Single Cycle Waveforms Pt1

One of the if not the most important building blocks of a synthesizer is the oscillator. An oscillator is a circuit which produces a continuous, repeated, alternating waveform. These are then shaped in time and filtered ( -> subtractive synthesis).

Examples of waveforms (Source: Wikipedia)

Now if you have a sampler, that can loop a sample, it is possible to create a continuous waveform by using a very small soundfile (sample) of one single wave cyrcle thus replacing an oscillator. If your sampler can modulate the resulting tone, you have a synthesizer on board your sampler using a very small sample (sound file).

On my Electron Octatrack this makes me have a complete Subtractive Synthesizer on only one of the tracks with minimal memory use. I have seen similar techniques on Korg Electribe sample, the Volca Sample and some software samplers aswell. My list for sure is by far not complete.

There are plenty free to download SCWFs on the internet. The site of Adventure Kid is the most popular one. On the other side, it is not very complicated to create your own. I show here a simple process.


  • Soundfiles (could be a piece of music, a sample of any tuned instrument or voice)
  • Audacity, the free audio editor
  • Helpfull, but not not really required – Wavosaur, free audio editor
  • A tuner (mostly sold as guitar tuner), software tuners prefered

One great source are files called Soundfonts (ending .sf2) for which again the internet is a good hunting ground. You will need a program that can extract the soundfiles. I use the free Polyphone on my AV Linux computer – it does the job in a comfortable and easy way. Hint: check if the wavfiles run on a sample frequency compatible to your sampler (in my 44100 HZ).

to be continued