The illiMath Csound Primer

created and updated by Ben Shanbaum Latest update - 01jan01

This website is incomplete. But it won't hurt you to try it out.


Introduction to Csound


Csound was created in the mid-1970's by Barry Vercoe at the MIT Laboratories.

Csound is a difficult piece of software to describe within a set of boundaries, mostly because the only boundaries this software has is in its implementation by the user. It is best seen as a giant sandbox for sound design and synthesis. With this software and a creative imagination, anyone can recreate sounds and effects that would only come from expensive audio hardware, or even produce results no existing hardware synthesizer is capable of.  Because of the degree of freedom this software allows, it creates an incredibly steep learning curve for the new user.  One must be proficient (or at least familiar with) working with code, have a good understanding of the basics behind sound synthesis and music composition.  Those who can use Csound to its fullest ability are most often experts in the fields of both computer software design and music.

Fortunately, the process of learning the elements of Csound creates a great educational  experience on the elements of sound and audio itself.  One can become quite familiar with the building blocks that go into creating and manipulating sounds

Additional note and acknowledgement: I have learned most of the following information from what can be found at The Csound FrontPage at MIT Press. One can find just about anything there you couldn't find here. In particular, Richard Boulanger's terrific "TOOTorial". And absolutely everything is in Boulanger's "The Csound Book: perspectives in software synthesis, sound design, signal processing, and programming", MIT Press, 2000.

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