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Why learn about filters?

Computer musicians nearly always use digital filters in every piece of music they create. Without digital reverberation, for example, it is difficult to get rich, full-bodied sound from the computer. However, reverberation is only a surface scratch on the capabilities of digital filters. A digital filter can arbitrarily shape the spectrum of a sound. Yet very few musicians are prepared to design the filter they need, even when they know exactly what they want in the way of a spectral modification. A goal of this book is to assist sound designers by listing the concepts and tools necessary for doing custom filter designs.

There is plenty of software available for designing digital filters [10,8,22]. In light of this available code, it is plausible to imagine that only basic programming skills are required to use digital filters. This is perhaps true for simple applications, but knowledge of how digital filters work will help at every phase of using such software.

Also, you must understand a program before you can modify it or extract pieces of it. Even in standard applications, effective use of a filter design program requires an understanding of the design parameters, which in turn requires some understanding of filter theory. Perhaps most important for composers who design their own sounds, a vast range of imaginative filtering possibilities is available to those who understand how filters affect sounds. In my practical experience, intimate knowledge of filter theory has proved to be a very valuable tool in the design of musical instruments. Typically, a simple yet unusual filter is needed rather than one of the classical designs obtainable using published software.


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``Introduction to Digital Filters with Audio Applications'', by Julius O. Smith III, (September 2007 Edition).
Copyright © 2014-03-23 by Julius O. Smith III
Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA),   Stanford University
CCRMA