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Learning Music with Synthesisers
by David Friend, Alan R. Pearlman and Thomas D. Piggott
Published by Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation
Available from Music Sales Price £5.25

A more accurate title perhaps would be "Learning Synthesis with the ARP Odyssey" for the book is primarily concerned with the Odyssey and how to use it. Having said that, it does a remarkably comprehensive job and no Odyssey owner should be without it. (Perhaps it is the owner's manual).

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 describes the basis of sound: pitch, timbre and volume and the synthesis and control of these parameters. Part 2, the practical chapter, demonstrates, on the Odyssey, how the various synthesiser functions actually operate. This is the longest section of the book and it is minutely explicit regarding the function of the controls. Part 3 suggests experiments to demonstrate further the aspects of timbre, melody, harmony and transposition and also gives some basic hints regarding tape techniques and the utilisation of a tape recorder.

The book has a few quirks. Tremolo is described in one part as "a form of timbre modulation" (it is correctly described in the glossary and later in the book as "amplitude modulation") probably because the Odyssey does not permit LFO control of the VCA, and tremolo is produced by LFO control of the VCF. The descriptions of vibrato, tremolo and envelope generation are scant in part 1 and section 2 must be read to form a clear understanding of these.

Good points include the explanation of gate and trigger signals from the keyboard along with semi-exotic niceties such as micro-tones, sample and hold, ring modulators and VCO synchronisation.

Apart from Odyssey owners, other potential readers include: (1) anyone wishing to learn how synthesisers tick (they oscillate, actually), and (2) anyone wishing to expand their working knowledge of their particular synth. Readers in category (2) should be able to transfer the functions to their own synthesisers without difficulty and may well discover more about their instrument. There is no substitute, of course, for hands-on experience and readers in category (1) may have more problems but the book is very clear with numerous front-panel diagrams and the logic is easy to follow.



Making & Using Electricity From The Sun
by the Technical Staff of Solarex Corp.
Distributed by W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd.
Price £4.70

In days when the more obvious of the world's power-supplying natural resources, such as the fossil fuels, are slowly dwindling away, it is only common sense to look for other energy sources, and what better endeavour than trying to harness the true source of all power — energy from the sun.

When solar cells were invented in the early 1950's, their applications were struggling against available cheap power. Indeed solar energy as a serious power source may never have come about if it had not been for the space programme.

Here is a fascinating book designed to stimulate the mind of anyone who is interested in the use of solar cells as a source of electricity for any requirement.

The first three chapters explain the workings and the potential of the solar cell and is intended for readers who are not as yet familiar with solar energy or the photovoltaic effect. The ensuing three chapters go on to deal with the more practical aspects of solar cells including many typical applications. Individually, chapters describe many projects and home experiments that can be put to use by the reader and includes information on many commercially available accessories to simplify the installation and use of the particular solar cell system. (This is an American book however and much of the information, especially concerning items commercially available, is not applicable to this country.)



Introducing Amateur Electronics Second Edition
by Ian R. Sinclair
Published by Keith Dickson (Publishing) Ltd.
Price £3.50

This is a book for the complete novice and has been written by an author whose name will be known to almost everybody interested in electronics. The book has been updated since its original publication in 1975 to bring it in line with the advanced electronics of the 1980's.

I could not possibly assess or outline the contents of this book in a more comprehensive or better manner than the write-up on the rear flyleaf, so I quote:—

"One of the most popular and fascinating hobbies is the building of radio and electronics projects: and it has been from the days when the 'wireless' fan made his own crystal set to the modern enthusiast who makes his own hi-fi and electronics gadgets. However, the intending constructor is often puzzled as to how to make a start in this seemingly complicated business. For, although electronics is now covered in many schools, many would-be hobbyists have not had the opportunity to learn the fundamental technicalities.

Here, then, is the book for the complete novice of any age, in which author Ian Sinclair assumes no previous knowledge of the subject by the reader. He explains how to learn the skills of constructing electronic circuits, giving details of a number of actual practical experiments to show how components and circuits work and behave.

It is a simple introduction which will take the reader to the stage when he can move on with confidence to one or more of the several magazines which specialise in publishing constructional projects for radio, audio, television and electronics equipment for the home enthusiast. It is, in fact, the gateway to a great hobby — or even profession."



Elements of Electronics Book 5 — Communications
by F.A. Wilson
Published by Bernard Babani (Publishing) Ltd.
Price £2.95

This is the fifth book in a series published under the generic title "Elements of Electronics". The series is not produced as a set of books for experts and is primarily for those who don't know, not those who do. However, they are also useful 'aide memoires' for people at all levels of expertise.

Book 5 is, as its title implies, devoted entirely to communications, covering all the electronics fundamentals related to this subject and dealing with them in a simple but non-patronising manner. Whilst the more complicated theory and mathematics are not dealt with in depth, the basic premises are and appendices are provided to help the less mathematically minded reader to cope with some of the 'heavier' theory.

The book is divided into seven sections: Communications: Transmission quality assessment; Networks; Transmission system techniques; Signal processing; the electromagnetic wave in communication; Optical transmission. Each section is well covered and contains a balanced mixture of descriptive, illustrative and mathematical matter. I was particularly impressed by the lucid treatment of networks (Section 3) and signal processing (Section 5) but must admit that the remaining sections were just as well documented and equally informative.

Mr Wilson not only understands his subject, he also appreciates the problems or problem areas likely to be encountered by many newcomers to the subject and sets out to minimise these by attention to detail particularly in the areas he has recognised as being potentially difficult.

All in all, the book content is well presented, copiously illustrated and very readable. At a price of £2.95 it is a good investment for students and anyone with an interest in acquiring a good technical understanding of the world of communications.



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Record Reviews


Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

Electronics & Music Maker - Sep 1981

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