Reference Entry


Hugh Davies

in Oxford Music Online

Published in print January 2001 |
Published online January 2001 | e-ISBN: 9781561592630 | DOI:

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[synthesiser] (Fr. synthétiseur; Ger. Synthesizer; It. sintetizzatore)

An electronic instrument, usually incorporating a keyboard, capable of producing more complex sounds than other electronic instruments that directly imitate traditional acoustic equivalents. As yet no standard form has developed, since synthesizers are mostly used for performing rock music and jazz which is specially composed, arranged or improvised. Several stages can be observed in the evolution of the synthesizer, each seeing the demise of existing companies and the rapid growth of new ones. Some earlier electronic instruments that were called ‘synthesizer’, such as the RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer (1951–2) and the Siemens Synthesizer (1957–9) are better classified as composition machines, as their sounds are not produced in real time (see Electronic instruments §IV 5., (i)).

The earliest instruments that anticipated aspects of the synthesizer were developed from the late 1940s onwards, principally by Harald Bode and Hugh Le Caine. Sound-generating and -processing devices, assembled from heterogeneous sources in newly founded electronic music studios (such as the oscillator or sound generator, ...

Reference Entry.  1104 words. 

Subjects: Music Production Engineering ; Music

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