What you will need for this bite-sized example
- a d:b system with sound and Jack working
- a MIDI interface cable and controller (optional, but way cool)
- noise tolerant surroundings ;^)
There are several methods of sound synthesis. ZynAddSubFx incorporates both additive and subtractive models, as well as chainable effects processors. At first it may seem to only be a bewildering array of cryptically labeled knobs on a parade of windows, but with a little patience, some experimentation and maybe a peek at the manual, and you can have a powerful instrument at your command.
Setting Up with Jack
ZynAddSubFx does not make its Jack connection automatically, so after launching it, you will need to visit the Jack Connections Panel and connect Zyn's outputs to your soundcard outputs as seen below. Left click on ZynAddSubFx in the Readable Clients column and drag it to the desired output (i.e. alsa_pcm)in the Writable Clients column.
Notice in the top right corner of the Zyn interface are a set of buttons. The two we are most interested in at this point are Panic! and vK. Use the Panic button to stop all sound, just in case things ever get out of control. The vK button launches the virtual keyboard, so we can test things out. Zyn starts up with a suitable default patch preloaded, so click on a few virtual keys with the mouse and make sure your connections are working.
There are examples included on the d:b disk, but you need to look in the
/usr/share/zynaddsubfx/ directory. Note that the standard file dialog has a 'Favorites' button, and you can add this directory to your list to make getting back here much quicker. There are four main types of files available:
*.ins_zyn- Instruments, the basic additive and subtractive synth settings
*.mas_zyn- Masters - full instrument and effects setups
*.bnk_zyn- Banks of instruments for quick or progchange access
*.scl_zyn- loadable Scales if equally tempered isn't enough
Load a Master patch from the file menu. The Master can include multiple instruments, effects and controller settings. An Instrument patch, loaded from the Instruments menu, just loads new settings into the currently selected Instrument slot.
Midi controllers come in a wide variety of capabilities and price. If you have a sophisticated controller, you've probably already jumped way ahead, since Zyn will take advantage of its features. However, if your resources are more limited, don't worry, there is still a lot available. Lots of low end consumer oriented keyboards have midi out, and there are a couple of buried features that can extend the capabilities of even the simplest of these. To enable the midi capabilities, return to the Jack Connections Panel and select the midi tab.
Alternatively, you can use the ALSA Patchbay:
Some simple keyboards have no modulation wheels or other controllers, but with Zyn comes to the rescue with an external program that turns a mouse into a nifty midi controller. From an Xterm issue the command:
Then use your midi patch bay to connect the new controls. Drag the mouse inside the blue box while holding a button to generate controller messages.
Another neat feature missing on many controllers is the ability to split, or control two different midi channels from a single keyboard simultaneously, for example playing a funked up bass on the bottom octave, and a jazzy organ pad on the high end. From an Xterm issue the command:
Then use your midi patch bay to connect your keyboard to the splitter, and the splitter to ZynAddSubFx.
Now you've got power. Go create something wonderful!