ECE 402
Electronic Music Synthesis

Section Type Times Days Location Instructor
L DIS 0800 - 0920 T R   1015 ECE Building  Lippold Haken
Web Page
Official Description Historical survey of electronic and computer music technology; parameters of musical expression and their codification; analysis and synthesis of fixed sound spectra; time-variant spectrum analysis/synthesis of musical sounds; algorithms for dynamic sound synthesis. Course Information: 3 undergraduate hours. 3 graduate hours. Prerequisite: MUS 103, ECE 290, and ECE 310.
Subject Area Biomedical Imaging, Bioengineering, and Acoustics
Course Prerequisites Credit in ECE 310
Course Directors Lippold Haken
Detailed Description and Outline

To provide a familiarity with current methods of electronic/computer music synthesis and their theory of operation and design. Emphasis is on systems concepts which are not likely to change with technology, and have application in Multimedia, Sonification, User Interface, and other fields.


  • Survey of Electronic Music Technology since 1900
  • Music Encoding and Generation
  • Sound Perception and Analysis
  • Subtractive Synthesis: Processing of Fixed Waveforms
  • Sampling Synthesis
  • Modulation Synthesis
  • Additive Synthesis
  • Additive Synthesis with Complex Basis Functions
  • Physical Models
  • Pitch Processing
  • Real-Time Performance Interfaces and Implementation
  • Simulated Environments
Computer Usage

Weekly sound design lab provides hands-on experience designing, implementing, and testing real-time audio signal processing algorithms for computer music.

Topical Prerequisities
  • Music notation, elementary chord structures
  • Fourier series and transform
  • Introductory digital systems
  • Computer programming in a higher-level language

Course Packet (journal articles and standards specifications)

Recommended Texts:
C. Scaletti, Kyma X Revealed, Symbolic Sound Corp., 2004.

ABET Category

Engineering Science: 3 credits or 100%

Course Goals

The primary goal of ECE 402 is to provide a familiarity with traditional and new methods of electronic music synthesis. The course surveys electronic and computer music systems and their theory of operation and design. For homework, students read assigned journal articles and submit written responses to questions. In addition, students use a state-of-the-art sound design laboratory, which gives students hands-on experience with techniques learned in class. The course covers topics that have application in music, multimedia, user interface design, sonification of data, and other fields. Level is senior or graduate, with prerequisites in signal processing and music.

Instructional Objectives

1. Learn a large variety of practical methods for electronic music synthesis. (a, k, m, n)

2. Get practical experience and intuitive understand of signal processing topics learned in previous courses. (a, n)

3. Learn practical information about music encoding for sheet music, event lists, sound processing, and samples. (j, k)

4. Become familiar with the history of 20th century electronic music technology. (d, h, j)

5. Learn to appreciate a variety of electronic music styles. Learn new listening skills. (g, h)

6. Discuss the impact (positive and negative) of electronic music technology in western and non-western musical traditions. Discuss social music making, deskilling of the composition and performance process, replacement of musicians by automated algorithms, accessibility of music, and other social effects of electronic music technologies. (c)

7. Learn basic psychoacoustics, and the importance of applying psychoacoustic knowledge in audio signal processing. (b, d, e)

8. Become familiar with sources of information about new synthesis techniques, and learn how go from journal articles to real implementation. (e, g, i, k)

9. Work effectively in small groups in the sound design lab. Learn to experiment with real-time sound design tools, and learn debugging techniques in a graphical language. (d, e, k)

10. Learn how filter theory from ECE 310 relates to music. Learn about transparency and other measures of filter quality specific to music and audio. Learn about application of IIR filters in computer music (LPC and reverberation). (a, d, m)

11. Learn a variety of time-frequency analysis techniques actively used in computer music. Learn about reassignment and other methods of improving time-frequency tradeoffs in FFTs. (l, m, n)

12. Learn the phase oscillator and other methods of fixed waveform generation. (c, n)

13. Learn about modulation synthesis, how to compute AM and FM spectral content, and importance of implementation details for these techniques. (c, n)

14. Get practical experience with a variety of additive synthesis techniques, and how they represent time-varying spectra. (b, c, n)

15. Learn basics of physical modeling of instruments. (c, n)

16. Learn a variety of pitch processing and time dilation techniques, and the advantages of each. (k, n)

17. Learn about real-time performance instruments and interfaces. (h, j, m)

18. Make presentations of laboratory work for the class. (g, k)

Last updated: 9/22/2014