What is granular
Granular synthesis is a technique of sound synthesis that
involves the manipulation of small, discrete units of sound called
"grains". In granular synthesis, a sound is broken down into tiny
fragments or grains, each of which typically lasts only a few
milliseconds. These grains are then manipulated and recombined in
various ways to create new sounds.
The manipulation of grains can involve changing their duration,
pitch, amplitude and other properties. Granular synthesis techniques
can be used to create a wide range of sounds, from metallic and
percussive sounds to complex, evolving textures.
Granular synthesis has been used in a variety of musical
contexts, including experimental and electronic music. It is often
used to create soundscapes and ambient textures, as well as in more
rhythmic and percussive contexts. Granular synthesis can be
implemented using a variety of software and hardware tools, such as
granular synthesizers and digital audio workstations (DAWs).
Why using Granular
Synthesis in your composition?
Granular synthesis is a versatile technique that composers may
choose to use to achieve several goals. One is to create new and
distinctive sounds by manipulating and combining sounds in specific
ways that may not be possible with other synthesis techniques. In
addition, Granular Synthesis can effectively create complex and
evolving textures that can contribute to ambient soundscapes,
rhythmic parts, or add depth to a composition.
Composers can also use Granular Synthesis to modify recorded
sounds, such as field recordings or acoustic instruments, to produce
unexpected results. In addition, Granular Synthesis is a popular
choice for micro-sound composition, allowing you to work with sounds
on a microscopic level to create intricate and detailed
compositions. Real-time performance is another advantage of Granular
Synthesis, allowing composers to manipulate sounds live and create
evolving soundscapes that reflect the energy and mood of the
performance. Ultimately, Granular Synthesis is a powerful and
versatile tool that allows composers to experiment with new sounds
and textures and to create complex and nuanced compositions.
Which tools for granular
For real-time granular synthesis and live audio processing,
plug-ins such as accSone's
are used. crusher-X is also used by sound designers
to create multi-channel tracks (e.g. Atmos) or for multi-channel
Many DAWs such as Logic Pro, Cubase, and Pro Tools include
granular synthesis features and plug-ins. In terms of hardware,
modular synthesizers like Mutable Instruments' Clouds
and Make Noise's Morphagene
are commonly used for
granular synthesis. Standalone hardware synthesizers such as Bastl Instruments' MicroGranny
and Qu-Bit Electronix's Nebulae
available. In addition to these tools, sound designers and composers
often develop their own scripts and software for granular synthesis
workflows. In addition, Max/MSP
is a visual programming language that
allows the creation of custom granular synthesis patches and other
sound processing tools.
Artists who use
Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai) is a German musician and artist who
creates minimalist and experimental music. He is known for using
granular synthesis to create complex and textured soundscapes.
Richard Devine is an American electronic musician known for his
intricate sound design. He often uses granular synthesis techniques
to manipulate sound in his compositions.
Autechre is a British electronic duo whose music is highly
experimental and avant-garde. They often use granular synthesis
techniques in their compositions.
Tim Hecker is a Canadian musician who produces atmospheric and
ambient music. He often incorporates granular synthesis techniques
to create complex and textured soundscapes.
Ryoji Ikeda is a Japanese artist and musician who produces
minimalist and highly mathematical compositions. He often uses
granular synthesis to manipulate sound in his work.
Curtis Roads is an American composer and sound artist known for
his pioneering work in granular synthesis and microsound.
Francisco López is a Spanish artist and composer who creates
highly immersive and atmospheric soundscapes by combining field
recordings and granular synthesis techniques.
Ludger Brümmer is a German composer and computer music pioneer
who is known for his work with granular synthesis and computer
music. He was the co-founder of the ZKM Institute for Music and
Iannis Xenakis was a Greek-French composer and architect who
was known for his use of mathematical models in music composition.
He was an early pioneer of granular synthesis techniques in the
1950s and 60s.
Leon Zadorin is a Russian composer and sound artist who is
known for his work with granular synthesis, specifically in the
creation of sound installations and live performances.
Fennesz is an Austrian musician and composer who is known for
his work with guitar and computer-based music. He often uses
granular synthesis techniques to create dense and textural
Rafael Anton Irissari: American composer and sound artist known
for his atmospheric and minimalist music, often incorporating
granular synthesis techniques to manipulate sound.
Ulrich Müller is a composer and guitarist based in Munich, who
co-founded the performance group 48nord. He incorporates granular
synthesis in both his live performances and compositions.
Simon Stockhausen is a German composer and sound artist who
creates experimental music and sound installations. He is known
for his work with granular synthesis and other cutting-edge
How to start
using Granular Synthesis?
To begin using granular synthesis, you should first become
familiar with the basic concepts and techniques involved. This may
involve reading about granular synthesis and listening to examples
of music that use the technique. You can also experiment with
software or hardware granular synthesizers to get a feel for how the
process works. A good starting point is the free demo of accSone's crusher-X
. It comes with an in-app
tutorial and runs on Windows and macOS.
Once a basic understanding of granular synthesis is established,
you can begin to incorporate the technique into you compositions.
This may involve using granular synthesis to create unique sounds or
textures, manipulating recorded sounds, or exploring the
possibilities of microsound composition.
As with any new technique, it is important for a composer to
experiment and explore different approaches to granular synthesis.
This may involve trying different software or hardware tools, or
experimenting with different settings and parameters to create new
and unique sounds. With practice and experimentation, a composer can
develop a personal approach to granular synthesis and use it to
create innovative and expressive music.