Nonlinear Elements

Many musical instrument models require nonlinear elements, such as

- Amplifier distortion (electric guitar)
- Reed model (woodwinds)
- Bowed string contact friction

The topic of nonlinear systems analysis is vast, in part because there
is no single analytical approach which is comprehensive. The
situation is somewhat analogous to an attempt to characterize ``all
non-bacterial life''. As a result, the only practical approach is to
identify useful *classes* of nonlinear systems which are amenable
to certain kinds of analysis and characterization. In this chapter,
we will look at certain classes of *memoryless* and
*passive* nonlinear elements which are often used in digital
waveguide modeling.

It is important to keep in mind that a nonlinear element may not be characterized by its impulse response, frequency response, transfer function, or the like. These concepts are only defined, in general, for linear time-invariant systems. However, it is possible to generalize these notions for nonlinear systems using constructs such as Volterra series expansions [#!Beyer!#]. However, rather than getting involved with fairly general analysis tools, we will focus instead on approaching each class of nonlinear elements in the manner that best fits that class, with the main goal being to understand its audible effects on discrete-time signals.

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Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), Stanford University