ECE4893A: Electronics for Music Synthesis (Spring 2008)

ECE4893A: Electronics for Music Synthesis (Spring 2008)

Aaron with synth class students
Instructor: Prof.
Aaron Lanterman
Office: Centergy 5212 (but I’m rarely there)
Phone: 404-385-2548
E-mail: (best
way to reach me)
Course website:

When and where: TuTh, 12:05-1:25, Van Leer C341

The photo: Xavier, Aaron, and Christine showing off Xavier+Christine’s
design for a voltage-controlled phaser (from Spring 2006)

(Note: I often abbreviate the class title as “EMS.” This usage of “EMS”
should not be confused with
“EMS” as in Electronic Music
, the makers of many classic synthesizers such as the Synthis.)

Aaron’s SDIY Pages


  • Grades will be based on a series of written homeworks, a quiz that
    will be weighted the same as a homework, and the quality of a final project.

  • Homework 1 (due Tues, Feb. 12)
  • Homework 2 (due Tues, Feb. 28)
  • Homework 3 (due Thurs, March 13)
  • Homework 4 (due Tues, April 8)


Dear readers from outside the class:
If you find these
lectures useful, please consider making a small donation (maybe $25 or
thereabouts, although any amount is appreciated)
to the Georgia Tech Foundation earmarked to go towards
my synthesizer research; the funds will go towards parts and equipment
for student projects.
are instructions on how to donate.


  • 2/15 –
    Analog Waveshaping, Part II:

  • 2/20 –
    Single-pole OTA-based VCFs (and MOTM kit progress)

  • 3/1 –
    Sallen-Key VCF theory; Buchla LPG example (Vactrol-based S-K)

  • 3/13 –
    OTA-based examples; State-variable filter theory

    (show & tell of assembled MOTM kits)

  • 3/15 –
    State-variable VCF examples

  • 3/27 –
    Transistor Ladder (Moog) and Diode Ladder VCFs, and a few other odds
    and ends

  • 3/29 –
    Exponential voltage-to-current conversion

  • 4/3 –
    Sample playback and the dangers of aliased digital oscillators

  • 4/5 –
    Alias-free synthesis of classic analog waveforms; digital state
    variable filters
    (At some point, I say “I don’t know why you need a delay
    here.” I have no idea why I said that… clearly you need a delay when you
    code it up. I said some nonsense about stability – that’s not the issue.
    Ignore anything I say that’s nonsense.) (First part of the lecture was devoted
    to ads for some student activities, so you can skip ahead.)

  • 4/12 –
    Digital emulation of a SSM2040/Prophet 5-style filter
    (You can ignore anything after where I say “let’s try
    matching the half-power point,” or something like that; I ran out of note
    material and tried to freewheel it, and spun off into oblivion.
    I was also just generally brain dead that day…)

  • 4/17 – Impulse invariance techniques
    (alas, this appears to not have been taped…

  • 4/19 –
    Demo of SSM2040/Prophet 5-style emulation VCF;
    Waveshaping and Chebychev Polynomials

  • 4/24 –
    Additive Synthesis

  • 4/26 – FM Synthesis



    We will draw material from numerous sources: book, articles, patents,
    and particularly schematics and descriptions posted on websites. Think of
    google as the main class text. Here’s some
    good ones: