High-frequency and full waveform synthetic seismograms on a 3-D laterally heterogeneous earth model are simulated using the theory of coupled normal modes. The set of coupled integral equations that describe the 3-D response are simplified into a set of uncoupled integral equations by using the Born approximation to calculate scattered wavefields and the pure-path approximation to modulate the phase of incident and scattered wavefields. This depends upon a decomposition of the aspherical structure into smooth and rough components. The uncoupled integral equations are discretized and solved in the frequency domain, and time domain results are obtained by inverse Fourier transform. Examples show the utility of the normal mode approach to synthesize the seismic wavefields resulting from interaction with a combination of rough and smooth structural heterogeneities. This approach is applied to an ~4 Hz shallow crustal wave propagation around the site of the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD). ?? The Author Geophysical Journal International ?? 2011 RAS.