Demystifying Synths


Uncover the basic elements at the heart of all your favorite synth sounds.

20 Minutes
4 Sections

We freakin' love synths. From laser noises to thick atmospherics, synthesizers can produce an incredible world of sound. But what do all those mysterious buttons and knobs actually do? The path to understanding the wide world of synthesis begins with oscillators.

In this first section of our free Demystifying Synths series, you'll learn more about oscillators — what they are, and the role they play in creating the synth sounds we love. Think of oscillators as the main ingredient in your synth sound. The different ways you choose to prepare and alter that ingredient while you're "cooking" will help you turn that one main ingredient into an infinite number of possible sonic dishes.

Ready to learn how to use synths in your music? If you’re looking to take your skills to the next level, check out Advanced Synths and Patch Design for Producers.

Martin Fowler

Composer, Producer, Bassist

Martin composes and produces music for commercial, educational, and artistic media, and records and performs internationally with many NYC-based artists. He also produces original electro and house music and remixes as MDFX, plus trap/jungle/bass music and remixes as WNNR, and will release his debut solo record later this year. His favorite cloud type is the lenticular cloud.

More About Martin
Less About Martin
music production
sound design
demystifying synths: oscillators
martin fowler
subtractive synthesis

Course Outline

  1. Section 1


  2. Section 2

    Basic Terms and Concepts

  3. Section 3


  4. Section 4



Who is this course for?

People with no prior knowledge of synths. Or people who think they know something about synths but really don't. They just know that tweaking that one button makes a slingshot sound. 

What are the requirements?

Simply an interest in playing around with some knobs and sliders. You'll probably want a synth of your own to play with, but you can also use the built-in ones from GarageBand or find one online. We like a free software synth called Helm.

How long does it take?

This section of the course takes 20 minutes. The whole Demystifying Synths series can be done in 2-3 hours.

What can I expect to get from this course?

Well, round one: a basic understanding of oscillation, which is the central building block of synthesis. But if you keep going with the whole series, you should be able to make any synth sound you hear...