I'd like to make an epiano sound from scratch. What are the most common pieces which create that iconic sound?

The video below shows many different epiano sounds, but they all have a commonality which I would like to achieve:

I know a lot of them have tremolo at the end, and sometimes a phaser as well (for the more funky stuff). I don't know how source sound is made, though. I've only ever had tools that did it already.

Assume I know what oscillates are, this question is not looking for depth passed the functions types and routing.

(eg answer: Most of them start with a (FM, Sine, Square...) that is (short, plucky...) and some (static...). Some of them have...)

  • Do you have a specific make/model in mind?
    – Dave
    Oct 5, 2016 at 16:28
  • added a link to description
    – Seph Reed
    Oct 5, 2016 at 16:34
  • 1
    Even with the number of "experts" on SE, expecting an answer which tells you how to emulate an instrument costing around $2000 seems a bit optimistic! This series of articles is over 10 years old now, but very high quality (the magazine is reformatting its website and gives this link to the old content they haven't migrated yet:) web.archive.org/web/20160403115835/http://www.soundonsound.com/…
    – user19146
    Oct 5, 2016 at 20:02
  • The original epianos were made a while ago. I think you're confusing the cost of this piece equipment with the complexity of the vintage sounds it is playing. Thanks for the link :)
    – Seph Reed
    Oct 5, 2016 at 21:44
  • The complexity of the vintage sounds is going to be non-negligible - some of those sounds are clavinet, which was a kind of electric clavichord. Others are Fender Rhodes, which got its sound from hammering metal tines (which immediately means that the tones are somewhat inharmonic - if you aren't using samples, the most economic solutions in terms of computation will be some sort of FM patch). The simplest, cheapest way is to find sample sets (or even soundfonts) that suit you, then chain them through effects plugins to get what you want. (more)
    – user16935
    Oct 6, 2016 at 0:19

1 Answer 1


Two operator FM synthesis with appropriate envelope settings will get you most of the way there. Each operator/oscillator should be a sine or triangle wave. Work on the relative frequencies and levels to get the right growl, and then put an envelope on the modulating oscillator so it starts loud making the overall sound rich, and then have the modulating oscillator die away fairly rapidly to leave a more clear tone, which then dies away more slowly. If you only have amp and filter envelopes, set the filter envelope to clean up the sound fairly quickly while the amp envelope controls the decay.

  • Ah. Like a real piano. 2-3 strings are hit, when they are at their loudest the waveform creates and releases tension in the string, slightly modulating the frequency. Because the hit is essentially static, it triggers basically every resonant frequency to the degree it is resonant with the string. I feel silly not thinking to simply mimic a piano.
    – Seph Reed
    Oct 6, 2016 at 19:01
  • @SephReed Actually an electric piano is pretty much an idiophone and not a chordaphone. EP tines are fairly bell-like and the inharmonic components of vibrating pieces of metal are fairly well modeled with FM synthesis. The reason why you want the modulating oscillator to die away more quickly is because the inharmonic modes of vibration don't last as long in an EP tine as the fundamental mode does. Oct 7, 2016 at 0:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.