This chapter explores Nyquist through additional examples. The reader may wish to browse through these and move on to Chapter Nyquist Functions, which is a reference section describing Nyquist functions.
This example illustrates how to stretch a sound, resampling it in the process.
Because sounds in Nyquist are values that contain the sample rate, start
time, etc., use
sound to convert a sound into a behavior that can be
sound(a-snd). This behavior stretches a sound according
to the stretch factor in the environment, set using
accuracy and efficiency, Nyquist does not resample a stretched sound until
absolutely necessary. The
force-srate function is used to resample
the result so that we end up with a “normal” sample rate that is playable
on ordinary sound cards.
; if a-snd is not loaded, load sound sample: ; if not(boundp(quote(a-snd))) then set a-snd = s-read("demo-snd.aiff")
; the SOUND operator shifts, stretches, clips and scales ; a sound according to the current environment ; define function ex23() play force-srate(*default-sound-srate*, sound(a-snd) ~ 3.0) define function down() return force-srate(*default-sound-srate*, seq(sound(a-snd) ~ 0.2, sound(a-snd) ~ 0.3, sound(a-snd) ~ 0.4, sound(a-snd) ~ 0.6)) play down()
; that was so much fun, let's go back up: ; define function up() return force-srate(*default-sound-srate*, seq(sound(a-snd) ~ 0.5, sound(a-snd) ~ 0.4, sound(a-snd) ~ 0.3, sound(a-snd) ~ 0.2))
; and write a sequence ; play seq(down(), up(), down())
Notice the use of the
sound behavior as opposed to
cue behavior shifts and scales its sound according to
*loud*, but it does not change the duration or resample the
sound. In contrast,
sound not only shifts and scales its sound, but
it also stretches it by resampling or changing the effective sample rate
*warp* is a continuous warping function, then the sound will be
stretched by time-varying amounts.
*transpose* element of the environment is
ignored by both
soundmay use linear interpolation rather than a high-quality resampling algorithm. In some cases, this may introduce errors audible as noise. Use
resample(see Section Sound Synthesis) for high-quality interpolation.
In the functions
*warp* is set by
~), which simply scales time by a constant scale factor. In this case,
sound can “stretch” the signal simply by changing the sample rate without
any further computation. When
seq tries to add the signals together, it
discovers the sample rates do not match and uses linear interpolation to adjust
all sample rates to match that of the first sound in the sequence. The result of
seq is then converted using
force-srate to convert the sample rate,
again using linear interpolation.
It would be slightly better, from a computational
standpoint, to apply
to each stretched sound rather
Notice that the overall duration of
sound(a-snd) ~ 0.5 will
be half the duration of
So far, we have used the
play command to play a sound. The
play command works by writing a sound to a file while
simultaneously playing it.
This can be done one step at a time, and
it is often convenient to save a sound to a particular file for later use:
; write the sample to a file, ; the file name can be any Unix filename. Prepending a "./" tells ; s-save to not prepend *default-sf-dir* ; exec s-save(a-snd, 1000000000, "./a-snd-file.snd")
; play a file ; play command normally expects an expression for a sound ; but if you pass it a string, it will open and play a ; sound file play "./a-snd-file.snd"
; delete the file (do this with care!) ; only works under Unix (not Windows) exec system("rm ./a-snd-file.snd")
; now let's do it using a variable as the file name ; set my-sound-file = "./a-snd-file.snd" exec s-save(a-snd, 1000000000, my-sound-file)
; play-file is a function to open and play a sound file exec play-file(my-sound-file) exec system(strcat("rm ", my-sound-file))
This example shows how
s-save can be used to save a sound to a file.
The last line of this example shows how the
system function can
be used to invoke
Unix shell commands, such as a command to play a file or remove it.
Finally, notice that
strcat can be used to concatenate a command name
to a file name to create a complete command that is then passed to
system. (This is convenient if the sound file name is stored in a
parameter or variable.)
Sound samples take up lots of memory, and often, there is not enough primary (RAM) memory to hold a complete composition. For this reason, Nyquist can compute sounds incrementally, saving the final result on disk. However, Nyquist can also save sounds in memory so that they can be reused efficiently. In general, if a sound is saved in a global variable, memory will be allocated as needed to save and reuse it.
The standard way to compute a sound and write it to disk is to pass an expression to the
play my-composition()Often it is nice to normalize sounds so that they use the full available dynamic range of 16 bits. Nyquist has an automated facility to help with normalization. By default, Nyquist computes up to 1 million samples (using about 4MB of memory) looking for the peak. The entire sound is normalized so that this peak will not cause clipping. If the sound has less than 1 million samples, or if the first million samples are a good indication of the overall peak, then the signal will not clip.
With this automated normalization technique, you can choose the desired
peak value by setting
*autonorm-target*, which is initialized to 0.9.
The number of samples examined is
1 million. You can turn this feature off by executing:
and turn it back on by typing:
This normalization technique is in effect when
quote(lookahead), which is the default.
An alternative normalization method uses the peak value from the previous
play. After playing a file, Nyquist can adjust an internal
scale factor so that if you play the same file again, the peak amplitude
*autonorm-target*, which is initialized to 0.9. This can
be useful if you want to carefully normalize a big sound that does not
have its peak near the beginning. To select this style of normalization,
*autonorm-type* to the (quoted) atom
You can also create your own normalization method in Nyquist.
peak function computes the maximum value of a sound.
The peak value is also returned from the
play macro. You can
normalize in memory if you have enough memory; otherwise you can compute
the sound twice. The two techniques are illustrated here:
; normalize in memory. First, assign the sound to a variable so ; it will be retained: set mysound = sim(osc(c4), osc(c5)) ; now compute the maximum value (ny:all is 1 giga-samples, you may want a ; smaller constant if you have less than 4GB of memory: set mymax = snd-max(mysound, NY:ALL) display "Computed max", mymax ; now write out and play the sound from memory with a scale factor: play mysound * (0.9 / mymax)
; if you don't have space in memory, here's how to do it: define function myscore() return sim(osc(c4), osc(c5)) ; compute the maximum: set mymax = snd-max(list(quote(myscore)), NY:ALL) display "Computed max", mymax ; now we know the max, but we don't have a the sound (it was garbage ; collected and never existed all at once in memory). Compute the sound ; again, this time with a scale factor: play myscore() * (0.9 / mymax)
You can also write a sound as a floating point file. This file can then be converted to 16-bit integer with the proper scaling applied. If a long computation was involved, it should be much faster to scale the saved sound file than to recompute the sound from scratch. Although not implemented yet in Nyquist, some header formats can store maximum amplitudes, and some soundfile player programs can rescale floating point files on the fly, allowing normalized soundfile playback without an extra normalization pass (but at a cost of twice the disk space of 16-bit samples). You can use Nyquist to rescale a floating point file and convert it to 16-bit samples for playback.
The next example uses the Nyquist frequency modulation behavior
to generate various sounds. The parameters to
fmosc(pitch, modulator, table, phase)
Note that pitch is the number of half-steps, e.g.
c4 has the value of 60 which is middle-C, and phase is in degrees. Only the first two parameters are required:
; make a short sine tone with no frequency modulation ; play fmosc(c4, pwl(0.1)) ; make a longer sine tone -- note that the duration of ; the modulator determines the duration of the tone ; play fmosc(c4, pwl(0.5))
In the example above,
pwl (for Piece-Wise Linear) is used to generate
sounds that are zero for the durations of
respectively. In effect, we are using an FM oscillator with no modulation
input, and the result is a sine tone. The duration of the modulation
determines the duration of the generated tone (when the modulation signal
ends, the oscillator stops).
The next example uses a more interesting modulation function, a ramp from
zero to C4, expressed in hz. More explanation of
pwl is in
order. This operation constructs a piece-wise linear function sampled at
*control-srate*. The first breakpoint is always at
0), so the first two parameters give the time and value of the second
breakpoint, the second two parameters give the time and value of the third
breakpoint, and so on. The last breakpoint has a value of
0, so only
the time of the last breakpoint is given. In this case, we want the ramp to
end at C4, so we cheat a bit by having the ramp return to zero
“almost” instantaneously between times
pwl behavior always expects an odd number of parameters. The
resulting function is shifted and stretched linearly according to
*warp* in the environment. Now, here is the example:
; make a frequency sweep of one octave; the piece-wise linear function ; sweeps from 0 to (step-to-hz c4) because, when added to the c4 ; fundamental, this will double the frequency and cause an octave sweep. ; play fmosc(c4, pwl(0.5, step-to-hz(c4), 0.501))
The same idea can be applied to a non-sinusoidal carrier. Here, we assume that
*fm-voice* is predefined (the next section shows how to define it):
; do the same thing with a non-sine table ; play fmosc(cs2, pwl(0.5, step-to-hz(cs2), 0.501), *fm-voice*, 0.0)
The next example shows how a function can be used to make a special frequency modulation contour. In this case the contour generates a sweep from a starting pitch to a destination pitch:
; make a function to give a frequency sweep, starting ; after <delay> seconds, then sweeping from <pitch-1> ; to <pitch-2> in <sweep-time> seconds and then ; holding at <pitch-2> for <hold-time> seconds. ; define function sweep(delay, pitch-1, sweep-time, pitch-2, hold-time) begin with interval = step-to-hz(pitch-2) - step-to-hz(pitch-1) return pwl(delay, 0.0, ; sweep from pitch 1 to pitch 2 delay + sweep-time, interval, ; hold until about 1 sample from the end delay + sweep-time + hold-time - 0.0005, interval, ; quickly ramp to zero (pwl always does this, ; so make it short) delay + sweep-time + hold-time) end ; now try it out ; play fmosc(cs2, sweep(0.1, cs2, 0.6, gs2, 0.5), *fm-voice*, 0.0)
FM can be used for vibrato as well as frequency sweeps. Here, we use the
lfo function to generate vibrato. The
lfo operation is
osc, except it generates sounds at the
*control-srate*, and the parameter is hz rather than a pitch:
play fmosc(cs2, 10.0 * lfo(6.0), *fm-voice*, 0.0)
What kind of manual would this be without the obligatory FM sound? Here, a
sinusoidal modulator (frequency C4) is multiplied by a slowly increasing
ramp from zero to
set modulator = pwl(1.0, 1000.0, 1.0005) * osc(c4) ; make the sound play fmosc(c4, modulator)
For more simple examples of FM in Nyquist, see
demos/warble_tutorial.htm. Another interesting FM sound
reminiscent of “scratching” can be found with a detailed explanation
In Section Waveforms, we saw how to synthesize a wavetable. A
osc also can be extracted from any sound. This is
especially interesting if the sound is digitized from some external sound
source and loaded using the
s-read function. Recall that a table
is a list consisting of a sound, the pitch of that sound, and T (meaning the
sound is periodic).
In the following, a sound is first read from the file
extract function is used
to extract the portion of the sound between 0.110204 and 0.13932 seconds.
(These numbers might be obtained by first plotting the sound and estimating
the beginning and end of a period, or by using some software to look for
good zero crossings.) The result of
extract becomes the first
element of a list. The next element is the pitch (24.848422), and the last
T. The list is assigned to
if not(boundp(quote(a-snd))) then set a-snd = s-read("demo-snd.aiff") set *fm-voice* = list(extract(0.110204, 0.13932, cue(a-snd)), 24.848422, #T)
demos/examples.sal contains an extensive example of how to locate
zero-crossings, extract a period, build a waveform, and generate a tone from it. (See
ex40 in the file.)
Nyquist provides a variety of filters. All of these filters take either
real numbers or signals as parameters. If you pass a signal as a filter
parameter, the filter coefficients are recomputed at the sample rate of the
control signal. Since filter coefficients are generally expensive to
compute, you may want to select filter control rates carefully. Use
control-srate-abs (Section Transformations) to specify
the default control sample rate, or use
Sound Synthesis) to resample a signal before passing it to a filter.
Before presenting examples, let's generate some unfiltered white noise:
Now low-pass filter the noise with a 1000Hz cutoff:
play lp(noise(), 1000.0)
The high-pass filter is the inverse of the low-pass:
play hp(noise(), 1000.0)
Here is a low-pass filter sweep from 100Hz to 2000Hz:
play lp(noise(), pwl(0.0, 100.0, 1.0, 2000.0, 1.0))
And a high-pass sweep from 50Hz to 4000Hz:
play hp(noise(), pwl(0.0, 50.0, 1.0, 4000.0, 1.0))
The band-pass filter takes a center frequency and a bandwidth parameter. This example has a 500Hz center frequency with a 20Hz bandwidth. The scale factor is necessary because, due to the resonant peak of the filter, the signal amplitude exceeds 1.0:
play reson(10.0 * noise(), 500.0, 20.0, 1)
In the next example, the center frequency is swept from 100 to 1000Hz, using a constant 20Hz bandwidth:
play reson(0.04 * noise(), pwl(0.0, 200.0, 1.0, 1000.0, 1.0), 20.0)
For another example with explanations, see
In almost any signal processing system, the vast majority of computation takes place in the inner loops of DSP algorithms, and Nyquist is designed so that these time-consuming inner loops are in highly-optimized machine code rather than relatively slow interpreted lisp code. As a result, Nyquist typically spends 95% of its time in these inner loops; the overhead of using a Lisp interpreter is negligible.
The drawback is that Nyquist must provide the DSP operations you need, or you are out of luck. When Nyquist is found lacking, you can either write a new primitive signal operation, or you can perform DSP in Lisp code. Neither option is recommended for inexperienced programmers. Instructions for extending Nyquist are given in Appendix Appendix 1: Extending Nyquist. This section describes the process of writing a new signal processing function in Lisp.
Before implementing a new DSP function, you should decide which approach is best. First, figure out how much of the new function can be implemented using existing Nyquist functions. For example, you might think that a tapped-delay line would require a new function, but in fact, it can be implemented by composing sound transformations to accomplish delays, scale factors for attenuation, and additions to combine the intermediate results. This can all be packaged into a new Lisp function, making it easy to use. If the function relies on built-in DSP primitives, it will execute very efficiently.
Assuming that built-in functions cannot be used, try to define a new operation that will be both simple and general. Usually, it makes sense to implement only the kernel of what you need, combining it with existing functions to build a complete instrument or operation. For example, if you want to implement a physical model that requires a varying breath pressure with noise and vibrato, plan to use Nyquist functions to add a basic pressure envelope to noise and vibrato signals to come up with a composite pressure signal. Pass that signal into the physical model rather than synthesizing the envelope, noise, and vibrato within the model. This not only simplifies the model, but gives you the flexibility to use all of Nyquist's operations to synthesize a suitable breath pressure signal.
Having designed the new “kernel” DSP operation that must be implemented,
decide whether to use C or Lisp. (At present, SAL is not a good option
because it has no support for object-oriented programming.)
To use C, you must have a C compiler, the
full source code for Nyquist, and you must learn about extending Nyquist by
reading Appendix Appendix 1: Extending Nyquist. This is the more complex approach, but
the result will be very efficient. A C implementation will deal properly
with sounds that are not time-aligned or matched in sample rates.
To use Lisp, you must learn something
about the XLISP object system, and the result will be about 50 times slower
than C. Also, it is more difficult to deal with time alignment and
differences in sample rates.
The remainder of this section gives an example of a Lisp version of
snd-prod to illustrate how to write DSP functions for Nyquist in Lisp.
snd-prod function is the low-level multiply routine. It has two
sound parameters and returns a sound which is the product of the two. To
keep things simple, we will assume that two sounds to be multiplied have a
matched sample rate and matching start times. The DSP algorithm for each
output sample is simply to fetch a sample from each sound, multiply them,
and return the product.
snd-prod in Lisp, three components are required:
snd-fetchroutine is used to fetch samples from the two input sounds as needed;
snd-fromobjectis used to create the result sound.
The combined solution will work as follows: The result is a value of type
sound that retains a reference to the object. When Nyquist needs
samples from the sound, it invokes the sound's “fetch” function, which in
turn sends an XLISP message to the object. The object will use
snd-fetch to get a sample from each stored sound, multiply the
samples, and return a result.
Thus the goal is to design an XLISP object that, in response to a
:next message will return a proper sequence of samples. When the
sound reaches the termination time, simply return
The XLISP manual (see Appendix Appendix 3: XLISP: An Object-oriented Lisp) describes the object system,
but in a very terse style, so this example will include some explanation of
how the object system is used. First, we need to define a class for the
objects that will compute sound products. Every class is a subclass of class
class, and you create a subclass by sending
:new to a class.
(setf product-class (send class :new '(s1 s2)))
'(s1 s2) says that the new class will have two instance
s2. In other words, every object which is an
instance of class
product-class will have its own copy of
these two variables.
Next, we will define the
:next method for
(send product-class :answer :next '() '((let ((f1 (snd-fetch s1)) (f2 (snd-fetch s2))) (cond ((and f1 f2) (* f1 f2)) (t nil)))))
:answer message is used to insert a new method into our new
product-class. The method is described in three parts: the name
:next), a parameter list (empty in this case), and a list of
expressions to be evaluated. In this case, we fetch samples from
s2. If both are numbers, we return their product. If either is
NIL, we terminate the sound by returning
:next method assumes that
s2 hold the sounds
to be multiplied. These must be installed when the object is created.
Objects are created by sending
:new to a class. A new object is
created, and any parameters passed to
:new are then sent in a
:isnew message to the new object. Here is the
(send product-class :answer :isnew '(p1 p2) '((setf s1 (snd-copy p1)) (setf s2 (snd-copy p2))))
Take careful note of the use of
snd-copy in this initialization. The
s2 are modified when accessed by
snd-fetch in the
:next method defined above, but this destroys
the illusion that sounds are immutable values. The solution is to copy the
sounds before accessing them; the original sounds are therefore unchanged.
(This copy also takes place implicitly in most Nyquist sound functions.)
To make this code safer for general use, we should add checks that
s2 are sounds with identical starting times and sample rates;
otherwise, an incorrect result might be computed.
Now we are ready to write
snd-product, an approximate replacement for
(defun snd-product (s1 s2) (let (obj) (setf obj (send product-class :new s1 s2)) (snd-fromobject (snd-t0 s1) (snd-srate s1) obj)))
This code first creates
obj, an instance of
s2. Then, it uses
obj to create a sound
snd-fromobject. This sound is returned from
snd-product. Note that in
snd-fromobject, you must also
specify the starting time and sample rate as the first two parameters. These
are copied from
s1, again assuming that
matching starting times and sample rates.
Note that in more elaborate DSP algorithms we could expect the object to have a number of instance variables to hold things such as previous samples, waveform tables, and other parameters.