Qtorial 12: Introducing QSynth!

by Abby @ Quaver on January 30, 2012

in At Quaver HQ,Qtorials,QuaverMusic.com

It is my great pleasure to introduce you all to Jeremy Ruff, QuaverMusic.com’s Website Coordinator and all-around-geeky-guy!

He’s here to help us unpack some of QuaverMusic.com’s most wonderful features!

Take it away, Jeremy!


For my first Qtorial, I wanted to introduce a tool on QuaverMusic.com that you may not have tried out yet – QSynth.

Qsynth lives in Quaver’s lab, so if you haven’t been to the lab yet, now’s the time to go!  No lab coats required, but you might want to put on your thinking caps as you log on to QuaverMusic.com and follow along.  Here we goooooooo!

You’ll find the door to Quaver’s Lab on the left side of his Music Shop, and once you’re in the lab, QSynth is pretty hard to miss. It’s that funny-looking machine at the bottom right of your screen.  Believe it or not, that funny-looking machine has a funny-looking name: it’s called an oscilloscope!  That’s a real scientific tool that is used to visualize waveforms.

What’s a waveform???  I’m so glad you asked!

A waveform is a simplified way to describe the shape of a signal when it is plotted onto a graph.

In other words, waveforms are a handy scientific way to talk about things that occur over time, like sound!  Let’s get more specific:

  • On this type of graph the x-axis almost always represents time.
  • The y-axis usually represents amplitude. The amplitude of a waveform is a way to describe how loud that sound is. 
  • Different pitches are actually different frequencies of sound waves. Higher frequencies correspond to higher pitches and lower frequencies correspond to lower pitches. Frequency is really just a fancy way of counting how many repetitions (or “periods”) of a sound wave happen over time.

Who knew that something as artistic as music could also be so mathematical??

How QSynth works:

Usually an oscilloscope is used to view the waveform of an audio signal that is fed into it, but QSynth works in reverse. Here you manipulate the waveform and then listen to how it sounds!  Let’s give it a whirl:

  • Use the first knob on the top right to change the waveform.  QSynth gives you 4 different waveforms to choose from: sine, square, sawtooth, and triangle. They sound just about as different as they look, so try all 4!
  • Use the amplitude knob to change the loudness of the tone.
  • Use the piano keyboard on the screen to play with your sound.  Notice that the higher you play, the closer together the waves get; that’s because the frequency is also getting higher.

Science! Music! Wow!

Now that you’re getting the hang of it, I’ll leave you with a final task for extra credit.  

You may have noticed that there are several different tone buttons on the left of the screen.  When you select another tone and change its parameters, you are adding each of the waveforms together!  Using these tone buttons, you can make more and more complex waveforms to get some really interesting sounds.

So go ahead and try making your own unique synth tone, either alone or with your students!  If you find one you like, take a screenshot of the settings and post them on Quaver’s Facebook Wall. Don’t forget to save it for next month, when I’ll show you even more cool things you can do with QSynth!


Update: Since Jeremy introduced us to QSynth, he’s posted two more posts on the tool. Check them out!

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