Musical Sound Effects

Analog and Digital Sound Processing

Jean-Michel Réveillac

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What will music look like in the future?

If you are wondering about the building blocks of the music of tomorrow, or if you wish to understand them, this book will prove a valuable “toolbox”. Jean Michel Réveillac introduces us to the myriad of sounds effects of the world of music. He weaves implicit threads between the art of sound and the history of science, allowing us to appreciate how digital effects influence the typology and morphology of physical waves.

The materials that will be used by the sound architects of our future are playback images, colors, matter and expressions. The possibilities of sound effect processing afford a glimpse into a universe of infinite and unsuspected dimensions of human hearing. By chronologically and thematically exploring these physical phenomena, Jean Michel Réveillac not only reveals the path, but delicately retraces the resources and techniques of the scientific, philosophical and sociological tradition in which the history of these technologies is steeped. The transmitted codes of electronic music have made space for sound objects, creating a certain anatomy of sound, and many other musical movements have also drawn inspiration from various applied effects.

The breakthrough transition to a fully digital world is uprooting the traditions of analog processing. The increasing capabilities of DAWs1 and 5.1 multichannel mixing are challenging the old trades and customs of applied effects. Music itself is a canvas for composers to shape according to their desires of expression by sound narration, and digital audio tools are a palette for virtual modeling. Today, sound occupies a permanent place within our environment. Jean Michel Réveillac revisits the original historical approaches enriched with the knowledge of digital audio processing. By broadening its field of investigation, the history of sound effects has carved its role in how we understand the challenges of modern sound. This book upholds the quality of its scientific roots and the relevance of its forays into audio research. After exploring the wealth of knowledge on musical processing present in this book, we are left with no doubt that a summary of modern research into the history of sound effects was sorely needed.

As if set in stone, the chosen approach conveys the timelessness of mixing techniques and colors, forging an eternal record of the methodology of recent years. Leaving us with the feeling that this was just the beginning of a journey to the heart of a perpetually expanding culture. Many of the sound effects presented in this book are currently extremely popular, with multiple areas of application. Chapter by chapter, the singular vision of a constantly evolving landscape of audio effects gradually emerges. With great passion, the author retraces the greatest events in the history of sound effects and the key theoretical ideas that accompanied them, and offers his own thoughts on the origin of this universe that has drawn him ever deeper, as well as the impact and future of technological advancements that will allow everyone to leave their own mark on the evolution of sound.

“Leo Virgile
Composer and audio designer

About this Book

If you are wondering whether this book is for you, how it is put together and organized, what it contains and which conventions we will use, you are in the right place. Everything will be explained here.

Target audience

This book is intended for anybody who is passionate about sound – amateurs or professionals who love sound recording, mixing or playback, and, of course, musicians, performers and composers.

The topics discussed in a few sections require some basic knowledge of the principles of general computing and digital audio.

You need to be familiar with operating systems (paths, folders and directories, files, filenames, file extensions, copying, dragging, etc.) and you need to know how to use a digital audio editor like Adobe Audition, Steinberg Wavelab, Magix Sound Forge, Audacity, etc., or a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Avid Pro Tools, Magix Samplitude, Sonar Cakewalk, Apple Logic Pro and so on.

Organization and contents

This book has nine chapters:

  • – Notes on the Theory of Sound;
  • – Audio Playback;
  • – Types of Effects;
  • – Filtering Effects;
  • – Modulation Effects;
  • – Frequency Effects;
  • – Dynamic Effects;
  • – Time Effects;
  • – Unclassifiables.

Each of these chapters can be read separately. Some concepts depend on concepts from other chapters, but references are given wherever they are needed. The first chapter, dedicated to the theory of sound, is slightly different. It provides the basic foundations needed to understand each of the other chapters.

If you are new to the scene, I highly recommend reading the first chapter. The rest of the book will be easier to understand.

Even if you are not, it might still surprise you with a few new ideas.

The conclusion, unsurprisingly, attempts to give an overview of the current state of the world of sound effects, and how they might continue to develop in future.

Appendices 1–4 discuss a few extra ideas and reminders in the following order:

  • – Distortion;
  • – Classes of Amplifiers;
  • – Basics with Max/MSP;
  • – Multieffect Racks.

A bibliography and a list of Internet links can be found at the end of the book.

There is also a glossary explaining some of the logos, acronyms and terminology specific to sound effects, sound recording, mixing and playback.


The following formatting conventions are used throughout the book:

  • italics: indicates the first time that an important term is used. For example, this could be one of the words explained in the glossary at the end of the book, mathematical terms, comments, equations, formulas or variables;
  • (italics): terms written in languages other than English;
  • – CAPS: names of windows, icons, buttons, folders or directories, menus or submenus. This also includes elements, options or controls in the windows of a software program.

Additional remarks are identified by the keyword.

REMARK.– These comments supplement the explanations given in the main body of the text.

All figures and tables have explanatory captions.

Vocabulary and definitions

Like all specialized techniques, audio sound effects have their own vocabulary. Some of the words, acronyms, abbreviations, logos and proper nouns may not be familiar to all readers. The glossary mentioned earlier should help with these terms.


I would especially like to thank the team at ISTE and my editor, Chantal Ménascé, for placing their trust in me. I am greatly indebted to the composer and musician Léo Paoletti, known by his stage name “Leo Virgile,” for the time, attention and interest he has granted me, as well as for writing the foreword to this book.

Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Vanna, for never ceasing to support me as I wrote these pages.