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Types Of Musical Synthesizers: The Keyboard's Family Tree

Sep 10, 2008
Musical synthesizers, or keyboards, as they are more commonly called, are one of the musical instruments most often owned by individuals or families in the United States. Comparatively compact, affordable, and easy to play, keyboards have, to some extent, followed in the footsteps of the Napoleonic Era's ubiquitous pianoforte. It is an instrument that almost everyone has had access to at one point or another, and it is as easily recognized today as the violin might have been in Mozart's day. But it is important to remember that not all keyboards are alike. Not only are different models and brands capable of different musical feats, but there is a very basic divide that allocates musical synthesizers neatly into two categories, these being analog and digital.

Analog synthesizers generate sound electronically via an analog computer, which is a computer that operates using numbers represented by directly measurable quantities. Unless you are a computer engineer (and you may well be, considering the times), this instruments use of an analog computer may not mean much. The fact is that analog synthesizers are rarely used today, at least by the general public. If a family or an individual purchases an electronic keyboard, it is far more likely that they will buy a digital synthesizer.

Digital synthesizers use digital signal processing to produce sound. Again, unless you understand electronics, this may be out of your milieu. However, the upshot is that digital synthesizers, at least those available today, boast onboard accessibility with switchable front panel controls. This means that the individual playing the instrument can peruse its functions, which are, let's face it, the reason most people purchase a keyboard in the first place.

It should be noted that there has been a recent resurgence in the popularity of analog synthesizers due to the arrival of the retro analog synthesizer. The increasing demand led to the innovation of the analog modeling synthesizer, which emulates the sounds of a traditional analog model using digital signal processing components. The instrument is, essentially, a digital synthesizer, but it undeniably owes its existence to peoples' fondness for the original analog instrument.

One attribute shared by almost all modern keyboards is the ability to integrate and synchronize with other electronic instruments. This is due to the invention and thorough adoption of musical instrumental digital interface, or MIDI. In essence, MIDI is a standardized protocol that enables electronic musical instruments, computers and other equipment to communicate, control, and synchronize with each other. The invention of MIDI made it easier to use keyboards with other electronic instruments and greatly contributed to the synthesizer's popularity.

A footnote to the types of keyboards available is that today, computers can actually be used as synthesizers thanks to the invention of software synthesizers. These software synthesizers can actually outdo the quality and performance of many hardware synthesizers, which is why they are growing in popularity. In order to make use of such software, it is only necessary to provide a MIDI-enabled keyboard that can be connected to a PC.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio. You can find the best marketplace at these sites for synthesizers, analog, digital, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tabs, and subwoofers.
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