I am looking at basic JavaScript Web Audio API examples, such as building simple synthesizers and such, hoping to find something where they create the sound of a drum or the sound of the human voice singing, or of the dynamic nature of an electric or acoustic guitar, but nothing. From my limited knowledge, these synthesizers are built from simple sound waves which are combined and distorted and manipulated in relatively simple ways to create different "effects" like the phaser or distortion or whatnot. But capturing the nature of the vibrating strummed string on a guitar, or the plow of a drum at different velocities in different rooms/environments/atmospheres seems like a whole different thing.

Wondering if one could just outline what it takes to build such a realistic guitar, drum, or voice tool purely from scratch from basic components. What does it take? (Other than obviously probably a lot of work)? Is it simply a complex wiring/system of oscillators, or is it more like a physics engine for sound? If so, where can I find a reference to such an open source engine for inspiration? What do they entail at a high level -- the key pieces to create such realistic sounds? Not looking for an in depth exposition on such a broad topic, but simply an introduction to how it works, and where I can find inspiration on how to build one.

The key point to this question is I don't want to use samples of real sounds to build up a digital instrument. I want to create some sort of acoustic environment where sounds can be created, but my imagination is not quite equipped in knowing what is possible or how people typically go about doing this.

  • 1
    Start here… en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_modelling_synthesis & see where it leads you. I worked on the original Yamaha VL pre-production back in 92/93, but I couldn't tell you how to make one. When I first saw it, it was a SunSparc workstation with a green screen, that took an hour to calculate any parameter change. Times have moved on since then. ;) – Tetsujin Dec 21 '19 at 10:15
  • Sound On Sound's "Synth Secrets" series is not a bad place to start: soundonsound.com/series/synth-secrets – tonys May 19 at 14:58

New Complete Synthesizer by David Crombie, Omnibus Press, 1986, ISBN 0711907013 includes a chapter on which synthesizer aspects (waveforms, envelopes, filters etc.) can be used towards simulation of a few types of acoustic instrument sounds.


Real Sound Synthesis by Perry R Cook is a fairly elementary book with sample code that discusses synthesis of quite a few different physical sounds including some musical instruments.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.