Im in my final year of uni and for my honours project I’m building an FM synth in Max MSP that is controlled using descriptive language (bright, warm, fuzzy, sharp etc).
For my research portion I am looking at other novel synth UI design philosophies, as well as really simple UIs that could be understood by a musician with no background in synths. I’m posting this here to see if any of you have any examples that you’ve used or heard of that would be worth looking into!
Maybe check out Respiro, it’s complex but only some parameters assigned and named by the sound designers are accessible in each preset: https://www.imoxplus.com/site/
But basically, that’s just making a few macros and hiding everything else.
I always felt that Live’s factory or Max4live devices has the best interface. It’s very minimal and clear. No fancy GUI with plenty of moving parts for some unnecessary immersion that helps nobody, at least not me. IMO it only matters when every dial serves a huge purpose. You adjust it and it makes a sudden difference in audio output. If you’re doing MaxMSP just look into Essentials pack. Single color design, excellent usability. Simplicity at its best.
I think that a big obstacle to non-musician/programmers is the naming.
Cutoff, what could that mean?
Resonance? Fuck knows.
Envelope? Nah, will try the next preset.
It’s kinda hard for someone who is approaching it to wrap their head around naming and signal flow/interaction between parts.
Maybe a solution would be to approach the ui with different levels, top level, simplified view with a clear signal flow and simpler names and the option to open up the interface for ‘programmer view.
Ludiq Bolt, a visual engine for Unity, has a similar option, on setup you can choose between human and programmer naming. I personally started from human naming but now I swear by programmer naming. From that point of view, it had an educational value too.
Not yet, for hardware, look at the Blipbox after Dark
Obviously certain terms like “transpose” and “noise generator” are already pretty self-explanatory.
As for (DX style) FM synthesis, I would personally put a label next to the individual algorithm diagrams explaining whether they’re being used as a carrier or modulator in that particular algorithm. It could sort of change as you cycle through algorithms. Also I would substitute “harmonics” for Feedback because musicians often associate that word with something unintentional.