The Electronic Synthesizer

Baji J. Ram Rao
08:08 +0530 Fri. 22-Nov-2013

When was the electronic synthesizer (albeit an analog one, not a digital one) first used in Hindi films?

I believe it was used by Shankar Jaikishen in 1968 in the song,
“मैं गाऊँ, तुम सो जाओ” for the film Brahmachari(1968).

Lyrics were penned by Shailendra and the song was rendered by Mohammad Rafi.

Would somebody please corroborate or refute?

On Analog Synthesizers

Between 1975 and 1980, I went to engineering college in Manipal and close to our campus was an industrial estate called Manipal Industries.
An entrepreneur there was designing and building analog music synthesizers encased in beautiful teak-wood cases.
An analog synthesizer uses operational amplifiers (op-amps) and differentiators and analog high-pass and low-pass frequency filters to generate sound waveforms electronically.
Potentiometers tweaked the quality of sound produced.

By the way the advent of digital synthesizers did not really kill the old analog synthesizers.
A class of musicians, fed up with complex menu-based navigation, actually prefer analog synthesizers with their potentiometer knobs, faders, and other features.

Today there is a variety of analog modeling synthesizers which emulate analog VCOs and VCFs using samples, software, and specialized analog to digital converters. A voltage-controlled filter (VCF) is a kind of a a frequency-dependent amplifier, a filter whose cutoff frequency can be controlled using a control voltage applied to control inputs. The frequency of a voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) is controlled by a voltage input. An important use of a VCO was for a phase-locked loop -- something we studied in 1979.
Our institute’s electronics & communications head of the dept. set us up to visit the labs of the analog synth manufacturer next door.

The 2011 Roland Jupiter-80 version 2 flagship performance synthesizer, combines Roland’s SuperNATURAL acoustic modeling technology with a virtual analog engine.
Are there virtual analog synths from Yamaha and Korg also?

Behavior Modeling Articulations

When a keyboardist is trying to reproduce sounds other than a traditional keyboard instrument on the synthesizer, the synthesizer really falls short.
The typical sound engine inside cannot truly “interpret” an expressive keyboard performance done on keys into an authentic guitar, trumpet, or violin performance
– a guitarist plucks or strums strings, a trumpet player uses his breath, lips and trumpet valves, and a violinist plucks or uses a bow on strings.

All the keyboardist can do is trigger a static digital sonic picture of sound he is trying to recreate.
Each time a key is pressed, the same sonic picture is repeated, but at different pitches as played on the keyboard.

The Jupiter-80 solves this problem by using Behavior Modeling technology. It takes care of the “interpretation” by constantly analyzing the keyboardist’s normal, natural keyboard performance, and instructs the SuperNATURAL sound engines inside the Jupiter-80 to “play” and constantly “articulate” the reproduced sound just as the “real” performer would, based on the keyboardist’s timing and interval between notes, the strength at which the various keys are struck, or if the keyboardist is pressing a pedal to sustain notes.

These actions, among others available to the keyboardist, are translated by the behavior model for the selected sound being reproduced into an authentic plucked or strummed performance in the case of a guitar, aggressive or smooth bowing in the case of a violin, and the sharp or smooth pitch changes created by the valves on a trumpet and the pressure of the trumpet player’s breath. These are some of the articulations possible with Behavior Modeling.

Digital Synthesizers

Most keyboard workstations include the following:

Synthesizer sound engine

Sample playback with supporting architecture to edit the onboard sounds or create entirely new ones.
Korg's Kronos workstation combines 9 different synthesizer sound engines with a sequencer, digital recorder, effects, color touchscreen display and key-bed.
Kronos utilizes an Intel Atom processor and runs a custom OS based on the Linux kernel.


All keyboard workstations include onboard effects processors that modify MIDI or audio tracks.
Some feature effects can be applied to individual tracks (insert effects) as well as to the total mix (master effects).
Workstations that include audio recording capability usually provide important sound shaping tools such as EQ and dynamics processing.

Drum Machine

All keyboard workstations include drum sounds as part of their presets, but many go farther to make creating beats easier.
The Roland Fantom-X series includes velocity-sensitive pads and a grid-style pattern editor to provide an authentic drum-machine environment.


One of the most important elements that defines a keyboard workstation is the presence of an onboard MIDI sequencer.
It lets you record, edit, and play back your songs without having to shift back and forth between the instrument and a computer.
The Yamaha MO Series, feature 16-track MIDI recording with a capacity of up to 200,000 notes.

Audio (sampling)

This is one area in which available features are related to price. The high-end OASYS provides 16-track audio recording. The Alesis Fusion Series includes 8-track audio recording, as does the Roland Fantom-X Series, while the lower-priced Korg TR Series offers sampling as an optional upgrade. The Yamaha MO Series does not offer sampling.

The Extras

Depending on the model, keyboard workstations offer even more to make composing and recording your music easier.
Some include built-in CD burners so you can literally complete your session with a disc.
Others include phantom-powered mic preamps to facilitate recording voices and acoustic instruments.
For live performance, workstations provide real-time controllers for bending and shaping sounds.

The music products industry is a $16.9 billion industry [2014].

The non-profit, National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) (since: 1901) comprises approx. 9,200 member companies in 102 countries.
NAMM events and members fund the NAMM Foundation’s efforts to promote the pleasures and benefits of music, and advance life-long active participation in music-making.
NAMM hold an event in January in Anaheim, CA -- one of the two largest music product trade shows in the world.

Its European counterpart is the Musikmesse Frankfurt is the world's largest music fair.

Changing circumstances have made production, broadcasting and recording segments, of interest to an increasing number of users.
High-quality computers, software and hardware (mixing consoles, microphones, cameras, etc.) are becoming increasingly easy to use, transport and afford.
Broadcasting, production and recording products and services that used to be the exclusive preserve of professionals are now used by lay people, too.

Cubase, Nuendo

Some people choose keyboard workstations to get away from using computers, although the current generation of keyboard workstations has inherited much of the technology used in personal computers.
The flash media found in MP3 players, for example, makes recording in keyboard workstations more reliable and data export faster.

Because of the widespread use of USB, many keyboard workstations now also interface directly with computer-based DAW(Digital Audio Workstation) software, adding flexibility to the workstation and hands-on control to the DAW, giving the best of both worlds.

About music keyboards.
One learns that there are different types of keyboards for “one-man bands”, group keyboardists and composers.

Ignoring for now, the very specialized electronic Pianos, digital "Analog" Keyboards and shoulder keyboards, broadly the types are:
(1) Keyboard Workstation (a self-contained studio built around a keybed)
(2) Arranger Keyboard (with auto-accompaniment backing tracks for composers)

There are of course the low-priced, "I'm everything" portable keyboards (as in, priced below Rs. 25,000)

A keyboard workstation is a self-contained studio built around a keybed.
The flagship models include audio recording in addition to sampling and MIDI sequencing.

Many keyboard workstations interface directly using USB with computer-based DAW software.
The flagship models include audio recording in addition to sampling and MIDI sequencing.
Between Korg, Roland and Yamaha, each manufacturer has particular strengths.

Digital tech has greatly reduced the purchase price of a professional-grade music workstation.
However, the time cost of learning to operate it remains very high.

Product selection should be based on

Octave Circularity

Chinese bronze age bells from before 500 BCE, often survived visually and acoustically fully intact in tombs. Tone name inscriptions on these bells, provided the earliest definite evidence of octave circularity in hearing. Bell ensembles where the tone range extends beyond one octave have the same tone names for octave-spaced tones. The largest and best-studied extant ensemble are the Zeng Bells, where 65 bells ring in five octaves.

Before 2004 it was unknown if the human brain is hax`rd-wired for the perception of octave circularity.
In all advanced musical cultures the names for tones in scales are repeated, when the octave interval (frequency ratio 2:1) is reached.

For example, in the Western music system, the octave-spaced tones of 110, 220, and 440 Hz are all called A.
In technical descriptions, an additional octave number is added, like A2, A3, and A4.

The universal practice of tone name circularity indicates an equally universal circularity in pitch perception.

Octave circularity in pitch perception was also observed in the monkey.
It had earlier been known from the cat and the rabbit that the ventral division of the medial geniculate nucleus (MGN) of the thalamus is the only part in the auditory brain of mammals that has an octave architecture.
Here, stacked neuron layers show a frequency mapping that progresses in jumps of one octave across layers and in a fine-graded scaling along layers.

The fiber network between the neuron layers is such that all signals triggered by octave-spaced tones, such as A2, A3, and A4, are likely to be pooled.
They could then be transcoded into an additional signal for a general A. This would explain why all tones called A, regardless from which octave, have a common “pitch chroma” or pitch quality.
Thus, the auditory thalamus can be considered as the anatomical basis of our internal chroma map.