Physical Modeling Synthesis

Physical modeling synthesis refers to sound synthesis methods in which a mathematical model calculates the waveform of the sound to be produced. This approach also uses a set of equations and algorithms to mimic the physical source of a sound. It uses partial differential equations, as well as the laws of acoustics, to describe the physical structure of a musical instrument. In addition, it employs several models for excitation and as boundary conditions, such as plucked, struck, and bowed strings. All in all, it offers a sound basis for many musical instruments. Nowadays, physical modeling synthesis is an essential part of many software and hardware instruments.

This is just one kind of synthesis. If you want to learn more of other methods, you can learn from our entries on subtractive, granular, wavetable, and additive synths. Now on to physical modeling synthesis.

Physical Modeling Synthesis: Its History

This method dates back to the times of Helmholtz, Rayleigh, and Newton, three physicists who wanted to understand the way musical instruments operate. Throughout history, scientists have used several mathematical models to create unique sounds. This has been possible by applying a variety of algorithms programmed in a particular way. When the first computers became popular, this technique evolved, and the reproduction of complex sounds in real-time became fairly simple. Around 1990, Yamaha introduced a brand-new synthesizer that offered physical modeling algorithms. After that, ASS released the Tassman, a VST instrument devoted exclusively to physical modelling.

The Results

Through physical modeling techniques, users are capable of recreating rich, live, and complex natural sounds. They are also capable of controlling several parameters to create completely new sounds. 

You can apply physical modeling to both acoustic and electric musical instruments. When applying this approach to electric instruments, such as synthesizers, it’s essential to have specific CPU power. Regardless, you don’t require computer memory, since there is no need to store gigabytes. This type of audio synthesis does not involve pre-recorded samples. Hence, you can record sounds live!