Fun fact: before I ever started writing and performing indie-alt-emo-folk rock, I was composing instrumental electronica on my computer. 100% 'in-the-box'. No samplers, sequencers, keyboards, nothing. During the first month of my freshman year of college, a friend showed me FruityLoops 4.5 and I was hooked from there.

"You mean I can create complete, fully fleshed out songs solely in my PC without any of these fantastical things you call 'musically inclined friends'?" my (slightly romanticized) seventeen year old self exclaimed to my wise, omniscient sophomore mentor.

Twelve years later, I've listened to entire libraries of acclaimed electronic artists. I've studied a bit more, learned a great deal about the history of analog synthesizers and the birth of electronic music. It's kind of become an obsession of late. And still, somehow, I've successfully managed to avoid all manner of dance clubs, DJ parties, etc. Quite the 'best-of-both-worlds' achievement.

But I digress. Though electronica has been a passion of mine for quite a while, I've only recently explored the actual science/math behind true audio synthesis. And it's great! I can't fully express how excited I got when I finally understood the concept behind waveform manipulation, oscillators, modulation, subtractive vs FM synths... hell, just last week I learned what AM/FM stands for on radios--and how it relates to synths. It's crazy. Thank you, Internet.

Not only have I been reading, watching, listening, learning--I've been composing with my newfound knowledge. And I'm really happy with the sounds I'm coming up with.

Before, I could only twirl random knobs on a given synth and hope it made something sound cool. Now I have a slightly more educated base to start from. I can put some thought into exactly how to interpret the sounds I formulate in my mind. It's akin to learning music theory, when you've previously only messed around on an instrument hoping for something cool-sounding.

And that's neat.

Now granted, I didn't go out and spend thousands of dollars on authentic analog machines. Sorry, purists. Fortunately for the more frugal musicians out there, we now have a slew of cheap-to-free softsynths that sound close enough and allow for a lot of enhanced creativity.

I did buy a (technically) legit analog synth, though. For $30 on Amazon. I get some crazy sounds from it, especially running it through my guitar pedals.

Are you into synths? Here's some free plugins I've been currently loving:

TAL Noisemaker
DroidBeat Synth (Android App)
S.A.M.M.I. (Android App)

Drum Machines:
DMach (Android App)

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