Noise Sculpture: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions that people often ask me (along with a few observations). Please take a moment or two to look through them before hitting the Contact button.

General Questions

Questions about Cakewalk Synthesizers: from Presets to Power User

Questions about eBooks

Questions about the Choice of Book

Questions about the How to Make a Noise Patches

General Questions

I've got a question about the synthesizer book.

I'm happy to answer any questions, but could you let me know which synthesizer book are we talking about? There's more than one...

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I've got a question about the downloads.

I'm happy to answer any questions about the downloads. Which downloads are we talking about?

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Where can I get the downloads?

You can get the downloads here:

  • The downloads for Cakewalk Synthesizers: From Presets to Power User, second edition are available from the Cakewalk Synthesizers download page. You can get hold of the SFZ Tools (which are mentioned in the book) from the SFZ Tools page.
  • The link pages for How to Make a Noise (including a link to the free downloadable version of the book) are accessible by going to the appropriate pages linked from the How to Make a Noise page.
  • The Becoming a Synthesizer Wizard downloads are available from the SynthWiz download page.
  • The Project5 downloads are available from the Project5 Power! page.

The downloads for Sample This! third edition, are accessible by mailing a copy of the form at the back of the book to the publisher. A download link will then be emailed to you.

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Where's your privacy policy?


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Questions about Cakewalk Synthesizers: from Presets to Power User

Wasn't there an update for Cakewalk Synthesizers: from Presets to Power User?

Yup. There's been an update to the most recent version to cover Z3TA+2. You can find it on the Cakewalk Synthesizers page.

If you're still using the first edition of the book was published in 2006 there have been a number of changes to the featured synthesizers and there is an (PDF) update to the book that is available for download. Click here to get Cakewalk Synthesizers: From Presets to Power - Update#2, September 2007. However, this update doesn't cover all of the changes that are featured in the second edition of the book, so you should check out the new edition.

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I've got the Cakewalk Synthesizers download. When I try to load the patches I get an error message.

Unzip the whole package and look closely at the file names. Compare the file names/folder names with the synthesizer in which you are trying to open the files.

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What is covered in the​ second edition of Cakewalk Synthesizers that isn't covered in the first?

Since the first edition of Cakewalk Synthesizers: From Presets to Power User was published there have been a number of changes to the featured synthesizers and the Cakewalk line. This new edition includes four new synthesizers:

  • Session Drummer 3
  • Beatscape
  • Dimension LE, and
  • Rapture LE.

In addition, this new book reflects the significant updates since the first edition was published which have been made to:

  • Z3TA+
  • Dimension Pro, and
  • Rapture.

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Questions about eBooks

I've got the free download/paperback edition of How to Make a Noise: a Comprehensive Guide to Synthesizer Programming. Is the content in the ebooks in the How to Make a Noise series (Analog Synthesis, Frequency Modulation Synthesis, Sample-Based Synthesis, and iPad Synthesizers Edition) already covered or do these books have new material?

There is a lot of new material in the ebooks, but the basic principles of synthesis remain unchanged.

Before I talk about the new material, it's probably worth pointing out some of the less obvious advantages of these new books beyond simply the content:

  • These books have been optimized for ebook readers (such as the Kindle, nook, and iPad). You won't be fighting with a PDF--you will be reading something designed for your reading devices.
  • The books all have color illustrations (which, again, have been optimized for the medium).
  • Since they are in electronic format, these books can be searched, annotated, and bookmarked, and those annotations and bookmarks can be synchronized across all your devices.

There's more, but I'm sure you get the point that you're getting more than just the content if you buy these new books.

These new books are also not synthesizer-specific. Sure, there are synthesizers mentioned in the book--but these are there only to show you how the principles can be applied in the real world. You don't lose anything by not owning any of these synthesizers.

As for the new material:

  • How to Make a Noise: Analog Synthesis has the most overlap with the existing book.
  • There is a a fair amount of new material in How to Make a Noise: Frequency Modulation Synthesis. Perhaps the most significant change is that the approach taken in explaining the topic is different--there's a lot more focus on building from the ground up.
  • There is a lot of new material in How to Make a Noise: Sample-Based Synthesis since this topic wasn't covered with much depth in the earlier book (and approaches to sampling have moved on since 2004).
  • How to Make a Noise: iPad Synthesizers Edition covers the techniques covered by the other books--but in less detail--and instead focuses on specific synthesizers that are available for the iPad.

If I could make two other points:

  • First, there is some overlap between the books, for instance, they all talk about envelopes. However, by breaking the books down to look at specific aspects the books have been able to focus on how the common elements are used in different ways in different situations.
  • Second, the books only cost US$2.99 each (subject to local currency fluctuations and any additional sales taxes) and you can download a free extract. You can't go that far wrong spending under $3, and if you like the first, you can always the get the second, third, or fourth.

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I don't own a Kindle/iPad/other book reading device. Will your ebook-only books in the How to Make a Noise series be available in PDF format?


And they never will be.

The PDF format is great for certain things, but awful for others. It is great for laying out a book that is going to be printed. It is awful for presenting a book that is going to be read on a screen of unknown size, so for instance, PDFs cannot sensibly be read on phone-sized screens and if you zoom in to increase the font size on a PDF, then your text will fall off the edge of the screen.

Beyond PDF being a really inconvenient format (in my opinion) for electronic reading, there are major advantages (again in my opinion) to the new designed-for-electronic-reading formats (in other words, the formats that allow you to read your books on a Kindle, iPad, and so on).

As I see it, the main advantages of these formats are:

  • You can choose a font/font size that suits your eyes (you're not stuck with something that works for me). Equally, you can set the line spacing and the margins to suit your taste.
  • You can read the book on any screen size.
  • The text is reflowable (in other words, lines won't fall off the end of the screen.
  • Text is fully searchable (with PDFs, since you're dealing with a page layout device, there can be problems when search terms break over lines (as one example).
  • Extracts are shareable.
  • Most ebook services will share your books across many devices and synchronize your page position, bookmarks, annotations, and so on.

And if you don't own a dedicated reading device such as a nook or a Kindle, then there are many other devices, for instance: you can read on your phone (iPhone, Android-based phone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7) or you can read on a tablet (iPad, Android-based tablet). Alternatively, you can read Kindle books online and there is also the Kindle desktop software (for Mac and PC). And if you don't like Amazon, then you can always use the Ibis Reader (and if you're going to use this option, then you need to ensure that you buy the book in unencrypted ePub format).

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Your books are not available in the iBookstore in Ireland/Norway/India/other countries. Do you have any plans from them to go on sale here soon?

Unfortunately, I have no influence over which stores stock my books--I am relying on my distributor to do deals and for the main retailers to open stores in different locations. With each new deal, the books will be available in more stores.

That being said, my understanding (which could be wrong) is that the only iBookstores that carry ebooks for sale are in: USA, UK, Germany, France, Australia, and Canada.  Again, as I understand, there is only the option to download free books from the other iBookstores.  However, this is just my understanding, so if I am wrong, please accept my apologies.

If your local iBookstore does not sell books, there are several options to get hold of the books:

  • Provided there are no other adverse consequences, you might want to think about using one of the other iBookstores.
  • You can buy the books from another retailer, for instance Amazon (you will then need to load the Kindle iPad app onto your iPad in order to read the book).
  • Also, you can shout at Apple.  Customer pressure has more effect than author pressure.

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Questi​ons about the Choice of Book

Which one of your synthesizer books should I get?

Well, that really depends on what you're trying to achieve...

How to Make a Noise: a Comprehensive Guide to Synthesizer Programming is available for free download, so you've got nothing to lose by downloading that book.

When you've looked at the free book, then perhaps the next step is to consider the specific techniques that interest you (so for instance, if you want to create frequency modulation sounds, then How to Make a Noise: Frequency Modulation Synthesis is for you).

After that I would suggest you look at which synthesizers you have available. If one book closely mirrors your arsenal (or at least your main "go to" synths) then get that book.

Another point to consider is how you want to read the book and if color graphics matter to you. If you want color, then you need to get the electronic editions (which usually means one or more of the How to Make a Noise series). Equally, if you want to read on an ereading device (such as a Kindle/Kindle Fire, nook/nook color, iPad, iPhone/Android/BlackBerry), then you'll need to get a book in electronic format.

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I'm a Mac/ProTools/non-Windows VSTi user. Should I still get the book?


How to Make a Noise: Analog Synthesis, How to Make a Noise: Frequency Modulation Synthesis, and How to Make a Noise: Sample-Based Synthesis all demonstrate techniques that are applicable to a wide range of synthesizers and are illustrated with cross-platform synths.

As for the other books, well... that really depends on your expectations.

Some of the synths used in Becoming a Synthesizer Wizard are Windows-only/not available in Mac/ProTools/non-Windows VSTi format, etc. I wrote the book with the expectation that readers would have maybe one of the featured synths--perhaps only SynthEdit (as it's free) or a demo version of one of the others. I certainly did not (and still do not) expect a reader to have all of the synths. Indeed, I think it is detrimental to learning and understanding to have too many choices—I think someone should pick one synth and learn how to use that really well rather than have a range of synthesizers which they only partly understand.

This approach means that the potential reader needs to understand that there will be parts of the books that will not be relevant to them. Let me elaborate: most of the content of the book is directly applicable to all of the synthesizers, however, some is applicable to specific synthesizers. For instance, some of the synths have modules that do not have a comparable module in the other synthesizers. Equally, some of the sounds are created with a specific synthesizer. These sounds can (generally) be created with any of the other synths—I did not create EACH sound with EACH synthesizer because that would have made a really dull (not to say really long) book.

That being said, the synthesizer that gets most exposure is Zebra 2 (since it's a great synthesizer and it is available in the widest range of formats, including Mac formats).

So, back to the question... should you still get the book if you don't have all the synthesizers or if some of the synths aren't available in your format? In my opinion, yes. However, that is just my opinion. If you want/expect EVERY SINGLE WORD to be applicable to you, then you will be unhappy. In reality, if you only have one synthesizer, then probably 90% to 95% of the book will be applicable.

If you're still not sure, then why not browse through the book on Amazon and make sure that it is what you want.

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I've seen a book called "Modular Synthesizer Mania" advertised. What's that all about?

Modular Synthesizer Mania: Choosing, Using, and Abusing was the original working title for Becoming a Synthesizer Wizard: From Presets to Power User. The title was changed during production but it still managed to creep onto some databases. However, there never was, and never will be a book called Modular Synthesizer Mania.

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Questions about the How to Make a Noise Patches

How do I play the How to Make a Noise patches? Do I need each synthesizer?

The short answer is yes, but you probably don't have to buy the synths.

How to Make a Noise relies heavily on sonic examples created with the six synthesizers featured in the book. You need to access the corresponding synthesizers to take full advantage of the patches. However, most of the patches can be loaded into the demo versions of the appropriate synths (but you need the full version of Rhino to load the patches).

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Why don't the How to Make a Noise patches work?

... and the follow-up question: Why are the How to Make a Noise patches giving me an error message?

The How to Make a Noise patches have been available for many years and have been used by many readers. I am therefore quite confident that they have been thoroughly tested. Of course, if there are any problems, then I will fix them immediately, however, the problems I have encountered have been as a result of user error.

If you do have a problem with the patches, then please do get in touch with me. However, when you do, would you please:

  • Confirm that you are using the version of the synthesizer software that is featured in the book (please check with the developer's site to be sure). Please also confirm that you can (successfully) load other patches and that these do not generate any errors.
  • Confirm that you have followed the instructions in the Read This First PDF which comes in the patches zip file.
  • Tell me the procedure that you a following to create the error. You need to tell me EACH and EVERY step. Get specific about every detail—give me the full file name of every file you try to load, give me the full text of every error message, and so on. Unless you can give me full details, I won't be able to replicate what you are doing.

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I want to buy the How to Make a Noise patches but can't use Paypal. Is there some other way to buy the patches?


If you check back to the patches page, you will see that I am happy to give the patches away for free (if you own/purchase other books of mine). As long as you qualify, just drop me a line.

If you still want to pay then it's important to understand that PayPal is only there to process credit cards for me. You don't have to have a PayPal account to buy the patches (although you may find it more convenient to use PayPal if you do have an account).

If you want the patches (and you're not getting them for free following the purchase of other books) then I don't require the user of the patches to be the purchaser. All you have to do is find a way to get me $10. The simplest course is to get someone else to buy the patches on your behalf. If you're going down this route, then drop me a note (using the contact button) before the purchase to tell me the purchaser's name and email address, and then get them to follow the purchase procedure.

After sending me the details of your purchaser, you can make the purchase without waiting to hear back from me. The download link will be sent to the purchaser, so ask them to forward it to you--I will also forward a copy of that link to you as soon as I can.

If this approach doesn't work, then send me a note suggesting how you will get the money to me, and we'll get something sorted.

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Why don't the How to Make a Noise Z3TA+ patches load?

They do.

The Z3TA+ files are in .128 format. To load the files, select Bank > Load MIDI Bank File (.128).

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If I buy How to Make a Noise from Amazon (or any other online retailer), are the patches automatically included?


But send me proof of purchase and I'll be happy to send you the patches for free.

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I bought the patches to accompany How to Make a Noise, but have lost them/didn't download the update, etc... Can you send them to me again?

The fastest way to get the patches is to follow the download link that came when you first purchased the patches. Request a new download link and as soon as I receive your request, I will authorize the new download. Usually this approval will be cleared within an hour or two—if it takes longer, then either I'm asleep or traveling. In either case I'll get the link approved at the earliest opportunity.

The link will be to the most recent version of the patches. If you bought the patches before the 2007 update was issued, then you are still entitled to the updated patches which will automatically be included with the download.

If you have lost the original download notification, then please email me with a copy of your receipt or failing that, let me know the email address you used to purchase the patches. As long as I can identify you as the original purchaser, I'll get something sorted out for you.

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