Syntorial on Fedora

I'm interested in electronic music, and I like programming synths in Overtone, CSound and so on.

While I know a lot of signal theory since my days as an engineering student, I'm not always aware of the corresponding music vocabulary.

Syntorial is a nice tutorial software that teaches how to program a synth for various sounds. The only real problem with it is that it's proprietary and not open source. This would normally make me dismiss the software at the outset. In this case I anguished a lot and decided to try it anyway, despite my principles.

The basic idea with Syntorial is that you watch instructional videos how to achieve various sounds with a traditional two oscillator synth. Then you get exercises, where you should try to emulate the sounds of a hidden synth patch with a patch of your own.

It is a bit tricky to get Syntorial to work on Fedora, so here are my tips. Some of them I got from Joe at Syntorial, who was very helpful.

  • You can install Syntorial with Wine. The only issue here is that you have to have the serial number handy, which you get when you pay for the software. I find serials quaint as I haven't used serials for anything in years. As a sidenote, I once had to spend an entire day searching for a software serial in a cold server room in Norway. Since then I think software serials are a silly idea that just burdens paying customers, and doesn't stop software crackers. But I digress.

  • In order to get synth sound to work, you need to use Wine 1.4, which is a pretty old version compared to Wine 1.7 which was the Fedora version. I used PlayOnLinux to get this old Wine version. The problem has something to do with how Wine emulates the Windows sound API. You also need to set Wine emulation to Windows 7 or higher.

  • Even if you use Wine 1.4 you don't get any sound on the tutorial videos. I think this has something to do that I only have a single physical sound channel on my laptop. The workaround I found was to play the tutorial mp4 videos directly from the command line, not from within the Syntorial GUI.

Anyway, I think the tutorial videos were pretty good value in themselves. Even if you can use the Syntorial synth in your own music that's not really the intended use case. The goal is to be able to program your own synths with the same techniques, and there are plenty of ways to program traditional two oscillator synths entirely with free software.