The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music by Tim Smith, Michael Tilson Thomas

By Tim Smith, Michael Tilson Thomas

For the newbie or the devotee—it's every little thing the classical track buff must know.

• the foremost composers from Bach and Bartok to Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky
• major performers from Maurice Andre and Leornard Bernstein to Georg Solti and Yo Yo Ma
• The landmark works from Appalachian Spring to Don Juan
• A concise historical past of classical music
• A deconstruction of the paintings form
• The language of classical music
• useful assets for the Curious Listener

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If a sine wave is used for the LFO, then it will essentially create an effect similar to that of a wailing police siren. Alternatively, if this same LFO is used to modulate the filter cut-off, then the filter will open and close at a speed determined by the LFO, while if it were used to modulate an oscillator’s volume, it would rise and fall in volume recreating a tremolo effect. This means that an LFO must have an amount control (sometimes known as depth) for varying how much the LFO’s waveform augments the destination, a rate control to control the speed of the LFO’s waveform cycles, and a fade-in control in some.

The LFO on more capable synthesizers may also have access to its own envelope. This gives control of the LFO’s performance over a specified time period, allowing it not only to fade in after a key has been pressed but also to decay, sustain, and fade away gradually. It is worth noting, however, that the destinations an LFO can modulate are entirely dependent on the synthesizer being used. Some synthesizers may only allow LFOs to modulate the oscillator’s pitch and the filter, while others may offer multiple destinations and more LFOs.

By having a zero attack, short decay and zero sustain level on the envelope generator, a sound that starts with the filter wide open before quickly sweeping down to fully closed is produced. This movement is archetypal to most forms of dance music but does not necessarily have to be produced by envelopes. Instead, some synthesizers offer one-shot low-frequency oscillators (LFOs) which can be used in the envelope’s place. For instance, by using a triangle waveform LFO to modulate the amp, there is a slow rise in volume before a slowdrop again.

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