Sound on Sound: Synth Secrets

In this series of articles, Sound on Sound writer Gordon Reid writes extensively on how analogue synthesizers work. Parts three of the sixty-three part series concern envelopes, what they are, and how they work. Envelopes are important to my process, because while the envelopes of my samples are “baked in”, the principles of attack, decay, sustain, and release will all apply. With this in mind, Reids article, while fascinating, wasn’t particularly useful to me past his very brief discussion of ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release), and his definition of an envelope.

Reid defines an envelope by saying “the graph of the way a parameter changes over time is a visual representation of its envelope,” (Part 7)

The article defines the four parts of ADSR:

  • Attack: The speed at which a sound reaches it’s maximum volume
  • Decay: The speed at which the loudness drops to the sustain level
  • Sustain: The level the loudness maintains until the release
  • Release: The amount of time it takes to decay from the Sustain level to silence

Interestingly enough, Reid describes the ADSR graph of an organ, because of it’s simplicity. He compares it to two other envelopes, though the comparison isn’t particularly useful to me. He says “The organ has a rapid attack and maintains its full volume before dropping to silence when the player releases the key” .

Envelope Graphs

While this envelope describes a synthesized organ, the release on my samples will have to be longer, to facilitate the natural reverb of the church. However, the fact that their is no decay will make looping my samples easier, because the the sustain is longer, and easy to define.


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