The Basic Concepts of Synthesis

Demystifying the terminology commonly used in synthesizers.
When you first get into sound synthesis, it may seem like people are speaking an alien language, describing it in terms of frequency, amplitude, harmonics, waves, modes, poles, envelopes, modulators, and the such.
But behind those words are some fairly simple concepts: What pitch are you playing a sound at? How loud is it? How does that loudness change over the life of a note? How bright or dull does it sound? How can you change that brightness or dullness?
In response, Chris Meyer of Learning Modular created this free, easy-to-understand course that demonstrates – visually, and audibly – these fundamental concepts. The preview movie above shows examples of a few of the subjects covered in this course. Each video includes closed captions, as well as a downloadable transcript.
These movies were originally created to supplement the book Patch and Tweak: Exploring Modular Synthesis that Chris co-wrote with Kim Bjørn, and are designed for a beginner that is just getting into synthesis in general and modular synthesis in particular. This course also serves as a great “newbie” introduction to the subjects discussed in Chris’ other modular synthesis courses.


“Chris!! These are all awesome! Must see for all modular devotees!” 
– Todd Barton

Course Curriculum



Top Rated
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Great for a beginning.

Highly concentrated on the most important elements. Thanks Chris.

2 weeks ago
Amazing introduction!

For those who hesitate to get the paid courses I can guarantee you that the other stuff is even better and deeper. Check Chris' YouTube channel to get a feeling. Chris' skills as an educator are singular and he lacks even the slightest trace of elitism or unexplained jargon in his teachings. You can learn everything with his courses alone (while the book is an amazing addition). I really doubt I would have ever sustained learning modular synthesis without his material. Thanks, Chris!

3 weeks ago
Fast track!

Extremely clear and quick; a solid foundation. Great job.

3 months ago
Simple and clear!

After only few weeks orientation in the new amazing world of modular synth, mostly addicted to VCV rack, i still feel in the need of some basics, and these was very helpful! Thx!

4 months ago

And that's it? This is all you get for free? No wonder all the modules cost so much. its all just about money again! Chris replies: Yes: This course, plus the preview movies for the other course, plus my YouTube channel, the web site, and some other movies and software are free. (And I emailed you links to some additional free resources to explore.) Modules, which require actual expense to create and distribute, as well as my other courses, which I spent a lot of time and money creating, recording, editing, and hosting, do cost something to create, and the creators would like to at least not go broke making them available to others. It's an unfortunate reality of this particular world.

5 months ago

Very good introduction to some basic concepts, explained in detail.

6 months ago

So I live in northeast Pa. Where do I learn to play synth? You tube has lots of stuff dedicated to reviews and getting you to buy something. But modular is like learning to build a guitar before you can learn to play it! Chris has produced a course that teaches how to walk then run and then fly. It is all here. The under the hood stuff appears with his patreon membership. This will truly let you learn modular, understand what you are doing and have a great time doing it. Ultimate

6 months ago
Very interesting!!

Such a nice overview over the vast field of modular synthesis. Definetly sparked my interest to dive deeper :-)

7 months ago
Excellent intro to analog syntheses

I think anyone new to analog syntheses would find this a very good place to start. I've bought the book and might sign up for the longer course.

7 months ago
Musician P

Great and easy introduction to modular synthesis for noobs.

9 months ago

Very helpful introduction to the world of synthesis!

9 months ago
Very easy for begginers

I am new to this electronic part of synths and everything is clear for me. A the start it all seem very difficult but it was more than easy at the end to start building my own modular synths in the PC. Thanks

9 months ago
simple and clear

Not complicated

10 months ago
very clear

I like the short but very full explanations. Thanks

10 months ago
Clear and well illustrated

Easy to follow to get a grasp of the basics

11 months ago
Quick but complete introduction

A concise introduction to modular synth concepts. You can't go beyond learning the basics if you haven't reviewed this quick and complete tutorial. Very clear and graphic. Well done.

11 months ago
Much-needed vocabulary and basic concepts

So many things can confuse you if you just dive in... Understanding the basics of how sound is generated and modified, and the words that describe these modulations, makes a huge difference!

11 months ago
Really well done overview

I've been noodling in synthesis for about 5 years and I got quite a few new insights from this series. Well worth watching!

11 months ago
A great introduction to synthesis !

A straightforward, no-time-wasted approach to learning the basics before getting to the more advanced stuff. I'll probably get back to this every time I am confused about some concepts.

1 year ago
Excellent Course

Start here first - online modular synthesis learning at its best! Chris methodically walks you through the building blocks of modular synthesis referencing applicable chapters in his outstanding book: Patch & Tweak. Each section also includes downloadable transcription notes as well. Each concept is explained and demonstrated along with showing waveforms and spectral analysis. Chris brings his decades of knowledge in synthesis and personal experiences with a broad scope of modules and breaks everything down into understandable terms. He also gives back to the modular community with video content, blog articles, informative talks & demonstrations and his personal experiences with music performances. Highly recommended!

1 year ago
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Chris Meyer

I fell in love with the sound and possibilities of electronic music at a young age. I took synthesis lessons as a teen in the 1970s, learning on a modular Steiner-Parker Synthasystem. A kit-based PAiA modular was my dorm room companion in college. Soon after I graduated, I got a job at Sequential Circuits, where I contributed to several instruments and created Vector Synthesis. I went on to work for Digidesign, Marion Systems (Tom Oberheim), and was the chief engineer at Roland R&D US.

I’ve always enjoyed sharing what I’ve learned. I taught synthesis at UCLA Extension, was the technical editor for Music Technology and Recording magazines, and wrote a column for Keyboard magazine. I continue today, co-writing Patch & Tweak – the new book on modular synthesis – with Kim Bjørn, and writing module reviews for Synth & Software. I also regularly play modular music live under the name Alias Zone, plus jam with others.

I also have a lot of experience creating online training. Before I started Learning Modular, I recorded nearly 50 online courses on creating graphics for television and film for (now LinkedIn Learning). I've brought this experience of how to teach a difficult, technical subject in a patient, step-by-step manner to my modular synthesis courses.