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The Synthesizer: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Programming, Playing, and Recording the Ultimate Electronic Music Instrument Paperback – February 19, 2014
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"Synthesizers are wonderful musical instruments that cover a very wide range of implementations and uses. Mark Vail's The Synthesizer is a must-read for anyone who has interest in learning about these engineering marvels. It is a great introduction if you are new to synths, but also very informative and up-to-date for the seasoned synth player." --Dave Smith, Dave Smith Instruments
"A hugely detailed, exhaustively researched and splendidly idiosyncratic work which nails its extensive subject matter. Mark Vail enthusiastically charts the development of the synthesizer from the Trautonium to the latest software instruments, and also gives us valuable insights and tips from leading electronic composers, including legendary synth pioneer Wendy Carlos." --Dave Stewart, Keyboardist
"In the past few decades, the synthesizer has finally come of age. Mark Vail's extensive work documents this journey from its austere and rarified beginnings to its present technologically sophisticated state. His well-illustrated book is filled with anecdotes and insights, amazing successes and ridiculous flops, expert advice on how to roll your own, lots of commentary on artists, their gear and their methodology, and finally, a guide to recording and disseminating your own musical masterpieces. Stash this volume where it's easy to get to; you'll be using it a lot." --Don Buchla, Composer and Instrument Designer, Berkeley, California
"Mark Vail is the best explainer and historian of music synthesizers that I know. I highly recommend this book, which is a whole lot of fun to read." --Roger Linn
"If it has anything to do with synthesis or processing synthetic sounds, it's in here!" -- Tape Op Magazine
About the Author
Building on his life-long interest in music, Mark Vail discovered synthesizers in 1973 and bought his first in 1976. After earning an MFA in electronic music in 1983, he served on the editorial staff at Keyboard magazine from 1988 to 2001. The author of Vintage Synthesizers and The Hammond Organ: Beauty in the B, Mark is internationally acknowledged as a foremost authority on synthesizers.
Top customer reviews
It's, basically, a coffee table book of synth porn for enthusiasts. Dozens and dozens of synthesizers, modular synths and other gear are listed, photographed, and technically detailed with breathless enthusiasm. But what kind of cords should I use to record my results? What are the steps to synthesize a snare drum? How can I use an LFO to add rhythmic variation to the timbre of a synth?
The book answers none of these questions. Since I bought the book with the explicit purpose of "Understanding, Programming, Playing and Recording" a synthesizer and not to drool over gear, it turned out be an expensive and useless waste of time.
Fast forward about 45 years....
I'm now retired and once again engaging in my passion for music and sounds. Of course synthesizers have come a LONG way since I was a boy and the instruments are now amazingly affordable and sound good too. As an interest, I'm immersing myself in, "all things "Synth"", so I bought a copy of this book from Amazon.com due to it's subject matter.
This book is paper back and the pages are made of something akin to high quality "newspaper" paper. This is good because the pages don't gloss reflected light when you're trying to read it. There are many black and white images of the people important in the Synth industry like Bob Moog etc. and pictures of some of the most amazing Synths that you're ever going to see. Some of these things were worth $500,000 thirty years ago !!!! Consider how much they would be worth today??? One of these pictured synths is patched up with what looks to be about $10000 worth of patch cables alone. As some have mentioned about this book it is mainly about the gear that has been used over the last 80 years or so. This particular book I suppose is really about the culture of sound synthesis. If you want a book for actual guidance on how to make a patch this is not really the place to look; there are other books like, "Steal this Sound" and even that has its limitations. This book is an eye-opener into the amazing development of these machines over the last century and a tacit accolade to how fortunate we are today. The book also has a good bibliography in the back and a listing of lots and lots of "synth" sites on the internet.
Of course the real thing with your Synthesizer is to get down in the weeds (the manual) and discover what makes it "tick" under the "hood" (data interface) and make some of your own sounds. You can gradually build your own home studio and have all this stuff plugged in together and make some "out-there" noises for your own music. This book will give some direction as to what to look for like a Moogerfooger which may lead you on to discovering a GSI Burn or other important "stuff". All great stuff to seek out, buy and plug in for your own personal music and sound appreciation. Have fun in the Synthesizer culture and this book will help you understand your place in the "Synthesizer Universe". Cheers!!!