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Innovation Week: What’s a Synthesizer?

Good news for lovers of electronic music: starting in mid-January, library users will be able to check out a number of music gadgets from the Music, Film & Audio Department at CLP – Main. Included in this new pilot collection will be synthesizers (both analog and digital), effects pedals, sequencers, portable recording devices and more. Our ultimate goal is to lower barriers to musical exploration by placing electronic music gadgets and gear into the hands of anyone who would like to innovate, create, invent and learn.

We will also have on hand a few very special items from local manufacturer Pittsburgh Modular Synthesizers. If you, like me, are new to the world of electronic music and electronic instruments you may be asking yourself, what’s a synthesizer?

These Korg Volca mini-synthesizers can be played together.


According to the website, a synthesizer is defined as:

“a machine that uses electronic circuits to create signals to produce sound. The sounds can emulate existing mechanical instruments like horns, drums and strings, and also sounds that don’t occur in nature and that you’ve never imagined. A synthesizer can be almost any size or shape, it might be controlled by a keyboard or by knobs or some other type of controller.”

If you’re looking for a good introduction to synthesizers and modular synthesis, that website also provides a good beginning tutorial. There are all sorts of free online tutorials for learning about synthesizers and electronic music production, and of course, the Library also has resources on the subject.

We really wanted to focus this pilot on Pittsburgh’s creative and diverse electronic and emerging music scenes. Our hope is that in the future we may even be able to share some of the music and sound projects being made with these gadgets on this here site. Ultimately we would like the Library to be seen as a learning and incubation space for musicians of all levels.

Music librarian extraordinaire Tim W. creating disco beats with the Roland TR-8.


So what do you think, dear readers? What kind of instruments would you like to see added to this collection? Is there anything else you wish you could check out from the library? As always, we encourage you to share your feedback and questions in the comments section below.

Take good care,


Want to learn more about the synthesizer?

Check out the documentary I Dream of Wires

Tara is a Librarian in the Music, Film & Audio Department, and loves to make film & book recommendations. Some of her interests include gardening, cookbooks, foreign films, comedy albums and devastating literary fiction.

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