Granular synthesis

Granular synthesis

Granular synthesis is a basic sound synthesis method that operates on the microsound time scale. It is often based on the same principles as sampling but often includes analog technology. The samples are not used directly however, they are split in small pieces of around 1 to 50 ms in length, or the synthesized sounds are very short. These small pieces are called grains. Multiple grains may be layered on top of each other all playing at different speed, phase and volume.

The result is no single tone, but a soundscape, often a cloud, that is subject to manipulation in a way unlike any natural sound and also unlike the sounds produced by most other synthesis techniques. By varying the waveform, envelope, duration, spatial position, and density of the grains many different sounds can be produced.

The result is usable as music, sound effects or as raw material for further processing by other synthesis or DSP effects. The range of effects that can be produced include amplitude modulation, time stretching, stereo or multichannel scattering, random reordering, disintegration and morphing.

Dennis Gabor researched how human beings communicate and hear. The result of his investigations was the theory of granular synthesis, although Greek composer Iannis Xenakis claimed that he was actually the first inventor of this synthesis technique (Xenakis, Formalized Music, preface xiii).

Curtis Roads is often credited as the first person to implement a digital granular synthesis engine. Canadian composer Barry Truax was one of first to implement real-time versions of this synthesis technique.


* cite book
last = Roads
first = Curtis
year = 2001
title = Microsound
publisher = MIT Press
location = Cambridge
id = ISBN 0-262-18215-7

* cite book
last = Miranda
first = E. R.
year = 2002
title = Computer Sound Design: Synthesis Techniques and Programming
publisher = Focal Press
location = Oxford
id = ISBN 0-240-51693-1

* [ "Les techniques granulares dans la synthèse sonore] by Manuel Rocha Iturbide. Doctoral Thesis. University of Paris VIII, Paris France, 1999.


Credits and info about the software used.


* [ Granular Synthesis] by Eric Kuehnl
* [ "The development of GiST, a Granular. Synthesis Toolkit Based on an Extension of the FOF Generator"] by Gerhard Eckel and Manuel Rocha Iturbide
* [ Searching for a global synthesis technique through a quantum conception of sound.] by Manuel Rocha Iturbide.

Further reading

* Digital signal processing
* Micromontage audio montage on the time scale of microsounds


* [ RTGS-X] Real-Time Granular Synthesizer X (for Mac OS X).
* [ thOnk_0+2] Granular synthesis without having to think at all. Free. Non-realtime. Mac OS 9.
* [ REplay PLAYer] generative granular synthesis software for Mac
* [ Granulab] real-time granular synthesizer for Win32
* Chaosynth [ (link)] cellular automata granular synthesizer by Eduardo Reck Miranda.
* [ Vocal Modeler] Special vocal effect for Reaktor that uses granular synthesis.
* [ crusherX-Live!] granular synthesis system for Windows
* [ CDP] granular synthesizer from the Composer's Desktop Project
* [ WSOLA] time scale modification of audio using granular synthesis
* [ White FX] White FX is a granular effect for Reaktor
* [ Audiomulch] Audiomulch is a real-time audio processing tool which has some "contraptions" which offer granular synthesis.
* [ Atomic Cloud] Atomic Cloud is an easy to use real-time grain cloud generator for Windows
* [ Cecilia] / [] Cecilia provides one of the best frontends available for employing granular synthesis and brassage techniques. It uses the CSound language (PC/Mac/Linux).
* Reason, from Propellerhead Software released a virtual device called the Malström. The device, dubbed a 'Graintable' synthesizer, combines granular and wavetable synthesis technologies.

Programming Languages

* Csound comprehensive music software including granular synthesis ( [ overview] over granular synthesis opcodes)
* SuperCollider programming language for real time audio synthesis
* Reaktor visual programming environment for sampling, granular sampling, sequencing and modular synthesis
* Max/Msp graphical authoring software for real-time audio and video
* Puredata (Pd) graphical programming language for real-time audio and video
* ChucK audio programming language for real-time audio synthesis
* Real-time Cmix programming language for real-time audio synthesis, including several algorithms for granular synthesis.

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