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Stanford University

Physics-Based Sound Synthesis for Games and Interactive Systems

Stanford University via Kadenze


This course introduces the basics of Digital Signal Processing and computational acoustics, motivated by the vibrational physics of real-world objects and systems. We will build from a simple mass-spring and pendulum to demonstrate oscillation, learn how to simulate those systems in the computer, and also prove that these simple oscillations behave as a sine wave. From that we move to plucked strings and struck bars, showing both solutions as combined traveling waves and combined sine wave harmonics. We continue to build and simulate more complex systems containing many vibrating objects and resonators (stringed instruments, drum, plate), and also learn how to simulate echos and room reverberation. Through this process, we will learn about digital signals, filters, oscillators, harmonics, spectral analysis, linear and non-linear systems, particle models, and all the necessary building blocks to synthesize essentially any sound. The free open-source software provided will make it possible for anyone to use physical models in their art-making, game or movie sound, or any other application.


  • Digital Filters, Modal Synthesis
    • a) Digital Filters, Finite Impulse Response (FIR) b) Linearity, Time-invariance, Convolution c) Infinite Impulse Response (IIR) Digital Filters d) BiQuad Resonator Filter, Modal Synthesis
  • Physics, Oscillators, Sines & Spectra, Spectral/Additive Synthesis
    • a) Mass-Spring-Damper system, also simple Pendulum b) Fourier analysis/synthesis, Spectrum Analysis 1.0 c) More on additive Sine-wave synthesis
  • Tying it All Together: Applications, Sonification, Interactions, and Control
    • a) Scanned Synthesis b)  Don’t forget the laptop!!! SMELT:   c) Controlling Synthesis with game controllers (Wii, mobile TouchOSC, more) d) Walking Synthesis, a complete system e) Procedural Audio: Driving synthesis from process, game state, etc. f) Data set Sonification
  • Physical Modeling Synthesis: 1D systems
    • a) 1-D systems, Strings, Modal (Fourier) Solution b) Strings II: Waveguide (D’Alembert) Solution c) 1-D systems, Bars, Tubes, solutions d) Advanced Waveguide Synthesis for 1-D systems
  • The Time Domain: Sound, Digital Audio, PCM files, Noise vs. Pitch, a Hint of Spectra
    • a) Sound in Air, Traveling Waves b) Digital Audio, Sampling, Quantization, Aliasing c) Soundfiles, Wavetables, Manipulating PCM d) Pitch (vs. Noise), Spectral Analysis 0.1 e) Time-domain Pitch/Noise Detection: ZeroXings, AMDF, Autocorrelation
  • Grains, Particles and Statistical Models
    • a) Wavelets b) Granular Synthesis c) Particle Models, Statistical Modal Synthesis d) Wind, Water, Surf, and Other Whooshing Sounds
  • Subtractive Synthesis, Vocal Sounds and Models
    • a)  Subtractive Synthesis, Voice Synthesis, Formants b) Linear Prediction, LPC c) FOFs d) FM Synthesis: Horns, Bells, Voices
  • Extending and Refining Physical Synthesis Models
    • a) Waveshaping Synthesis, Distortion Modeling b) Time-Varying Systems c) Stiffness, All-Pass Filters, Banded Waveguides d) Commuted Synthesis e) JULIUS on KS, strings, demos
  • Physical Modeling II: 2 and 3-D Systems
    • a) 2-D systems, plates, drums, higher-order modes Fourier (Sine and/or Modal) Solutions, Waveguide Solutions b) 3-D systems, rooms, resonators, Meshes, Waveguides c) Resonator/Modal view and solution of 3-D systems Pop bottles and other lumped resonators

Taught by

Perry R. Cook and Julius O. Smith III


4.9 rating, based on 22 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Physics-Based Sound Synthesis for Games and Interactive Systems

  • Profile image for Gary Worsham
    Gary Worsham
    I had started to mess around with STK C++ classes which are used for many of the sound objects in the ChucK language. ChucK is a little unusual but I got the hang of it enough to complete the course. I enjoyed the subjects a lot. I am an enginee…
  • Anonymous
    This is a very impressive and informative course for understanding physics-based sound synthesis, especially modal synthesis. The enthusiasm of the instructor is very inspiring and helps to go beyond the material of the course with your own solutio…
  • Anonymous
    This course unravels the magic of sound and music in the language of computing. I learned how sound and physical instruments work, by understanding and trying to simulate them, which brings out infinite possibilities to play with! The material is very to the point, concise and powerful. And of course the coursework will add a deeper layer of knowledge to everything you learn here. I recommend it to Programmers who love sound and music, and musicians who like programming!
  • Bob Van Hoove
    Event though I didn't complete the course I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to explore the subject of sound modelling. A mathematical background is not strictly required. The focus surely isn't on the maths in this course. But honestly, at…
  • Profile image for Adrián Steinsleger
    Adrián Steinsleger
    I strongly believe that this course should be taken by any aspiring game audio programmer or sound designer who wants to develop a solid foundation in physical modeling methods.
    This introductory course will lay the groundwork for you to enter the field and carry out more research if you are interested in additional readings and exercises.
    The progressive course design makes it simple to understand all the ideas. The inclusion of some fundamental physics and audio principles, which are typically excluded from sound design classes, was something I really appreciated.
    Thank you very much Kadenze for providing these top-notch teaching resources.
  • Profile image for Christian Huygen
    Christian Huygen
    I learned so much from this course and I appreciated it immensely. Professor Cook and his colleagues showed enormous caring and enthusiasm that were quite infectious. I learned much more than I anticipated. I got over my fear of coding, and enjoyed…
  • Wang Zhen
    first thank Perry and Julius ,thank for your hard work and generosity, I am now taking the course , unfinished yet , based on the progress I made now , I feel the lecture is good introduction to understanding the physics side of sound ,and how to apply the knowledge to coding , the sound & music related programming ....however this course is helpful to get a taste of what special knowledge and theory need to to grasp to enter the sound&music programming field , the rigorous details need to be mastered through another dedicated learning ,and for coding part ,if you don't have some bases , you need to be very determined to survive .....
  • Profile image for Costas Economou
    Costas Economou
    I highly recommend this course to any aspiring game audio programmer or sound designer looking to establish a solid foundation in physical modeling techniques. One of the great things is that the instructor, Perry Cook, takes to time to explain the underlying physical principles of sound sources - often not covered in other material that focus on the signal processing aspects. At the same time, the explanations remain accessible and intuitive.
  • Isah Katun Adam
    The instructor know his trade. The curriculum well structured and delivered. The lessons transition smoothly and i was able to do more than i learnt in the course because of the approach. It was delivered in a way to exercise the student's creativity. The exercises and its output is not short of realism. The course was engaging and hands on.
  • Anonymous
    The course was un English but i would like to write the Review in spanish!
    Maravilloso aprendizaje, el curso dió una exploración práctica de herramientas de síntesis para diseñar sonidos basados en sus parámetros físicos.
    En mis interés investigativos es una belleza encontrarme con lugares tan generosos cómo Kadenze.
  • Anonymous
    Amazing course.

    Loved how dense material like filter design was presented in a rather easy manner. However, this simplicity comes at a cost of lack of rigor, which is totally fine with me as I am not very mathematically oriented.

    This course introduced me to chuck and I guess ever since then, audio programming has become my favourite past time.

    I would recommend this course and the accompanying book to any one interested in learning sound synthesis.
  • Anonymous
    This is the new way to learn. You don't have to be physically located, and you can just take a single course instead of a whole degree based program. This class in particular was a good cross over for people who are creative but have a good technical background. Highly recommend.
  • Anonymous
    I highly recommend this course to anyone aspiring to establish a solid foundation in physical modeling techniques. The course material is well laid out and moves at a pace that allows time to grasp the concepts to gain mastery.
  • Anonymous
    Absolutely fantastic course. I was surprised by how we could REALLY have good solutions to model even the most weird sounds we can find in nature. This is an introductory course that will get you the foundations to enter in the field and research more, should you be interested in further readings and practices.
    It is also a great course to take the decision: should I go deeper in the rabbit role and really create whole instruments? should I take these great foundations and explore them as a musician? Very intriguing. Very pleasant. Very funny. Surprising.
  • Anonymous
    Top quality course. Quite impressed by the broadness of the topics covered and the quality of the examples. Also, I was quite happy that the synthesis implementations were focused on Chuck as a programming language. Having learned to various degrees Max, Csound, Faust and Reaktor, this was a welcome choice.
  • Martin Neumann
    The course material is well structured and the presentation is appropriate in speed and depth regarding the presented concepts.
  • Anonymous
    This is a great course. Thanks to you and the team. For me was great. The methodology and the exercises. Great!!! I recommend.
  • Anonymous
    Great course! Some topics require more technical and mathematical insights, but overall it is a good choice for those who want to quickly start and get going with sound-design. Recommended!
  • Anonymous
    Great information and code. Lectures are very informative. I wish more information was provided in grading feedback or there was an easy way to ask for clarification. Example: "Your submission closely matched 6 modes and loosely matched 4 modes." Which modes matched? This isn't quite enough information for me to be able to see where I went wrong.
  • Anonymous
    This is a very intense course. You will learn a lot about math, physics and coding. But its all used to create sounds that can be used for your own music or vídeo game design. It is a hard course, but stick with it and it all comes together in the end.

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