Physical Modelling

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Physical modelling

Physical modelling, also know as PM-Synthesis, is a way of creating sounds or editing the physical properties of an instrument. It’s a really special way to edit sounds on a mathematic base. It’s good to know that the physical modelling has nothing in common with normal physics. 

Physical modelling is used to imitate analog instruments like flutes, strings, or pianos. Also, you can just edit the parameters of an instrument to change its size for example. The first digital piano which used to work with physical modelling was the V-Piano form, Roland. You’re also able to simulate a guitar amp with physical modelling. Furthermore, new virtual instruments and sound can be created. 

To re-build a certain instrument you first need to analyze it in its structure and function. Depending on how many parameters you can edit your sound will become more realistically.

Pros and cons

Physical modelling has some big pros. You can easily create a living sound. In opposite to a sampler where your sound gets looped the sound is always continuing and has no end. This is a really big pro because you don’t get any phase jumps. Without these jumps, you don’t get artifacts or unnatural patterns like you get them from a sampler. In addition to that, you can edit your sound life which makes the creation process very intuitive. Another pro is the ability to combine the elements of different instruments, even when you can’t combine them as real instruments. All in all, you can create many different and awesome sounds or just re-create existing ones with physical modeling.

 One the cons of physical modeling are that this process has a high CPU usage. This belongs to the complex algorithms which calculate for example the swing of a guitar string in real time. In most cases there thousands of calculating steps needed to create a sound. This pushes the computer easily to its limits. Therefore, the models get simplified to be used by normal computers and be able to create a high number of voices, but these settings let the sound get away from its original instrument sound.

The end

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Brockhaus Encyclopedia
Andreas Friesecke – Audio Encyclopedia