Synth Books


Here are some books of interest.

Both and Doepfer (under products / further reading) have recommended reading lists.

This is a gradually growing list which I will expand as  books arrive. The list has the best first then by order of decreasing utility. I will add links to the individuals on Wikipedia when the laptop bursts back to internet life.

Perhaps the most strongly recommended book on analogue synthesis I have encountered is Allen Strange's Electronic Music Systems, Techniques and Controls. This is undeniably a fine and helpful book but prohibitively expensive second hand. Fortunately, McGraw-Hill have made it accessible online for around $15. There are two license options available: unlimited views and prints on a single computer; limited prints and views on any computer.

added 19th June 2009
Believe all you are told about how good this book is. It explains everything I have needed to know, takes me down paths I would never have noticed and provides examples and exercises that will keep me busy, entertained and buying yet more 'essential' modules for years.

added 19th June 2009
The Development and Practice of Electronic Music by Jon H. Appleton and Ronald C. Perera (eds.) 1975
If this was ever used as a university text (and my copy came from the U of NY), it must surely have been known as 'Apples & Pears' and I will stick with this. The book contains six sections, each written by an expert in that field: origins; the science of sound; the tape studio; the VC synth; computers in electronic music generation; live electronic music.
Origins, by Otto Luening, the background of US electronic music, is not as comprehensive as Mackay's, below, but more readable and immediate because it is more intimate and real: the writer was there when it was all happening and knew many of the key indiviuals; the section on live electronics takes over the story where Leuning stops.
The other chapter I have read is, of course, Joel Chadabe on the VC synth. Gives a good grounding in the subject, leading to some fun exercises. Right is an example, perhaps the best (I'm inclined to try it with BBC Radio 4 (speech) as the voice and Radio 3 (music, usually classical) rather than the Chopin Nocturn).
I'll read the other chapters in due course, but it is well worth the small expense.

An interesting and inexpensive introduction to electronic music in general is this volume by Andy Mackay. In looking for an image the cover, I have learned that he played in Roxy Music. Well worth the few dollars it costs from Abebooks or Alibris.

Extremely useful and specific is a series of books of article reprints from Keyboard Magazine. Having read Synthesiser Basics, I have ordered the companion volumes, Synthesizer Technique and Synthesizers and Computers. Again, only a few dollars, but the Whole Synthesizer Catalogue is rather more expensive.

The Synths and Computers has arrived. While faintly interesting in an historical way, it is no longer relevant and so I'll pass it on. Two orders for Synth Technique have been accepted then cancelled. I suspect that sellers list these books, guessing at a price, then, when an order arrives, they check prices elsewhere and if theirs is significantly lower,  cancel and say 'oops, that's sold'. So the price I am paying is slowly creeping up. Third time lucky: if this one goes wrong, I shall start naming and shaming. Technique has arrived at last: it is more useful and relevant than Computers, in two main sections, one on sound creation (worthwhile) and the other on performance (less so). I'll keep this one.

Another practical more general work is Pellman's Introduction to Electroacoustic Music. This contains some basic exercises in the section on analogue synthesis and analyses of seminal works, notably by Varèse, Stockhausen and Babbitt.