Synthesis Survival Guide: Harmonics, Overtones, Partials

It's time to take a journey into the world of synthesis with veteran synthesists, Logic guru and musical maestro, Peter Schwartz! Here he explores harmonics, overtones and partials.  

Of the three basic building blocks of any analog synth'"oscillators, filters, and amplifiers'"the oscillator is simple enough to understand: it produces notes with a particular kind of tone color (timbre) as determined by the setting for the oscillator's waveform. This is fed into a filter, usually a low pass filter, which does the job of letting you modify the oscillators 'raw'

Peter Schwartz, composer, orchestrator, arranger, pianist, synthesist, and musical director, began piano studies at age 5 and went on to earn a degree in piano performance from Manhattan School of Music. It wasn't long afterward that he began working as a product specialist for New England Digital (Synclavier) and also as a sound progr... Read More


Peter Henderson
great explanation of what the cut off does - I have played with it in Massive but an article like this, explaining that it changing the amount of harmonics that can be heard makes sense of what is happening
Nice overview! I don't think that the relative level of the fundamental contributes to our pitch perception that much. Indeed a series of sine wave overtones without any fundamental will still be perceived as if one exists. ;)
Keep up the good work.
Widdy Weiss
The Overtone Series (harmonics) is incorrect.
The Fundamental IS the First Harmonic.
The 'Second Harmonic' IS the First Overtone.
I know, it can be confusing. :)

Want to join the discussion?

Create an account or login to get started!