do you have any experience with karplus strong and your thoughts on it...what are the good and bads of this algorithm in sound design...any max msp heads out there, do you use this method with analogue gear, if so what is your signal path like?


Although I'm not a synth guru, I think this is a really cool synth for many reasons. First it has a spectral unit to control the timbre of the sound. The "rand" object allows you to control the timbre to get say a sharp sound at 20,000, or a smooth sound at 10. Second, it has an adsr component you can use to control the sound envelope. I put a lowpass filter in mine and modded it a bit. One thing I've had trouble with -- more a max/msp problem, is to try to figure out how to get a keyboard connected and run polytonal music through the synth.

I'll have to figure this one out and get back to you.


  • hi Matt, which synth are you referring to? karplus strong is a synthesis method not a brand or type of synth perse. Can you edit your answer to explain this please? – Arnoud Traa May 11 '15 at 14:03

Karplus-Strong synthesis is awesome! Really great way to get a semi realistic-feeling yet synthy pluck, modulating the delay time gives some super weird and cool effects. I use it a lot in SuperCollider, I guess it's theoretically possible with analog gear but it requires a very precise delay/feedback loop to get accurate pitches that the digital world seems better at.. I feel like the best way to incorporate analog gear would be to run an analog synth into your computer and use it as the input to the Karplus-Strong algorithm. Could be really interesting!


The "magic" of Karplus Strong happens in the feedback loop. To my ears, the choice of input impulse has a much smaller impact on the final sound than most modifications of the feedback loop.

Some things to try in the feedback loop: every kind of filter you have access to or can create, addition of noise, distortion.

I've heard excellent results from K-S patches built around budget analog delays like the Synthrotek Echo. All of my delays are digital, but I'm able to get satisfying results with delays that have tape distortion like the Eventide Timefactor.

Two challenges come to mind if you want to use Max/MSP for K-S: first, you need to ensure that your signal vector is small enough to give you the pitches you want. Second, it takes a lot more work to create a dirty/noisy signal path in software than it does out in the physical world. If you have an opportunity to try out K-S on a modular synth, don't pass it up.

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