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Harmony among electronic components in musical instruments

Posted: 30 Jun 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:electronic components  DSP technology  musical instruments design 

Since the invention of the semiconductor-based transistor, designers have been putting in great efforts to create electronic musical instruments. Although such instruments may not be able to completely substitute for the natural instrument, electronic instruments are popular due to their portability, low maintenance and ease-of-use—especially for new learners and the ability to produce sound effects that are not possible using natural instruments.

The advancement of DSP technology furthers opens up new dimensions to add novel features to electronic musical instruments.

The transistor-based astable multi-vibrator was the first effort to produce music based on generation of square-waves or sawtooth-waves at different frequencies, which were determined using resistor-capacitor networks. Even until a decade ago, some of the low-cost electronic musical instruments used the IC555-based astable multi-vibrator to produce fixed notes.

These instruments were popular at the time of their creation, but the main shortcoming of such instruments was poor tonal quality, and limited stability and accuracy of the frequencies produced, so that when played in combination with other natural instruments in an orchestra they often sounded out-of-tune or required constant fine-tuning.

As electronic technology has evolved, designers have used more advanced techniques to create high-fidelity musical instruments. This article discusses the requirements, the constraints and the challenges in creating high-quality musical instruments using electronic components (both analogue and digital) available today.

View the PDF document for more information.

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