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A Bluffers’ Guide to Frequency Modulation
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author A Bluffers’ Guide to Frequency Modulation
alijamieson
Hey guys and gals.

I've just published an article which is supposed to act as a basic to intermediate FM guide.

A Bluffers' Guide to Frequency Modulation

FM is something that I struggled with for the longest time, even with a good knowledge of subtractive synthesis. Once I cracked it I wanted to place everything I found useful in one place.

It looks at Logic's EFM1, Ableton's Operator, NI's FM8, an old soundblaster chip VST and the Synclavier as well as a little euro.

Feedback/corrections welcomed.
coffeeshopped
That's a hell of a primer, nice work! FM is probably my favorite type of synthesis, and I agree that it's had bad PR, in part due to lack of an easy interface to control it on so many synths that introduced it (e.g. Yamaha). I make patch editor software for some of those old Yamaha synths, and hopefully they present some of the FM mysteries in a clearer light.

And nice mention of Akemie's Castle! I have one in my (small) eurorack, and it's my favorite module.
alijamieson
Well I guess thank mylar melodies but it's a fantastic unit.

I've recently expanded my FM capabilities with the Happy Nerding FM Aid and Synth Tech E330 - lovely modules !
coffeeshopped
The FM Aid is news to me. Does it give FM sounds that are more like the usual digital implementations? It looks like that's what it's going for.

FM in analog (i.e. using a couple of oscillators, VCA's, and the osc's Linear/Exp FM inputs) is newer to me, and I find that I can't get the same sounds as I do out of a DX7, even when I'm watching my frequency ratios and modulation index levels. At first I thought I was doing it wrong, but now I think it's just a different (much harder to control?) sound.
alijamieson
Seems biggest issue with analog FM is tuning of oscillators - it's hard get perfect ratios, meaning while FM is possible, DX7-like tones are tough.

Posed this question not long ago:
https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=180269&highlight=
coffeeshopped
I'm wondering if it's also about using FM versus phase modulation. I see that FM Aid actually uses phase modulation, and from the videos I'm watching, the sounds are indeed much brighter and closer to what you get from the old Yamahas. Now I want one! And I want to learn more about different ways to do phase modulation in modular. Cheers!
alijamieson
The DX-series synths allegedly *were* phase modulation, just marketed/retrospectively confused as FM for god-knows what reasons?

That's my understanding anyway.
coffeeshopped
That's my understanding too. But previously I'd thought the sounds between FM/PM were pretty much interchangeable. Now I'm not so sure, at least in analog!
felixer
you can do any sort of audio-rate modulation and end up with basically the same endresult. the big difference is how much of the original freq is coming thru (see eg am vs ringmod). lacking a ringmod or fm you can make do with pwm!
and i agree that the main problem with the dx7 was the impossible userinterface. even a substractive synth would have been a challange!
even the envelopes where a puzzle. and yamaha underestimated the problem, offering very little help in the manual.
furthermore to use fm you need a little bit of math (not the module!). not very popular with musicians (which is strange as music was once grouped with mathematics and astronomy. not with the humanitarian sciences).
BlueWolfSe7en
Cool, look fwd to checking this out when I get a mo.
Nice to see Happy Nerdings FM Aid getting a mention, probably the most overlooked module in Euro, so much in such a small footprint.
JLR did some vids a while back, worth a watch

felixer
btw the fm aid does phase modulation, not frequency modulation.
alijamieson
felixer wrote:
btw the fm aid does phase modulation, not frequency modulation.


Ah thanks for the clarification. They could have been a bit more specific with the name I guess BugBrand!
felixer
alijamieson wrote:
felixer wrote:
btw the fm aid does phase modulation, not frequency modulation.


Ah thanks for the clarification. They could have been a bit more specific with the name I guess BugBrand!

yes. that caused a major irritation with a few people here on this forum. we are easily conned but not that easily ...
nrg242
this was by far one of the best breakdowns of FM for me. thanks for this.
DallasKnight
Thankyou!

This was really helpful
alijamieson
nrg242 wrote:
this was by far one of the best breakdowns of FM for me. thanks for this.


Cheers man that's awesome of you SlayerBadger!
dandandan
Nice write up!
hermbot
Great work, as always.
cheeseandbiscuits
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, extremely helpful!
JonathanB
alijamieson

I salute you. What a great article. You have reignited my interest for FM.
Thank you.
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