I have been interested in Frequency Modulation for a while now, having first come across the concept attending a brilliant Technosphare performance at HKW in Berlin where John Chowning and Mark Fell had a piece. The concept behind FM Synthesis was first expounded by John Chowning in his landmark paper The Synthesis of Complex Audio Spectra by Means of Frequency Modulation. Yamaha bought the patent from Chowning and began producing digital synthesizer prototypes in the late seventies. In the early 80’s they released the DX series and the DX7 became their best seller.
FM or Frequency Modulation Synthesis is based on the use of at least two oscillators; a Carrier and a Modulator. The Carrier Frequency is most related to the pitch or the fundamental frequency and is usually controllable with a keyboard or other MIDI input. The Modulating Frequency is used to alter the Carrier at a specific Modulation Rate and Modulation Intensity or Index.
On my Electronic Music Production course at SSR we have been using FM8 VST by Native Instruments to create pads, i’ve been experimenting with this soft synth method and also testing the approach with DIY electronics. I really like the distinctive dense timbres you can achieve with this technique, also great for building drums and evolving soundscapes.
Here’s a link to John Chowning describing how he invented FM synthesis