Sound Synthesis Class

Taught by Christopher Mckinlay

5 classes

Saturday May 1st, 2010 // 12-3pm
Thursday May 6th, 2010 // 7-10pm
Saturday May 8th, 2010 // 6:30-9:30pm
Thursday May 13th, 2010 // 7-10pm
Saturday May 15th, 2010 // 12-3pm

Become a Machine Project Member and get a discount on all classes for a year!

Non-members – $250

Members – $225

The electronic synthesis of audio signals is a wonderful combination of mathematics (harmonic analysis) and electrical engineering (analog and digital signal processing). This class will present the theoretical fundamentals of sound synthesis with a view towards musical applications. We will use the open source software platform Pure Data as a toolkit for the class and a game called Ovid’s Patch to place the concepts into a musical context and form new collaborations.

class 1: software and synthesis

An introduction to digital audio signal processing and the Pure Data programming environment. Audio and control rates. Analog transitions and AD/DA converters. Ovid’s Patch.

class 2: waveforms and spectra

Mathematical fundamentals of acoustic waves and how we perceive them. A rough guide to the Fourier transform. Spectrum analyzers. The classical waveforms and their spectra. Additive synthesis.

class 3: envelopes and modulation

Transients and their formulation in terms of ADSR envelopes. LFO’s and their role in generating diversity. A taxonomy of linear audio effects such as flanging, ring modulation, delay, and chorus.

class 4: samplers and filters

Subtractive synthesis and its fundamental role in audio production. Cutoff, resonance (‘Q’) and using filters as oscillators. Sampling, wavetables, and interpolation.

class 5: non-linear synthesis and effects

Introduction to frequency modulation synthesis, compression, and saturation. Bit reduction and noise. Analog and digital distortion.


A laptop with a working installation of Pure Data, headphones, and a love of sound. No prior mathematical or programming experience is required. You can download Pure Data for free, here:

About the Instructor:

Christopher Mckinlay is a 4th year PhD student in Mathematics at UCLA studying digital audio signal processing.


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Refund policy:

Please note, all class fees include a non-refundable enrollment deposit of $25 that will be deducted from your refund if you sign up for, then drop, a class. So, for example, if you sign up for Machine Sewing 101 and pay the $155 class fee, but then remember that you have trapeze school final exams that conflict with the Sewing class and shouldn’t have signed up after all, we will refund you $130 of your tuition payment.

Gift certificate purchase:

If you have a Machine Project gift certificate you’d like to redeem for a class, please email us at and let us know.