Nice piece from Meg Neal on 20KHZ explaining all the basics of synths.
You know the sound. Listen to Devo’s “Whip It” or Parliament’s “Flash Light.” Like countless modern pop songs, they’re full of sounds that aren’t made by acoustic instruments; the sound is pure synthetic. You’re listening to electricity manipulated by a machine.
The machine of course is the synthesizer, and it’s been one of the most crucial building blocks of contemporary music. And yet, how many of us know how a synth works? How do a bunch of wonky tones coming out of a box covered in knobs and buttons translate to the memorable sounds of disco, or synthpop, or house or electro or EDM or Taylor Swift?
This guide is an attempt to demystify the ubiquitous sonic gadget—not for audiophiles or synth nerds, but for anyone that listens to music in the 21st century and is curious about how it’s made.