Modeling: What Is It And How Is It Used In Musical Instruments?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 26, 2022

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Modeling has become an important tool for making musical instruments today. Models are used to capture how instruments interact with their environments and how they respond to different musical parameters.

It can be used to create realistic simulations of musical instruments and to develop new instruments with innovative sounds and features.

In this article, we will explore modeling in more detail and discuss the possibilities for using it with musical instruments.

What is modeling in musical instruments

Definition of Modeling

Modeling is an important technique in the production of musical instruments. It involves using special software to create a virtual model of an instrument that captures the physical characteristics of a real-world instrument, such as its sound, size, shape, materials and construction process.

This model can then be used to generate realistic sounds that mimic the characteristics of the recorded physical model.

The modeling process begins by capturing data from the physical instrument, such as its sound pressure levels (SPLs) or digital samples. The data is then used to create a mathematical or algorithmic representation of the instrument’s behavior. This virtual representation is used as a starting point for creating various types of custom models that can be manipulated and changed as desired.

The resulting digital model can also be programmed with additional features, like automatic volume adjustment or modulation effects. This makes it possible to create instruments with more complex and nuanced sounds than could otherwise be achieved from playing a single instrument in isolation without any effects processing applied.

Modeling technology has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, enabling musicians to customize their instruments for more personalized playing experiences. Such advances have increased both the capability and affordability of modern musical instruments, making them more accessible than ever before for people who are interested in exploring different music genres and styles.

Overview of Modeling Technology

Modeling technology is the use of computer software to simulate real-world physical systems and processes, for applications such as sound modeling in musical instruments.

In this context, modeling refers to the ongoing research and development of techniques used to systematically replicate acoustic phenomena that occur in physical environments. Models are created through a combination of physical measurements, digital signal processing techniques, and mathematical equations. The goal is to accurately capture and reproduce the behavior of a given environment or device while avoiding artifacts and excessive computational resources.

Musical instruments equipped with modeling technology employ processor-based synthesis techniques that allow them to imitate the tones of traditional acoustic instruments, as well as various effects processors used in recording studios. Depending on the modeler’s sophistication, digital tone generation can vary from relatively simple parameter adjustment engines (such as equalizer settings) to complex simulation engines capable of replicating virtually any natural sound. Modeling can also be combined with analog circuitry for more complex sounds.

Types of Modeling

Modeling is the process of taking an acoustic or electrical signal and using it to generate a similar sound. It is a popular technique used in music production, and has become increasingly popular in recent years.

There are a variety of different types of modeling that are used in music production, each having its own unique benefits. This section will cover each type of modeling and explain what it can be used for in musical instruments:

Physical Modeling

Physical modeling is a type of sound synthesis technique that uses digital signal processing (DSP) and algorithms to emulate the behavior of acoustic music instruments, sounds and effects. The sound production is based on a mathematical model of an instrument’s sound producing structures and circuit components and is empirical in nature. Usually this algorithm does not involve sampling or physical instruments, instead the system makes abstract representations of the instrument and component behaviors.

Physical modeling can range from simple models such as single-oscillator synthesizers to complex ones involving multiple physical objects, acoustic fields or particle systems. The essence of physical modeling lies in using fewer computationally intense processes to simulate complex phenomena that cannot easily be accomplished with traditional synthesis techniques. Some of the more common components used in physical models include Fourier Series Transformation (FST), non-linear dynamics, modal parameters for resonant behavior, and real-time control schemes for articulation modulation.

In terms of musical instrument synthesizers, physical modeling provides synthesis capabilities traditionally found within sample-based emulations but may be limited by comparison when it comes to imitating rare, unique or vintage instruments due to lack of specific component parameters used in the model itself. However, advancements in technology continue to bring improvements such as higher fidelity sounds that are closer than ever before to their real world counterparts.

Digital Modeling

Digital modeling is a process that uses computer-based technology to produce digital representations of physical devices. Digital modeling creates detailed models of existing physical devices, such as instruments, and produces exact replicas with digital means for use in virtual environments. It involves creating both the sound and the look of the device, so that it can be used in software or hardware applications.

Digital modeling can also be used to create new instruments that don’t exist in the real world. By using programmatic algorithms, sound designers can construct sounds and models entirely from scratch. This type of synthesis is commonly referred to as “algorithmic synthesis” or “physical modeling”, and takes advantage of modern computing power to generate complex instrument models.

There are many different types of digital modeling architectures, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Examples include acoustic synthesis methods such as sampled wavetable synthesis (sampling) or FM (frequency modulation), additive synthesis approaches such as additive granular synthesis (added oscillator tones) or subtractive synthesis (subtracting out harmonic overtones). Another type, granular sampling, has recently become popular for creating new textural sounds, combining small pieces of audio together into larger samples for use in virtual instrument patches.

Overall, digital modeling is an important tool for creating realistic-sounding instruments and effects from both existing physical sources as well as from source material created digitally from scratch. It combines both traditional signal processing techniques with modern computing technologies to bring amazing capabilities to sound designers that were not previously possible before this technology was developed.

Hybrid Modeling

Hybrid modeling combines physical modeling and sampling techniques to create more accurate and realistic sounds. Traditional sampling may struggle to recreate natural instruments such as drums and guitars but with hybrid modeling, the technology exists to capture all the nuances of a real instrument.

The process involves combining physical modeling of the actual sound wave produced by the instrument with a pre-recorded sample from a real-life performance or recording. The result is a deep, authentic sounding sonic recreation of the original source material. Hybrid modeling is especially useful in creating realistic digital synthesizers, such as virtual analogs that are designed to sound like classic hardware synthesizers.

By combining the two technologies, producers can incorporate live performance elements into their productions that were difficult or impossible before hybrid modeling was available. Hybrid models make it possible for producers to craft unique sounds by blending environmental audio simulations with recordings of virtual acoustic instruments.

Applications of Modeling

Modeling is a term used to describe the process of creating a digital representation of a real-world object or system. It can be used in various applications, such as engineering, video game design, and music production. In the music production context, it is used to accurately emulate instruments, amplifiers, and effects that are not available digitally.

Let’s take a look at the different applications of modeling for musical instruments:


Synthesizers are digital devices used for creating and manipulating sound. Synthesizers are used in many different musical contexts, from audio compositions to live performance. Modeling is a form of synthesis technology, which allows the software to ‘model’ analog or acoustic waveforms into digital waveforms. This offers musicians great possibilities with their sound design and processing options. With modeling synthesizers, users can employ all kinds of different waveforms including circuit-bent sounds, sampled and granulated sounds, and so much more.

Within the field of synthesizers there are several major types of modeling synthesizers: subtractive synthesis, additive synthesis, FM synthesis and sampling-based synthesizers. A subtractive synthesizer uses basic harmonic components which can be dynamically shaped by user operated controls like pitch envelopes, resonance filters etc. An additive synthesizer follows a more complex approach whereby an arbitrarily complex waveform is constructed by continuously adding together multiple sine waves at various frequencies, amplitudes and phases. FM (Frequency Modulation) synthesis uses basic sinusoidal waveforms (though not the same ones as you would use in an additive synthesis instruments) where one or more sinusoid modulate in frequency along with a fixed carrier frequency resulting in new audible harmonic content generated by new side bands. Sampling-based synthesizers allow recording audio to be transformed as well extracted Harmonic/Time domain based features that help musically alter the recorded audio information into something usable within a music production context.

Modeled analog synthesizers have become extremely popular amongst today’s music makers due to their varied sound design capabilities, ease of usability with current computer technology and cost efficacy against purchasing classic analog instruments or converting them via hardware digitally recreate them in modern terms. Synthesis through modeling gives producers an infinite amount of sonic possibilities allowing them to create endless exciting tones with greater accuracy than ever before possible before modern technology made it possible!

Electric Guitars

Modeling guitars use modeling technology to produce lifelike sounds. This type of modeling aims to accurately recreate the sound of various instruments, and it is most often used in electric guitars. Modeling is a form of signal processing that uses sophisticated mathematical algorithms to recreate analog audio signals.

With electric guitars, these models are created by digitally recreating the resonance characteristics of an acoustic guitar body or speaker cabinet. In electric guitars, models can range from recreation of vintage tube amps or amplifiers from other manufacturers, to simulation of acoustic guitar or essential harmony tones such as those found in twelve-string and lap steel guitars.

To activate the model, players typically use a pedal with controls that allow them to choose shapes and sounds that mimic certain instruments. These tone presets can provide a great variety of musical textures – from warm and mellow tones on a clean channel up to edgier sounds on more intense gain settings.

By using modeling technology in combination with effects pedals, amplifier modeling and distortion boxes, players are able to combine various elements into one distinct sound that is unique to them – instead of having several separate pieces individually connected together as was often the case in days gone by! Modeling also allows for quick switching between tonal settings during live performances which gives players more flexibility during song transitions or when creating a particular sound for each piece they perform. In short, modeling has revolutionized electric guitar playing today!

Digital Pianos

Digital pianos are popular modern instrument that use technology and modeling to provide the most realistic piano sound and playing experience. Through advanced technologies, modelers are able to realistically replicate the acoustic properties of classic and vintage pianos, as well as generate entirely new timbre.

One popular technique employed in digital piano modeling is convolution. This involves capturing impulse responses of acoustic pianos and combining them with digital audio to create a more realistic-sounding sound. Examples of this include using multiple speakers (stereophonic sound) and adding elements such as reverberation and chorus effects.

Another popular modeling technique used in digital pianos is physical modelling. This incorporates physical parameters such as string tension, hammer tension, hammer mass and frequency response to generate a more realistic-sounding tone. In addition, electric pianos can also be modeled using sample libraries which allow for a great deal of customization not available on an acoustic instrument.

The applications of modeling can also be found in other electric instruments such as guitars, drums or keyboards. By taking an electric guitar or keyboard sound from a classic LP record or various studio sessions can help give electric instruments an authentic feel and unique character that is impossible to reproduce with the typical out-of-the-box sounds from today’s synthesizers or software synthesizers. Additionally, singers may employ vocal modeling plugins when recording vocals for a musical production to help make their voice ”larger” than life on the recording stage.

Benefits of Modeling

Modeling is a popular method used in many musical instruments and digital audio workstations to give users access to a variety of different sounds and textures. With modeling, users can create realistic sounds and textures in real-time without having to use traditional samples.

Let’s take a look at the key benefits of modeling and how it can help music creators:

Improved Sound Quality

When modeling is used in musical instruments, the goal is to create a more realistic sound, one that closely mimics the sound of real instruments. Through modeling, various components of the instrument can be simulated and enhanced to achieve a greater degree of accuracy. This improved sound quality provides a great way to explore and produce more complex sounds than ever before.

Modeling technology works by replicating the physical properties and behaviors of acoustic instruments and other sound sources. Complex mathematical algorithms are used to create digital models that accurately create faithful recreations of physical sounds such as guitar or bass strings, drums, cymbals and even orchestral instruments. These models are then combined with audio processing, editing and effects algorithms to craft richly detailed representations of acoustic sounds. As musical technology continues to progress, advances in modeling allow for further exploration and experimentation with sound creation.

Greater Flexibility

Modeled instruments offer players the tools to achieve a greater level of flexibility with their sound and performance. By eliminating the need for physical components, digital instruments can recreate sounds from different genres and styles with ease. The vast range of sounds offered by modeled instruments allows for a greater level of inspiration and creativity compared to traditional instruments.

In addition to providing access to a wide range of sounds, modeling technology also allows for a higher degree of control over the individual elements in an instrument’s sound. This includes the ability to adjust parameters such as envelope, attack, sustain, release and more, which helps players to shape the sound they want more precisely.

All these factors combine to create exciting new possibilities for musicians looking to explore different sonic textures. Modeled instruments provide an opportunity for programmed soundscapes that would not be achievable with acoustic or electric musical instruments alone. This is why modeling technology has become an integral part of modern music composition, allowing musicians to push sonic boundaries while maintaining control over their instrument’s unique sound palette.

Cost Savings

Modeling technology can provide cost savings to musicians, producers, and sound engineers. Because the technology is able to emulate the sounds of a variety of classic and modern musical instruments, there is no need to purchase different expensive pieces of equipment or invest in costly recording sessions. Moreover, modeling technology allows professionals to accurately mimic multiple instruments at the same time while still preserving signal quality. As a result, fewer hands are required during a recording session or musical performance resulting in time and money savings.

Additionally, since sound engineers are able to more easily create flawless recordings and mixes with modeling technology due to its ability to finely adjust signal processing parameters such as attack, sustain and decay times in an automated fashion, additional costs for retakes are minimized.


In conclusion, the use of modeling technology in musical instruments can provide Guitarists and other musicians powerful sound capabilities that were previously impossible. With its ability to emulate a wide variety of different instrument tones, control of playing dynamics, and tunable digital effects, modeling technology provides versatile and sophisticated sound design options for musical creators.

Modeling technology is used in many modern instruments to create high-quality tones that capture the fidelity required for professional recordings as well as live performance. It also makes it easier than ever for players to customize their sound and make it their own. This has ushered in a new era of expressive guitar playing that allows guitarists’ creativity to truly shine.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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