I would like to resynthesize some middle east percussive sounds.I know that this is too general but I am looking for info about the physics behind these instruments and I can’t find anything. So any tips on how to resynthesize these sounds? It doesn’t really matter exactly which sound tar drum, doumbek etc. In the end I will use Max/MSP for the job, but it's ok to start with different programs if anyone can provide any tips in order to understand the algorithm of the specific sound and then move to max. Someone suggested me the U-he Zebra program. Any similar recommendations?

thanks in advance!!

3 Answers 3


To synthesize percussion instruments, you need a synthesizer with two features.

1.Noise generator - you need white noise to synthesize transients, snares, and cymbals....basically all percussion.

2.Pitch modulation via an ADSR envelope - A unique characteristic of a drum, is that their membrane does not vibrate at a steady frequency, but rather slows down over the period of the sound aka the pitch sweeps from higher to lower. In contrast a guitar string, when plucked, oscillates back and fourth at the same frequency for the entire duration of the note, but the amplitude of the modulation descends.

As long as you have these features, you will have the tools necessary to start synthesizing percussion.

Personally I have used Ableton Operator synth to synthesize all my percussion from scratch.

Beyond that, I also recommend recording yourself whacking random things around the house, and mixing those sounds in with synthesized percussive elements.


This might help http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jun99/articles/synthsecrets.htm

It's a really good series, actually, but it's long.

  • Yeah these articles are classic, thanks for suggesting. However it's still hard to go from there to more middle east percussive sounds
    – tim.a
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 9:56

Not specifically Middle-Eastern, nor do I know how you would port the structures to Max afterwards, but a dedicated percussion synthesiser I've always liked is Applied Acoustics Systems' Chromaphone

I've had some nice results from it over the years.

There are some audio demos & a demo download available.

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