Towards (even more) practical Faust

I’ve recently completed my final project for the MUSIC 420B class in Stanford University. Prior to taking this class I happened to attend a workshop by Yann Orlarey, the author of the Faust musical signal processing language, that was held in CCRMA. I was fascinated by the ease and speed with which one could create effects and sound synthesizers using Faust. Also, having missed electronic music composition by that time I took the class that offered the possibility to play more with Faust and music production software. My initial goal was to demonstrate practical usage of Faust for music production in combination with software like Logic Pro or Ableton Live and write a whole piece using Faust generated sounds. VST in my opinion was the way to go because the tools that I wanted to use on Mac supported it. Although it was possible to create VSTi plug-ins with Faust, they were lacking some features that are expected from most synthesizers, with polyphony being the most noticeable of them. I’ve decided to take on this and fill this gap. The DSSI plug-in architecture supported by Faust already had support for polyphony so I could get an idea how to implement it for VSTi-s.

The following diagram describes in general the VSTi architecture design. The VST host interacts with the plug-in through the AudioEffectEx interface. Faust class implements this interface and using multiple instances of the Voice class supports polyphony. Each Voice class contains an instance of mydsp class which is produced by the Faust compiler and implements the signal processing/synthesis part.

Faust VSTi architecture design

Faust VSTi architecture design

Support for portamento slide was added by storing the last played voice in a dedicated member of the Faust class. In addition the architecture recognizes the “pitchbend” control as one that has to be updated according to MIDI pitch-bend event. The following short loop demonstrates how a whole piece can be produced using Faust instruments. All the instruments are Faust VSTi-s except for percussion that wasn’t fully implemented yet:

That’s how the bastard-synth VST used in this loop looks in MuTools’ MULab. Here we can see the controls recognized by the Faust architecture: freq, gain, gate, pitchbend and prevfreq.

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A more detailed project summary is in the following paper http://stanford.edu/~yanm2/files/mus420b.pdf. The project code is part of Faust source and can be check out from http://git.code.sf.net/p/faudiostream/code.

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