The computer is an excellent instrument for writing not just noise but rhythm, melody and harmony as well.

A computer has certain advantages over other instruments:

  • It can simulate the sound of real life instruments.
  • It can extend the range of an instrument.
  • It can generate sound throughout the entire sound spectrum.
  • It can simultaneously generate pitched and unpitched sound.
  • It can create virtual instruments that cannot be replicated in the real world.

One other benefit of a computer is largely unsung: it widens the range of people who can write music. No longer do you have to be a singer or a musician to write music, anyone can do it. Furthermore, someone who is physically unable to sing or play can find an outlet for their creative talents by writing music on a computer with a suitable interface. Long may this trend continue.

A computer has limitations:

  • It cannot sing. The computer cannot yet realistically simulate the human voice although it can generate pretty decent aah and ooh sounds.
  • It is not tactile. Some users shun computers because of their perceived artificiality and lack of huggable warmth.
  • It is not necessarily the best instrument for musical doodling. It may be easier and quicker to get a musical idea by messing around singing or playing a musical instrument rather than playing on a computer.

The following chapter looks at how to use a computer as a synthesiser, or synth, and sets the scene for writing noise and sound effects.

Computer synthesis is not the only way to generate noise, you can also record noise with a microphone or take the fast route and get hold of a prerecorded sample. There are thousands of noisy samples available on the internet: water gurgling, wind rustling, birds screeching, bees buzzing, humans shrieking and grunting, musical instruments being scraped and thwacked, percussion being pounded, traffic roaring, lorries rumbling, machinery humming, computers crashing: the list is endless.