A synthesizer is an instrument that creates complex sounds, including sounds that mimic other instruments. People use a keyboard with the synthesizer to create either sounds through an electrical signal manipulation, under "analog," or through a stream of numbers that are read as the appropriate sound, under "digital." Some digital synthesizers can mimic the sound of the analog synthesizer and can have the features and architecture of this kind of synthesizer.
Synthesizers create electronic waveforms, which are curves. The synthesizer manipulates these waveforms to create audio waveforms. Synthesizers control pitch, tone and timing for signals, creating or changing sounds. The synthesizer generates tones through an oscillator. The oscillator creates waveforms including sawtooth, square, pulse and triangle waves. These waves are named after their shapes. Synthesizers can produce any sound, including police sirens and dogs barking. They can create sounds that otherwise would not exist at all in the natural world.
Besides keyboards, computers can also produce synthesized sounds, technically making them synthesizers. Anyone who knows how to play a keyboard can use a synthesizer, unless the synthesizer produces the music through a computer. Then, the user must understand the software program through which the computer generates the synthesized sounds. When artists produce a large variety of sounds, they usually have multiple synthesizers surrounding them, with different keys corresponding to different sounds.
Elisha Gray invented the electric synthesizer in 1876. Robert Moog invented the first commercial synthesizer and released it in the late 1960s. But the synthesizer was not portable until the 1970s and was generally not affordable for the public. The synthesizer became more affordable in the 1980s. Synthesizers became more widely available on computers in the late 1980s.
Mainstream record producers throughout many music genres use synthesizers widely. While used by most genres, some genres are more strongly associated with the synthesizer, including breakbeat, trance, house, techno and electronica. Synthesizers have been used by great rock bands such as the Beatles. The synthesizer became widespread in '80s bands, though disco bands of the '70s frequently used synthesizers as well.
Synthesizers can save money by not requiring that the artists get instruments for the recording. Synthesizers tend to not sound as good during a live performance as other instruments and artists use them more often for creating CDs and MP3 files. However, some performers still need synthesizers during live performances, since artists can create sounds not producible through traditional instruments and some instruments are impractical to transport, such as the piano.
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