Granular synthesis: theory and practice

That would be a great project for a system like SuperCollider, ChucK, Max/MSP, Pure Data, etc where you can compose your own logic for handling grain behavior.

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I quickly drafted a version of that in Csound (+ pd as a “GUI”).
Three grain streams, each represents one note of a chord. Set origin and destination pitch, crossfade. Along the crossfade, the pitch of each stream goes from 100% chance of origin pitch to 100% chance of destination pitch.
probability grain (842.9 KB) : requires an install of csound, pure data (vanilla), and the csound6~ external. Run the .pd patch.
I am underwhelmed by the result so didn’t try to make it better.
I very much prefer having two chords resonate in succession in a wav file and scrub that file with a grains generator.


Woah! It blows me away that someone would do that based on my idea!

The implementation is quite different from how I would use it. I haven’t used either of these softwares before but I’m gonna use this as an opportunity to learn through tweaking your code.

I still very much appreciate it.


I just came across Daniel Mayer’s work today thanks to a post on the LAU list about a workshop on esoteric synthesis he’s giving soon.

His kitchen studies is a really cool tour though possible granular worlds:

The piece reflects a further attempt to investigate the fascinating and vastly still undiscovered areas of granular synthesis. It succeeded a number of mixed pieces (Lokale Orbits), where instrumental sounds and playing techniques provided a starting point for granular textures and in which the variety of resulting sounds, at least to a large extent, was rooted in the variety of source sounds, which I had recorded with collaborating musicians.
Subsequently I decided to explore more refined technical possibilities of granular synthesis itself: within the SuperCollider language I developed the class PbindFx, which allows to define a sequencing of arbitrary effects and effect graphs on per-grain base. All parameters can be sequenced with a very condensed syntax emerging from SuperCollider’s powerful pattern framework. In this context kitchen studies is also an artistic research project and a didactical effort, that I’m going to extend in several steps: PbindFx and the single kitchen sound of five seconds, from which the whole piece is derived, are already part of the SC extension library miSCellaneous. For version 0.15 I’ve added the commented source code, which produced the six parts of kitchen studies. In these I restricted myself to the combination respectively sequencing of one or two effects at maximum within one code example: comb delay and delay modulation (1), rectangular comb by FFT (2), resampling (3), spectral complements by FFT (4), frequency shift with feedback (5) and band pass filtering (6). The resulting audio has only been cut and slightly mastered with a bit of equalization.


In my quest for a Mac OS 9 device I came across a video for running SheepShaver. Apparently you can run a solid emulation of Mac OS 9 within MacOS X. Has anyone ever tried this?

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I haven’t sorted out how to get audio working yet but QEMU on Linux is working for me to emulate Mac OS 9.2 right now. I never got sheepshaver to work on Linux but I think you can find builds of it for macOS?

PS @acajide this might work out of the box if you are on a Mac:


Is nuPG available as a download on Martin’s page and I’m not seeing it?

There’s no download, but sounds like if you ask they might share it.

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Waaaay above my skill set, but I figured this recent Supercollider tutorial on pulsar synthesis could be interesting to some following this thread:


how does this module nail that grain sound so well? does anyone know how one would attempt to emulate these kind of crunchy short bursts or beautiful particulate without this particular module? do you think its the source material that works so well or the processing/parameters available?

i dont think i’ve ever achieved results as good as the ones in this demo. i can’t really pinpoint exactly what it is i think sounds so perfect but i feel like others may know what im talking about here? maybe not

this is what the description says:

    `Multi-particle crowd percussion synthesizer`

Originally inspired by audience applause, hip-hop samples, and classic drum machines, Fracture is a multi-particle percussion synthesizer that applies concepts from classic analogue clap circuits to granular synthesis methods.

It all starts from proprietary micro-samples we recorded specifically for this purpose and ends with an engine built to suit these samples.
Unlike our other percussion module, Chimera, which uses impulse rich samples as it’s tonal center, Fracture uses single impulse samples like claps, snaps, ping pong balls, opening a beer can, and many more. It then plays a group of similar samples back in a psuedo random order for unique hits. Density, Decay, and Tail affect tone and how “tight” your virtual clappers are to playing together.

Our goal was to design a clap percussion module covering the range from classic drum machine claps all the way to full audience applause. We ended up with a module that covers a huge range of timbres beyond claps. We hope this engine provides you with the tools to intuitively create wild percussion sounds that bring your system to life in a new way.

Stereo output
Control over "how many people" and " how tight" they sound together
Built in Hall and Room reverb
Two Trigger inputs for different types of sounds
3 Filter types, 3 Envelope types
Free running, Voltage Controlled "applause" capability
CV over all parameters

Very interesting topic! A few months ago I studied different Curtis Roads granular synthesis ideas and I’ve tried to work it out with my modular system. I’ve made this video explaining the whole patch with a short performance in the end.


I guess the third line points to samples and custom granulator around those. I’d try something with many short overlapping grains and a flexible ‘path’ through the sample set. It also feels like there is something like a bitcrusher distorting the grain playback. Perhaps…

Nice example that.

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what do you mean by path? do you mean a similar technique for processing each sample or more like the signal chain following the samples

thanks by the way, that is something i struggle within nebulae, but i know its technically capable of doing short overlapping grains here’s a great sound design video from Eprom, he uses granulator around 29 minutes but the whole thing is worth a watch.


Sorry - a bit of late-night vagueness… I’m imagining a set of say 30 samples - that are the granular sound source. Every trigger initiates a stream of grains that take a path through the sample set. For me, the nice thing about granular is lots of controllable probability that feels kind of organic, so eg: a path may move from one sample at the beginning of the strike to another for the tail, or move between several, blending them on a per-grain level.

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For a really literal visualization of “grain path through a sample set” you might take a look at AudioStellar (free software).

Not a very flexible granulator but a very imaginative way to explore and “play” a sample library.


I loved DLGranulator in Audiomulch back in the day, and I’m impressed with how Argotlunar gets - sometimes it sounds even better:


So I (foolishly) upgraded to Big Sur, which means I can’t begin my NuPG explorations seeing as Supercollider is non-functional. But I came across this Pulsaret m4l device today…anyone here actively using (and enjoying) it?

I don’t often find that the modular grain samplers are really what I imagine when I want to chop up a signal but this thing really sounds good to me


Longer video has just been posted to youtube.