Analog DIY versus Digital DIY

Stopp,Gene gene.stopp at
Wed May 6 22:09:00 CEST 1998

OK, you want philosophical....

The question is: "what would be more useful..."

I'd have to say that I have no position on this question, as it is
posed. Both approaches strive towards the goal of making sound, and
ultimately making complex sounds arranged in time to represent emotion.
Music itself is an intangible thing - it does not exist except as a
fleeting impression on the senses, with no physical manifestation of its
own. How it gets into the airwaves in the first place is somewhat moot.

I am an analog synthesizer builder. How did I become one?

I first heard synthesizers as a child, when my mother introduced me to
their sounds with the records that she bought for herself (thanks,
mom!). I was fascinated by the starkness of the sound - somehow deep
inside me I felt that I was listening directly to the laws of nature,
rather than the sounds of commonplace mechanical squeaks and blurts.
When I got old enough to visit music stores, I seeked them out and was
instantly hooked (yes I started with the "portamento is cool" stage). I
needed to own a synthesizer. I could not afford one. My parents would
not buy me one. I had no choice but to learn electronics and build one.
Electronics was *not* my interest - it was a means to an end. Anyway,
now that I am an Electronics Engineer for the rest of my life, making
money working with machines, I do like it a lot. But the synthesizers
remain my fondest pursuit. It's almost as if I'd rather build them and
work on them than play them. Indeed, if you look at my life you could
actually come to this conclusion, judging by how much music I've
actually made up till now....

This is how I got where I am. Somebody with a different background, born
in a different year, (and from a different mom!) would naturally come
from a different direction and have a different approach. Direct
computer synthesis is just starting to become as practical as any other
approach. If you count up the number of details that you have to keep
track of in your head, I think that analog designing and construction
would be pretty even with digital designing and construction. Instead of
little details about soldering technique, you have little details about
coding technique. Instead of hand-drawn schematics and wiring diagrams,
you have hand-scribbled algorithms and functions. Instead of component
tolerances and performance specs, you have processor speeds and drive
data transfer times. But in the end, the goal is the same. Cool noises.

 - Gene

From: Sean Costello
To: synth-diy at
Subject: Analog DIY versus Digital DIY
Date: Tuesday, May 05, 1998 7:04PM

Hi all:

Philosophical question time:  If a person is just getting into
electronic music DIY, and is starting from scratch (i.e. NO technical
background whatsoever), what would be more useful at this point in time:
learning how to construct analog musical circuits, or learning how to
program a computer to produce sound?


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