In electronics and telecommunications, modulation is the process of varying one or more properties of a high-frequency periodic waveform, called the carrier signal, with a modulating signal which typically contains information to be transmitted. This is done in a similar fashion to a musician modulating a tone (a periodic waveform) from a musical instrument by varying its volume, timing and pitch. The three key parameters of a periodic waveform are its amplitude ("volume"), its phase ("timing") and its frequency ("pitch"). Any of these properties can be modified in accordance with a low frequency signal to obtain the modulated signal. Typically a high-frequency sinusoid waveform is used as carrier signal, but a square wave pulse train may also be used.
In telecommunications, modulation is the process of conveying a message signal, for example a digital bit stream or an analog audio signal, inside another signal that can be physically transmitted. Modulation of a sine waveform is used to transform a baseband message signal into a passband signal, for example low-frequency audio signal into a radio-frequency signal (RF signal). In radio communications, cable TV systems or the public switched telephone network for instance, electrical signals can only be transferred over a limited passband frequency spectrum, with specific (non-zero) lower and upper cutoff frequencies. Modulating a sine-wave carrier makes it possible to keep the frequency content of the transferred signal as close as possible to the centre frequency (typically the carrier frequency) of the passband.