Keys: Yamaha DX7

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FM synthesis is a very cool technology based around modulating the frequency and volume of one waveform with another waveform. This can be used, effectively, to emulate how metal, wood, and other resonant materials propagate sound waves in the body of a musical instrument. While it has a reputation as being obtuse and cheesy-sounding, it has immense untapped potential in creating realistic synthesized sounds.

This isn’t about the future of FM, though. The Yamaha DX7 was one of the first commercial FM synthesizers released, alongside its much larger brothers, the DX5 and DX1. The DX7 was small, well-built, and with a digital synthesis system, much more portable than any comparable analog synths. It was the gigging musician’s digital synth, and truly the first step towards the hyper-powerful workstation keyboards we have today, with 32 factory presets ranging from brass, to organs and pianos, to guitars and bass.