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Audio Examples Complementary Listening List SYNTHESIS — FM
Definition  
   
FM (Frequency Modulation) Synthesis
Discovered by John Chowning in the late 1960s, this method of sound synthesis is based on the modulation of one frequency by another, hence Frequency Modulation. FM Synthesis was already available on the Synclavier, but it wasn’t until Yamaha released the DX7 in 1983 that it would be widely available on the commercial market. Shortly thereafter, several other similar synthesizers appeared on the market, produced by many of the big electronic instrument manufacturers. For a time, synthesizers built around subtractive synthesis would be neglected, but a not unimportant revival would later regenerate popularity, first in the techno scene, and later amongst electroacousticians.

An incredible variety of very complex and rich sounds can be created using very simple means: two oscillators. However, the sounds produced using FM synthesis have a very hard and metallic character, in contrast with those produced via subtractive synthesis, appreciated for its “warmth”. Another inherent problem in the early days of FM synthesis was the rather unpleasant “aliasing” noise, which dirtied and denatured the sounds.
 
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