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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.


Session 1: The Time Domain: Sound, Acoustics, Digital Audio, Noise Vs. Pitch 
a) Digital Audio, Sampling, Quantization, Aliasing b) Soundfiles, Wavetables, Manipulating PCM c) Pitch (vs. Noise), Spectral Analysis 0.1 d) Time-domain Pitch/Noise Detection: ZeroXings, Autocorrelation, AMDF Session 2: 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 Session 3: Digital Filters, Modal Synthesis 
a) Linearity, Time-invariance, Convolution b) Digital Filters, Finite Impulse Response (FIR) c) Infinite Impulse Response (IIR) Digital Filters c’) Special Guest: Julius O. Smith III, Digital Filters are Awesome! d) BiQuad Resonator Filter, Modal Synthesis Session 4: Physical Modeling Synthesis I: 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 Session 5: 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, Waveguide synthesis c) Resonator/Modal view and solution of 3-D systems Pop bottles and other lumped resonators Session 6: Advanced Physical Modeling 
a) Non-Linearity, Models for Synthesis b) Stiffness, All-Pass Filters, Banded Waveguides c) Commuted Synthesis c') Special Guest Star: JULIUS, Strings and MoForte d) Gnarly Geometries, Modes and Models e) Scanned Synthesis Session 7: Particles And Statistical Models 
a) Formant Wave Functions (FOFs) and Wavelets b) Granular Synthesis c) Particle Models, Statistical Modal Synthesis Session 8: Even More Synthesis Methods 
a) Voice Synthesis: Formants and Formant Synthesizers b) Linear Prediction c) FM Synthesis: Horns, Bells, Voices Waveshaping Synthesis, Distortion Modeling Session 9: Tying It All Together: Synthesis Applications And Control 
a) Controlling Modal Synthesis (Wii, TouchOSC, more) b) Walking Synthesis, a complete system c) Procedural Audio: Driving synthesis from process, game state, etc.

Taught by

Perry R. Cook and Julius O. Smith III



4.8 rating, based on 13 Class Central reviews

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

  • Profile image for Gary Worsham
    Gary Worsham

    Gary Worsham completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    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 engineer...
  • 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.
  • Bob Van Hoove

    Bob Van Hoove completed this course.

    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 some...
  • Profile image for Christian Huygen
    Christian Huygen

    Christian Huygen completed this course.

    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 learning...
  • Wang Zhen

    Wang Zhen is taking this course right now.

    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 .....
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    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

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    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

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    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

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Audited this course while taking courses on Design on Kadenze. Perry seems to be a cofounder of Kadenze. Can also see how this course goes hand in hand with Ajay's course on intro to programming (which Perry seems to also co-teach). Very inspiring to see all these schools interweave together. Got Kadenze and Stanford!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Excellent material, presented well. Thanks for making it available. These guys are both still way ahead of their time, and I have been following their work for a long time, even before "Silicon Valley Breakdown".
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Great course. Was a little more difficult than I was expecting. Had to re-watch videos multiple times to understand certain concepts.

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