General Question

PhiNotPi's avatar

What combination of classical instruments sounds the most like a synthesizer?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12677points) February 15th, 2012

As a few of you may know, I like to compose “music” in my spare time. This leads me to my question:

Out of all of the classical instruments, what combination of them will sound the most like an electric synthesizer?

Classical instruments include flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, bassoon, tuba, etc., along with violin, cello, etc., along with snare drums, bass drums, marimba, cymbals, etc., and piano.

Before you say that it cannot be done, there must be some sounds that replicate it better than others, and I am asking for the best out of those.

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11 Answers

dabbler's avatar

?? Bizarre question. A synthesizer is made to sound like just about anything by controlling its output waverform. There is not really a signature sound of a synthesizer. You can modulate the waverform of a synthesizer to sound like anything.

If you mean the sound of an unmodulated square wave, I’d say an instrument that sounds most like that is some kind of a chinese oboe. It has that sort of buzzing overtone that a square wave will have.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@dabbler I meant something that would obviously sound like a synthesizer. A square wave is a good example. I know it is possible to change a synthesizer to sound like different things, but I am looking to replicate that synthesized “feel” in a piece of music.

YARNLADY's avatar


Rock2's avatar

A good synthesizer can record the sound of any instrument and play it back.

dabbler's avatar

@Rock2 That’s a sampler. Synthesizers don’t record. A synthesizer will imitate any instrument by recreating its characteristic waveform.

@YARNLADY is on to something ref harpsichords. One of the early synthesizer albums was “Switched on Bach” which was a synthesizer rendition of largely harpsichord music.

jazmina88's avatar

church organ
twangy honky tonk piano
french horn

marmoset's avatar

Certainly organ is the the single acoustic instrument that would sound most like a synth to most people’s ears, especially because it can sustain perfectly without any subtle variation. I can also imagine a combination of low reeds and winds (say, bassoon + contrabassoon + bass clarinet + contrabass clarinet) playing in unison would work, if you instructed them to play with no vibrato and no expression/variation. Or any combo of low string instruments with no vibrato. am I understanding you right that you’re looking for the inst or combo of insts that would sound as much like a stereotypical sustained synth sound (to most people) as possible?

PhiNotPi's avatar

@marmoset Yes, you understood me correctly.

Rock2's avatar


Kardamom's avatar

Violin, cello, bass violin. Because you can drag out a long note, and go up or down on the scale without “picking out” each separate note (like you would with a flute).

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