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Homework Help: Signal Generator and Music

  1. Apr 21, 2007 #1
    First of all I am not really that far into my physics knowledge (I'm still in high school). I have a projct to design an instrument and explain how is sound produced by my instrument. I was planning to make an electric instrument such as a synthesizer using my computer engineering course knowledge. I just need some help getting started off with this. Can I build a signal generator such that it could be used as an instrument. I wasn't really sure how to start this off. I thought I should search online for a schematic to use.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2007 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    The "easiest" way to do this is to store the sound data in ROM, and play it back through a DAC (digital-to-analog converter). But even that is pretty non-trivial.

    A better approach for you would be to use your PC's sound card, and make or get some basic sounds in digital format. Then you can write a program to mix and play back the sounds for your project. You would need to explain how your program mixes the sounds to make the music, and explain how a PC sound card works.
  4. Apr 25, 2007 #3


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    I agree with berkeman; a computer and sound card are together an excellent "signal generator" for signals in the audible range of frequencies.

    Your professor would probably be totally pleased if you design your software as a "simulation" of the corresponding digital hardware. You could build adders and digital filters and so on in software, and then "wire them up" to create your sound data.

    An excellent way to do this is to use the software platform called MATLAB. You can easily simulate blocks of digital logic, and it'll even play the resulting sound data through your sound card for you. MATLAB is ubiquitous in the industry, so if you don't already use it, there's a 90% chance you eventually will.

    If you need to design actual hardware, instead of simply writing programs, you might want to look into FPGAs, like the Xilinx Spartan II. I'll be honest, this will involve a very steep learning curve, though. I'd talk to you professor before starting on anything to get some clarification on exactly what kind of work he needs to see.

    - Warren
  5. May 30, 2007 #4
    I have a similar project but some slight difference.
    Mine is to use Matlab to create a software that could tabulate music automatically.
    Only problem is that, I don't know how to start.
  6. May 30, 2007 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'd recommend that you start a new thread in the Homework Help forums (find the best-matching forum for your post), and post all that you can about your first attempt at a solution (and all that you know about how to apprach the problem).

    That will get you the most help out of the PF. Welcome!
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