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PureData: AdditiveSynthesis

Additive Synthesis

Because Pd adds the audio signals that come to the inlet of any audio object, combining two or more signals into a single waveform is simple. Adding a sawtooth wave and a sine wave results in the follwing waveform:


Note that the two waveforms are sent to an audio multiplication [*~] object, which halves (multiplies by 0.5) the combined signal to reduce the total range of values sent to the sound card.

At full volume, each oscillator goes from either 0 or -1  to 1 many times a second. Because Pd handles numeric values, not waves, you can add any number of signals. If, however, the combined value of these signals exceeds the -1 to 1 range when it reaches the digital-to-analog converter [dac~] object (that is, the line out to the sound card), clipping and distortion occur. Any value outside of the accepted range is treated as a -1 or a 1. You can see how two combined signals can go outside this range on the graph in the patch below.


If you combine two waveforms whose frequencies are very close to each other, the combined values of the two waves interfere with each other, causing a periodic modulation of the sound. The frequency of this modulation is equal to the difference of the two original frequencies, in Hz. This is known as a "beating frequency," or "phase interference." The sound of two oscillators slightly de-tuned from each other is often used for different kinds of electronic music sounds, such as a "fat" bass effect.


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