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How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

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How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby Dolmetscher007 » Wed Feb 24, 2021 3:39 am

I was born in 1978, so I cut my teeth on synth heavy stuff like the Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order, and the like. However, by the time I got old enough to start learning to play an instrument, synths were no longer the instrument du jour. I landed right into the center of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and all the other guitar-centric music of the 90s. Then Radiohead went and drug the synths back out of the closet in the early 2000's, as did the army of indie synth bands that came along.

So anyway... my point is... I totally missed the boat on synthesizers. So much so that I am still not even sure I am pronouncing the word "Moog" correctly. I don't know what oscillators are. I couldn't tell a square wave from a diamond wave :tongue:. And I haven't the slightest clue what all those patch cords are doing. But... I want to know.

I recently have started up a new band and we'd all like to play some covers to knock the rust off. We all love the Cure, and that kind of thing, but I have no idea where to begin on figuring out how to replicate those synth sounds. I have Logic Pro X and Main Stage. Those two pieces of software, as I'm sure you all know, come with tons of software synths. However, since I never learned about physical synths, I have no clue where to begin in the virtual domain.

I absolutely do not have the budget to start combing Reverb and ebay for old synths. So... can anyone on here give me a nudge in the right direction as to how I can up my synth vocabulary, so that I can start playing around with the software synths with some level of knowledge of what I am doing? At the very least, so I can Google the right terms. Because right now, I'd have to Google things like... "How to get that whooshing sound..."

Thanks guys!
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby rockydennis » Wed Feb 24, 2021 3:55 am

Ableton has a nice interactive site here that explains everything step by step -
https://learningsynths.ableton.com
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby MOF » Wed Feb 24, 2021 4:17 am

Few people pronounce Moog correctly, most synths, such as the Mini Moog, don’t have patch cords as they’re set up in a logical way, typically oscillators on the left through to envelopes and filters and a mixer to blend the sounds.
Have a play with Logic’s virtual Mini Moog, using just one oscillator first, change its wave shape, the ADSR is usually represented visually but it’s all about how quickly a note starts, sustains and releases, just like real instruments. The filter cutoff is like a guitar tone control plus presence and bass. The wooshing sound will come from a (white) noise generator.
After that you use the LFO (low frequency oscillator) to modulate the other oscillators.

I’ve done a quick search for videos, this one I’ve skimmed through and he seems to cover the parameters well.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UmcOvAv-egI
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Wed Feb 24, 2021 5:17 am

There is an epic 63-part series of articles called Synth Secrets here on Sound On Sound which will take you by the hand and walk you through just about everything you could want to know about synthesizers and synthesis!

PS: Moog rhymes with 'rogue' and 'vogue' :-)
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Wed Feb 24, 2021 6:48 am

Also - just flip through the presets on the virtual synth and have a play around with the parameters (the knobs and sliders, or graphical envelopes etc.) and note the effect this has on the sound. This can provide a lot of context that will be missing if you start from scratch (what we call an "init" patch - short for "initialise").

You don't really need to become an expert in synthesis to make good use of synths, and dollars to donuts many of your 80s idols won't have been either.

Have fun. You'll pick up quite a bit without turning it into a dry academic exercise - though you certainly can take your learning further down that road if you find it truly interests you as a subject.

[ETA]

Here's a thought . . . check out the Arturia softsynth bundle. There's a decent chance that the exact sounds used on many of your favourite records of the era are to be found lurking in there since it recreates in software many of the actual machines used by bands of that time.
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby Arpangel » Wed Feb 24, 2021 8:48 am

You don’t actually need to know anything about synthesisers, in fact, learning about them goes against what they are supposed to be in the first place, a source of original and new sounds.
I’ve been witness to some amazing things where someone in a band that hasn’t any knowledge of synthesisers, goes and has a fiddle, and comes up with much more interesting sounds than the "proper" keyboard guy.
Moog? It’s Mooooog, as in moo-cow, always has been and always will be.
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Feb 24, 2021 9:41 am

"Robert Moog... would tell anyone who asked that he pronounced his name not with a long "oo" sound, but to rhyme with "vogue"."
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby Arpangel » Wed Feb 24, 2021 9:58 am

Mike Stranks wrote:"Robert Moog... would tell anyone who asked that he pronounced his name not with a long "oo" sound, but to rhyme with "vogue"."

I did hear Bob Moog say somewhere that originally his name was pronounced Mooooog, but the pronunciation changed over time to sound like vogue.
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby The Elf » Wed Feb 24, 2021 10:48 am

The release of the Moog Rogue should have been a big enough clue to the world, but I've heard many people call it the 'rouge' (as in lipstick). Good grief!

Yep, Moog as in 'vogue' - I knew this from the sleeve notes of the album 'Go-Moog' that I bought at Mablethorpe market in the early 1970s! :mrgreen:

OP: Why learn about synths without having one?! Go get one and enjoy the experience!
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Feb 24, 2021 11:00 am

Arpangel wrote:Moog? It’s Mooooog, as in moo-cow, always has been and always will be.

All the knowledge... none of the facts... :lol:
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby Luke W » Wed Feb 24, 2021 11:25 am

Eddy Deegan wrote:PS: Moog rhymes with 'rogue' and 'vogue' :-)

Despite having known this for quite a long time now, I still pronounce it wrong 99% of the time.
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby Zukan » Wed Feb 24, 2021 11:27 am

You can cut your teeth on a lot of pretty decent freeware synths out there. Learning without practical application doesn't make any sense to me.

Get out there and synth away dude.
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Feb 24, 2021 11:30 am

Luke W wrote:
Eddy Deegan wrote:PS: Moog rhymes with 'rogue' and 'vogue' :-)

Despite having known this for quite a long time now, I still pronounce it wrong 99% of the time.
That's because he spells it wrong... ;)

Back to the OP, if you've got Logic then you've already got a good collection of synths. Find a simple one, open up the synth-secrets articles linked above, have fun. :)
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby pk.roberts » Wed Feb 24, 2021 11:41 am

Arpangel wrote:You don’t actually need to know anything about synthesisers, in fact, learning about them goes against what they are supposed to be in the first place, a source of original and new sounds.
I’ve been witness to some amazing things where someone in a band that hasn’t any knowledge of synthesisers, goes and has a fiddle, and comes up with much more interesting sounds than the "proper" keyboard guy.
Moog? It’s Mooooog, as in moo-cow, always has been and always will be.

I'm afraid I disagree with lots of this. Whilst I would agree that creativity should not be constrained and happy accidents are great when they occur, they don't help with the frustration of not being able to even begin being able to create what is in 'your mind's ear' or even not being able to get any sound out at all. An understanding of basic principles and terminology will enable you to create unique and individual sounds from scratch, with less frustration, and help you to get out of the confines of 'preset world' (whilst still having some 'happy accidents' on the way).
I had a quick cruise around YouTube and quite like this as a 'primer'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3udLCvoCC0
and a bit of practical, analogue, patching here;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FziReSfokk
So a bit of learning and a bit of playing is the way to go for me.
BTW - it rhymes with 'vogue' - listen to the great man himself 17" into this ...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVtyWJdxJeo
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Re: How might one go about learning about synths, without actually buying a synth?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Feb 24, 2021 12:19 pm

pk.roberts wrote:Whilst I would agree that creativity should not be constrained and happy accidents are great when they occur, they don't help with the frustration of not being able to even begin being able to create what is in 'your mind's ear' or even not being able to get any sound out at all.
I agree with this. Every time I've tried playing around with a synth I've ended up fiddling with something and it going silent, at which point I can't get it to make a noise again.
I think I did this with about a dozen machines at Synthfest one year! :D
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