DSP Book recommendations

Humble Bundle (a site for buying discount bundles of indie games, software, and books) has an MIT Press Computer Music bundle:

There are some really great books in here, including The Audio Programming Book. This was my primary textbook through a lot of graduate school. Highly recommended for $15. There are also CSound and Max books.

EDIT: One heads-up: it doesn’t have the DVD contents of the Audio Programming Book. There are a lot of great additional chapters on there as well. Still, this is an excellent bundle for the price. The “Music and Probability” book looks fun for norns sequencer ideas, along with “Machine Musicianship”.


the irony of the situation is wanting real books intead if pdfs. do you know if any of these it others that are good for getting deeper into dsp/synthesis/sample level stuff ?

Yes! However, a lot are digital and never printed.

  • Both Will Pirkle books are exceptional, but start with the Effects one. The Synthesis one is spectacular but higher level. The Effects book is probably the best and friendliest intro to real-time audio DSP.
  • DAFX is a great “you already know DSP, here are some darker areas” overview. Lots of good references to useful academic papers.
  • Vadim Z.'s “The Art of VA Filter Design”: https://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=350246 He’s the filter guru at Native Instruments.
  • ICMC Proceedings: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=icmc;idno=bbp2372.*
  • Everything by Julius O. Smith: https://ccrma.stanford.edu/~jos/ Very difficult and high-level, but this is an incredible resource.
  • My favorite synthesis and sound design book is Designing Sound by Andy Farnell.
  • The Synth Secrets column in Sound and Sound is also very useful for sound design. I referenced that a lot while building Euro Reakt.
  • The Audio Programming Book (in the bundle above) was, as mentioned, my primary textbook. I own a physical copy but had a pirated 400 MB PDF because it was too heavy to carry 2 miles every day to class. Now this legal PDF is 6 MB and better quality. The DVD that comes with the hardcover version is filled with a lot of very useful information, including analog compressor design (written by my teacher Andres Cabrera). We used that bunch while developing Zip.

Wonderful news. I have in the past bought some humble bundle books. The price is great.

cool bundle, thanks for posting

with c / c++:
“the audio programming book” from that bundle
“elements of computer music” - f richard moore

with puredata:
“the theory and technique of electronic music” - miller puckette [free online]

these are all classics, covering a lot of ground already.

for a real simple and solid introduction to DSP math, i like “A Digital Signal Processing Primer” by ken stieglitz.

if you want to dig into physical modelling in particular (just a guess) i would start with " Real Sound Synthesis for Interactive Applications" by perry cook, which is also lean and less theory-laden than a JOS book.

i honestly don’t feel like the DAFX book or the pirkle “effects in c++” book add a whole lot to these.

the former is pretty light MATLAB treatments of standard topics; the more advanced ideas that it brings up aren’t treated in enough depth to be super useful IMHO.

the latter is probably great if you “just” want a very cookbookish approach to implementing VST/juce plugins specifically.

i happen to have this one. it’s quite fun, but extremely academic and music-theory oriented. it covers a lot of models that would be useful for making some kind of midi mimicker bot. IMHO relies maybe a little too heavily on the Essen folksong corpus.

i haven’t read the david cope book yet, but based on his other work i imagine that will be a good source of inspiration for more direct creative applications.


Definitely agree RE the Moore elements of computer music book. That one is such a great resource. I enjoy his opinionated style as well…

I’m pretty curious about that intro to psychoacoustics book by Perry Cook!

I agree on the DAFX book which is why I mainly point out the references. It’s great for looking up a topic and then finding a list of more detailed papers. For code, yes, it’s absolutely lacking. For anyone not familiar with it: there’s generally only one or two code listings per chapter. The rest of it is more conceptual. Still, there are a lot of topics where I’ve saved time by looking up the DAFX chapter and then diving deeper.

With the Pirkle Effects book, that’s been in my experience the most successful book for incoming students. It assumes prior experience with C++, but not DSP. The Effects book has the most gentle introduction to digital filters that I’ve found (great diagrams and more basic math without jumping into heavy concepts right away). The Synthesis book in particular has my favorite diagrams for how things like BLEPs work along with good spectral comparisons for the various types of BLEP algorithms. The cookbook aspect is fun… in the synth book it shows how to take a BLEP saw and then bend it into either a Korg-like or Moog-like saw through various shaping algorithms while avoiding aliasing. Great stuff.

I haven’t seen this one before… just ordered a copy! Thanks for the rec.

Yes, this is also a great book. That, the Farnell book, and loadbang (http://pd-tutorial.com/) are all fantastic for people who don’t care about C/C++, as everyone has access to Pd. A solid Max equivalent is “Electronic Music and Sound Design”: https://smile.amazon.com/Electronic-Music-Sound-Design-Practice/dp/8899212023/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548112095&sr=8-1&keywords=electronic+music+and+sound+design

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Oh nice! I missed that in my first look at the bundle. His “Real Sound Synthesis for Interactive Applications” is a great resource for physical modelling and modal synthesis.

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Went ahead and bought them. I like the bundles also because you get to decide whre the money goes.

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i agree on both points. when i bought them i kept the DAFX book for its bibliography, and gave away the Pirkle book to a beginner. (TBH i gave away “audio programming” too, but i think it’s a good reference. another one i gave away is roads “computer music tutorial” which is just too broad and shallow to be anything but exactly what it says.) i should check out pirkle vol.2…

guess i just think if i were to recommend “one book” on computer music (“at the sample level”), it would be puckette’s if you don’t care about programming, lazzarini / moore if you do. the rest is extra.

moore “elements” is fantastic, but a word of warning that all code examples are in a pretty ancient kinda C89 style! not a good point of imitation. and my copy is falling apart, and it’s out of date (1990.) still my favorite

cool, for me it’s the stieglitz primer that i’ll always recommend. everything you need in 200 pages with minimal math background and maximal focus.

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Definitely. It’s the best reference I’ve found for digital oscillator design.

I’ll have to check that out! This is becoming a great knowledge trade, so I’ve renamed the topic.

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You should check yr uni library—I have Designing Sound semi-permanently checked out until I graduate, for example.

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nice - I’ll be looking into all of these. specifically I’m only really looking to start doing stuff in gen~ as opposed to normal max code, nothing super complicated. I just need a better overview of the “math stuff” (for dummies probably) especially cause I only got to take up to calc 2 and that was in high school. ken stieglitz, Will Pirkle or designing sound seem decent for that.

for techniques, looking to figure out sampling, saturation/hardware modeling, and whatever the hell a filter is. given my aesthetic is basically just sine waves at this point I don’t need to go hella deep, but want to know the maths of everything

good tip @alanza my cheap art school lifestyle hasn’t led me to check out a book yet but this would be a good reason to

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I don’t necessarily agree with this review (of a different Cope book), but it’s the most brutal academic takedown I’ve read to date and worth a read: https://slab.org/tmp/wiggins-cope.pdf

The tricky part is whether its important to separate the “science” (or lack thereof) from the results; Cope’s results are typically compelling to me.

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Thanks for this link!!! I already have a hard copy of the Audio Programming book but I’ve been meaning to get the csound book and there looks to be lots of other good ones in here too!

fwiw, i glanced through ‘virtual music’ from this bundle and was a little bummed to find it is (yet) another look at “emmy” (the bach bot), following a colloquium with doug hofstader.

i really liked cope’s two records on Folkways from the 70s - heard them so much as a kid. and he made some beautiful electronic scores too. i keep forgetting that’s ancient history

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Does anyone have a copy of the files for the The Audio Programming Book?
Especially the part of the makefiles and those libs the book mentions?

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Wow - Isn’t it!

I didn’t think that sort of thing happened in the arts…

Great thread, and recommendations!

I’d like to be able to write some DSP code for the ER-301 when the DSP SDK is made available. This will be a C++ SDK, as far as I know.

I’m not completely new to DSP (or C++) but my education on this is now decades behind me and I haven’t really used it since. It also was never audio specific. If I open one of my old DSP textbooks now, the math (which it jumps immediately into) seems a bit mysterious.

Would The Audio Programming Book be a gentle enough reintroduction to the topic for someone like me?

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IMHO yes. there is basically no math and it is very entry-level (maybe too much so if you have some background and are just rusty.) but totally worth picking up this bundle for $15 and seeing what you think.

i’m looking through TAPB again now, and remembering why i didn’t hold on to it. it contains a lot if background material on things like: C programming basics, what is digital audio, &c. it emphasizes some niche topics (like how to write a CSound opcode) while relegating meaty chapters (on filtering &c) to the DVD (which is not in the bundle, though maybe there is a way to acquire its contents through MIT website.)

so it’s a bit hard to understand the intended audience for this book. overall it is definitely useful for say, an undergraduate level reader or someone who has a musical background and some technical interest, but no math or programming skills. but the core book contains a fair amount of chaff which a neophyte will do best to ignore. it reads basically like the textbook for an undergraduate course (which it probably is) with a somewhat idiosyncratic syllabus reflecting the strengths of its authors.

that said, i still think the core chapters are a really good reference and introduction to things like digital filters, oscillators, envelopes, and the phase vocoder.

for you, i’d think the Pirkle books might be a more effective jump-start.