Alissa Derubeis of s1 Synth Library + Synth Library Prague

illustration by Maggie Negrete

illustration by Maggie Negrete

Alissa DeRubeis for Women in Sound #4
June 17, 2017

A synthesizer is a machine that uses electronic circuits to create signals to produce sound.

EURORACK: Eurorack is the 3U modular synthesizer format introduced by Doepfer and Analogue Systems in the 1990s. The Eurorack format calls for modules of 128.5mm (slightly over 5") height and modules have the same operating voltages.

MODULE: a component of a synthesizer that performs a function, typically with an audio signal and/or control voltages.

PATCH CABLE: a cable that makes a connection between an input and an output of a patch bay or on the panel of a modular synthesizer or semi-modular. In Eurorack modular synthesizers 3.5mm mono cables are used for interconnection.

SIGNAL: an electronic wave, characterized by variations in voltage-the amplitude of the wave

CV: Control Voltage is an electrical signal used to manipulate the values of components in analog circuits. If you send a specific electrical voltage to a module of your synthesizer, you can specify what you want the module to do. We like to think of CV as our “ghost hands” (Thank you, Bana Haffar.)

VCO: A voltage-controlled oscillator or VCO is an electronic oscillator whose oscillation frequency is controlled by a voltage input. The applied input voltage determines the instantaneous oscillation frequency. Some common waveshapes you’ll find are triangle, saw, sine, and square. Different waveshapes have different harmonics.

VCA: A voltage-controlled amplifier is the last functional block that a signal goes through before being sent to the synth's output.

VCF: Voltage-controlled filters block some frequencies while letting others through. There are several different types of filter you can choose from depending on which frequencies you need to block/pass to achieve your desired sound.

Envelope Generator: The most common envelope generator produces a four-segment signal corresponding to four phases of a note’s dynamics.


-Attack - time it takes for initial run-up of level from zero to peak.

-Decay - time it takes for run down from the attack level to the designated sustain level.

-Sustain - the level during the main sequence of the sound's duration.

-Release - the time it takes for the level to decay from the sustain level to zero.

LFO: A low frequency oscillator is an oscillator designed to produce signals whose frequency is at the bottom of, or below, the audio range. LFO’s are more typically used as a control signal.

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Alissa is the co-founder of S1 Synth Library. Read her issue 4 feature here. At S1, she regularly facilitates modular synth workshops for all skills levels.

Alissa 1.jpg
photo by Sam Loper

photo by Sam Loper

- Women in Sound 2019 -