicsynth. I started studying the beginnings of digital signal processing (DSP) because I was fascinated with the idea of constructing a software instrument, yet every book on DSP was either a lot of technical jargon or made you say "Okay, so how do I use this practically?" Similarly, those of us who aren't the best at translating real life equations into code will find most books on programming to be equally unhelpful. This book is that intermediary that bridges the gap between digital signal processing and computer programming, and it does a fine job of it.

I have not used the book to its full potential, since I'm still a novice with both the equations and concepts of actual DSP as well as programming. However it has helped tremendously to understand some of the basic concepts of DSP without unnecessary jargon as well as given me a clearer look into how a computer program actually represents some of the seemingly complex equations.

The later chapters can get extremely complex in subject, but keep in mind this book is not meant as a replacement for DSP books, but rather a supplement. For a good place to start I recommend Richard G. Lyons "Understanding Digital Signal Processing".

One of the really great aspects of the book is that the code is presented in a very clear fashion such that it is easy to identify what the functions in the excerpts are doing. Not only that but frequently Mitchell provides example code that is a literal representation of the equation, followed often by multiple versions of that same code in some simplified fashion. This can either be code that is more computationally efficient or other times it's just presented in a way that's easier to read and understand for the would-be programmer. Since programs are not always written with diligent attention to useful comments and formatting, browsing existing code may not be that helpful.

As the other review by Dan Mitchell explains, the book covers many topics including the most common forms of computer generated sound, including FM, subtractive and additive synthesis, as well as filters and common processors like reverb and chorus. There are numerous other topics in the book that are definitely worth your while if the subject matter interests you.

My solitary complaint about the book is that it is currently only fully available in print format. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, for a field that is as fast moving as programming software instruments and effects, it is helpful to be able to update code and concepts if necessary. In defense of the book however, most changes in C++ are minor at this point and unlikely to affect the content of the book and second the subjects the book covers are well-trodden and "old" enough that new innovations in the field will also have little or no effect on what are tried and true methods of sound synthesis.

All in all a fantastic book and make sure to get the example code at [...] when working with the book.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Good Introduction - Please remove the optimizations hints ;) 26 April 2014
By Maxterm - Published on
Pretty much what the others already said...

Since I am a system software developer trying to understand how instruments can be synthesized, I had no previous exposure, even though very advanced algorithms, math and physics understanding. This book will tell a software developer anything he needs to know ;), so it doesn't throw you in cold water. But beaware that it will only go through the basics. I read through it in a few hours and mostly its a lot of templates to generate various stuffs and mix it together. Its good to have such a bird-view feeling over topic. After that I would suggest what I am doing now, reading "Designing Sound, by Andy Farnell" which goes into the great detail of how the physics work behind the scenes and how to simulate it.

BUT, I am a bit annoyed by the outdated optimzation hints. Especially in 2008... If that was a book from 2000 OKAY! But its not.
Your compiler, especially a C++ compiler knows all the tricks. You don't need to pull out loop invariants, you don't need to do some bit-shifting ( x*=2 will actually be done as x << 1 whenever possible by any "good" compiler, so don't obfuscate your code) magic and floating point vodoo... In fact doing this will actually give you worse performance in some cases because the compiler doesn't understand what you intended to do and can't apply the "common-path" optimizations anymore. Floating point is definitly NOT slower than integers on latest processors (think of AVX, which wasn't available 2008 I think), just utilizing the full power of parallel floating point processing can be a bit convoluted at times. But switching to integer-forth-and-back-conversion-vodoo is definitely the road to slow code.
Optimize for asymptotic times and write clean code. Then the profiler will tell you WHAT and WHERE to optimize. Premature optimization is a very bad idea given the enormous advancements in compiler technology and processors.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The book of my dreams. 11 Mar. 2012
By MR JOE J McONNELL - Published on
I've been writing a software synthesizer myself and had been hunting around for books to cover some of the theory and ideas for implementation. This book is fantastic in that regard. It explains pretty much everything needed in order to design and develop your own software synthesizer and has proved to be invaluable to me so far. The concepts are explained clearly and anyone with even a basic grasp of the principles of sound generation should find it very useful.

If you're looking to create your own software synthesizer or are just interested in how a software synth works, give this a shot, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Author's Description 27 Feb. 2009
By Daniel Mitchell - Published on
Books on music synthesizers explain the theory of music synthesis, or show you how to use an existing synthesizer, but don't cover the practical details of constructing a custom software synthesizer. Likewise, books on digital signal processing describe sound generation in terms of complex equations and leave it up to the reader to solve the practical problems of programming the equations. BasicSynth takes you beyond the theory and shows you how to create a custom synthesizer in software using the C++ programming language. The first part of the book explains the basic computer algorithms used to generate and process sound. Numerous unit generators are covered, including oscillators, envelope generators, mixers, filters, delay lines, reverb and flangers. Working examples of MIDI and non-MIDI sequencers are also included. Subsequent chapters explain instrument design by constructing actual synthesis instruments. Each instrument covers a different synthesis technique, including additive, subtractive, and FM synthesis as well as sample file playback. The example instruments are then combined with a text-based music scoring system to produce a complete working synthesizer. Complete source code to the C++ classes and example programs is available for download from the Internet.
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