Musical Applications of Microprocessors Hardcover – November 1, 1985
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Top reviews from the United States
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The first five chapters are background information. The chapters on music synthesis principles, sound modification methods, and direct computer synthesis methods basically comprise a first course on music and sound synthesis in general that any beginner to the field will appreciate. You simply need to ignor the sections on microprocessors and electronic devices, due to the age of the book.
Section two of the book is about the application of microprocessors to controlling conventional analog sound-synthesizing equipment as it existed in 1985. This section is interesting primarily from a historical standpoint.
Section three, chapters 12 through 18, is the real meat of the book and the part that best stands the test of time. This section is about digital synthesis and sound modification. Chapter 12 discusses the conversion of audio to and from the digital domain. Chapters 13 through 16 have details and explanations of the z-transforms of individual filters for various musical applications that can be transferred into modern synthesis programs. Chapters 17 is less interesting to the modern reader, since it basically talks about how to run down to Radio Shack, buy the electronic parts you need, and solder together a musical microprocessor system. Chapter 18, on software, would not be valuable either if it was not for some of the algorithms on display there, even though they are in FORTRAN and assembly language.
The final section of the book talks about applications. Although the implementations are prehistoric, the block diagrams and over-all ideas presented are very interesting and still relevant.
Overall, I would give this book a five star rating for breadth and depth of content and subtract one star only because of the fact that it shows its age in the implementation sections. I highly recommend it to anyone who really wants to understand digital audio signal processing. To get the most from this book you should have some knowledge of math at the level of trigonometry and algebra, prior exposure to electronics and microprocessors, and some knowledge of music. If you need more background on digital signal processing than this book provides, I highly recommend "A Digital Signal Processing Primer : With Applications to Digital Audio and Computer Music" by Ken Steiglitz. It is a very readable introduction to DSP for people interested in audio processing applications.
This book is also a great companion to the much more modern and highly recommended "Digital Audio Signal Processing" by Udo Zolzer. Do not confuse that book with the book "Digital Audio Processing" by Doug Coulter. Coulter's book is pure garbage, even at the bargain basement price at which people are selling their used copies.
Firstly, I just disagree that Section II, which covers analog synth modules within a synthesizer, is the most outdated; there has been a huge analog synth revival lasting the last 15 years+ with big name companies even making all-analog synths. And actually, the design of these analog portions are basically the same now as they were 40 years ago. Sure, you may choose a different op-amp or OTA but that's hardly difficult for someone with just a little bit of hobby experience to identify and correct.
It's the digital side, at least in terms of hardware, that's changed the most since this book's original publication date. Almost no one today is using ancient Motorola/Zilog CPU's with separate RAM and lots of external glue logic IC's. They are using highly integrated MCU's with fast development via prototyping boards like Arduino and Teensy. But, in the case of the author describing the older way you can again simply mentally substitute a more modern setup. This might be hard for a total beginning but with some supplemental materials it shouldn't be hard. Furthermore, seeing how it was done in the past really helps to understand what's going on internally in a modern, highly integrated MCU.
As for the software side, it seems prefers talking about them in terms of concept and structure using flowcharts rather than code. Which, in my opinion is wise, but perhaps only useful for readers who already have a grasp on programming and would feel comfortable coming up with an implementation in whatever language and platform they prefer or must use. These algorithms are not obsolete, although there are new ones today (particularly with analog modeling) that would requires more computing power than was possible in 1980.
In summation I would say for a TOTAL beginner this is not a good first step. Familiarize yourself with the concepts with an Arduino and it's vast universe of learning resources for a few months. If you don't know any programming, get going with that in a structured way. If you are totally new to EE, arm yourself with learning material and get to the point where you can build something useful. Then come back to this book.
The material is within reach of hobbyists who know some electronics, some low-level programming especially assembly level, and not scared of math at then undergraduate college level - though a music synthesis or electronics geek could enjoy most this book just fine without the math. Plenty of diagrams, clear plots. It's not for those wanting how-to hands-on construction advice, or wanting extensive code samples. You will have to suffer reading a bit of BASIC!
Note that this book was written before MIDI was widespread, so there is no coverage of this now vital technology.
The review of then-current 8-bit microprocessors will take you down memory lane if you are old enough, or serve as an eye-opener to the primitive state of things as of the early 1980s to the younger readers. Hal Chamberlain's articles in the long-gone Byte magazine were wonderful and clear; he's a great technical writer.
The best thing i can say about this book is i've never since encountered a better explanation of cepstrums and their use.
Top reviews from other countries
This book is about DSP and was written in the stone age of this technology, still is one of the most informative DSP books ever.
You will find all kinds of clear information, from Reverb algorithms to Voltage controled synth schematics, to obsolete microprocessor programing. It has all!!! and i dont know why, but i keep referencing to this book over and over again. Great!!!! It is not super in depth but it retains that thin ballance betwen usefull information and in depth reference.