An instrument's distinctive "sound" comes from its timbre which comes from its various harmonics and these in turn affect the shape of the waveform.

As such, I feel like it would be possible for software to be used (fourier transform?) to modify one instrument's waveform to resemble another instrument's shape and thus "sound" like it.

Not sure if anyone here has any experience with this


In some sense, any modifications of the waveform "makes one instrument sound like another" think of all of the effects pedals used by electric guitarists.

More specifically, various flavors of fuzz pedals give results that start to resemble horns or strings, c.f.

Even if they don’t accurately capture "the real thing", at the very least it's somewhat evocative of a different instrument.

In more recent times, there are more direct modeling approaches, mostly by EHX to make guitars sound like other instruments in a passable manner, e.g.

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  • Does the EHX Key9 really modify the strings' vibration and not trigger envelopes and samples? Like if you have a Rhodes sound, can you get a different Rhodes by changing the tone or volume on the guitar, or by using a different pickup setting? – piiperi Reinstate Monica Feb 9 at 20:08
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    @piiperiReinstateMonica I’m not privy to the inner workings, but my understanding is that the ehx are not samples. These pedals came on the heels of the hog (analog) and pog(digital) pedals which, I’m almost certain , manipulate the signal, not trigger samples. – Dave Feb 9 at 21:03
  • Apparently you can use the "...9" technology with something that's not a guitar at all youtube.com/watch?v=fb14KmX7Hq8 I think it's surprising how little attention these are getting, considering that they should be able to revolutionize the playing of many different instruments? Or at least expand the range of sounds and expression a lot, without having to change the instrument or playing technique, or with very small changes. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Feb 9 at 21:17
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica I’m very intrigued by them, not enough to buy one, but I always wonder if just getting some keys is a better way to achieve the same end. – Dave Feb 9 at 21:20
  • I think the sweet spot where these pedals work the best is, when you don't try to play e.g. keyboard player imitations on guitar, but if you play "guitarish" things that come naturally, just with a different sound. Or if you can use for example a "sustain pedal" on your guitar, like you can with the EHX Superego and Superego+. I recently got one, and I really like it. I'm still playing guitar, but then again not, now I can create soft sustaining pads that kind of sound like guitar but not really. Whaaat? I'm like, why is there still a guitar player who doesn't have this!? ;) – piiperi Reinstate Monica Feb 9 at 21:27

Yes, you can modify the waveform. But it might not make it sound like another instrument as much as you hoped. A surprising amount of the 'sound' of an instrument is contained in the attack portion of the note, the complex waveform before the relatively consistent waveform of the sustain. This is why the 'hybrid' synthesis of instruments like the Roland D50 and Yamaha SY range was so successful - a short sampled attack was combined with a synthesized sustain. And why the facility to draw a waveform on the screen of a Fairlight was not all that useful.

When turning one instrument into another, replacement of the attack will be more important than modifying the sustain.

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Izotope Iris 2 is a vst/AU plugin that has a “spectrogram” which allows you to edit the transients and shape of any waveform. It is multi-Timbral and has 4 Sampling engines. You can load the respective samples and blend the waveforms. The editing tools are unique as you edit the waveform with graphical tools such as paint, lasso, erase, etc. Graphical Spectrogram

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It is not strictly necessary to use post-processing. I heard a skilled violinist play a short tune in double-stops that sounded almost exactly like a bagpipe.
A 'very non-skilled' soprano sax sounds like an oboe with a bad head cold :-) .

Here and there composers have written parts for 2 or 3 woodwinds such that the combined output sounds like some other (usually wind) instrument.

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It's certainly possible to morph from one sound to another - this can be done using a technique as simple as cross-fading samples, or by doing an additive resynthessis of each sound and slowly changing from one spectrum to another.

Bear in mind that even the sound of a single instrument isn't defined by a single waveform or spectrum - most instruments' spectra change over time.

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