Some Physical Audio Effects

Edgar Berdahl; Julius O. Smith
DAFx-2006 - Montreal
This paper presents a survey of various audio effects that can be physically applied to a rigidly-terminated vibrating string. The string’s resonant behavior is described, and then the ability of active feedback control to “reprogram" the physics of the string is explained. Active damping, which is a direct result of applying classical control techniques, provides for an effect based on amplitude modulation (AM). Traditional electric guitar sustain techniques are elaborated upon, which suggest another approach for ensuring marginal stability of the system even in the presence of an arbitrary nonlinear and/or time-varying effect unit in the feedback loop. This approach involves placing a dynamic range limiter in the feedback loop and does not introduce significant harmonic distortion other than that due to the effect unit. The maximum RMS level of the system’s output can be easily bounded if reasonable conditions are met by the dynamic range limiter. Finally, nonlinear and time-varying feedback control loops are applied experimentally to artificially induce frequency modulation (FM) at a low rate and AM at a high rate. These effects can be interpreted musically as vibrato and as a sort of resonant ring modulation, respectively.