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The Bare Minimum

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The Bare Minimum

Postby Dave B » Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:50 pm

We all know what it's like. You buy a synth. And another. Then something groovy and exciting comes out. Something interesting catches our eye. We are impressed by some specs of another and before you know it, we have a bunch of keyboards, modules, rack mounts and plugins. But it's all good - we do really _need_ them and sometimes we put things away and only get out the things we acually need for a specific job.

But we still have too much gear.

Recently, I've been questioning how much I really _need_ as opposed to want / use. OK, I'm a tart and a bit of a naughty boy. So, if push came to shove, what would I actually slim down to?

The answer is a bit shocking. If you put a gun to my head, I'd probably get down to just two or three bits. I'd have a Kronos as it does a whole bunch of stuff - pianos, organs, pads, swirly noises, etc and probably keep just something like the Oberheim Xpander as a single, multitimbral analogue synth (or even just the DSI Tetra if I wanted to get a bunch of cash for the Obie). I'd keep my old Wurli EP200 for playing and I'd have the (modern) Hammond on standby / for gigs. And I'd probably hang on to my JD990 in the rack as it has a couple of sounds close to my heart.

But if I did that, I'd be ditching a whole heap of stuff. A scarily large heap...

I used to have the odd clearout, but I don't think that there's anything I'd want to lose at the moment - it's all good stuff and easily to hand should I need it. Maybe I'm just hitting my mid-life crisis here .. but ... hmmnnn...

:D
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby GilesAnt » Fri Nov 01, 2019 5:44 pm

I think there is something to be said for a minimalist approach too. Less is more.

People do seem to accumulate sounds and gear, and some use the lack of the exact gear/sounds as an excuse not to make music.

As a student I had more or less unimpeded access to a couple of VCS3s and an EMS Synthi 100 for a year, along with primitive computer control (it was the 1980s). And yet I tinkered the year away, hardly producing any actual music. It was all a bit overwhelming I suppose.

After years of playing keyboards and synths I have recently I taken up the ukulele though I have never really played the guitar. And somehow this little instrument, with 4 strings packed into less than an octave has inspired a burst of creativity. The limitations almost invite you to try and stretch them - can I really make an arrangement of Mission Impossible on it (No) - but I can do a passable Summertime (and the living is easy).

Of course I will still play with synths and keyboards, but seeing what you can get out of something more limited can make you think more creatively at times.
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Nov 01, 2019 6:20 pm

Hmm, that got me thinking.

If I ignore sentimentality but wanted to strip down to the bare essentials required to continue writing my sort of stuff using hardware, then I think I'd be absolutely fine with:

1 Kronos
1 SY85
1 Monosynth (Model D or Pro-One)
1 Polysynth (Prophet-6, OB-6 or Summit)

... but to me, more is desirable for a number of reasons, so while I'm all for the concept of access to a leaner setup, I'm with you on the 'generally keep things' front.

One thing I'd like to try, although unfortunately not possible currently due to the fact there are other people living here, is to set up a second music area which has just such a stripped down setup. That said, I could simply restrict myself on occasion to a small subset of the gear of course.

Oddly, the least used 'synth-I-do-use' is the Matrixbrute. I love playing with it, but (and I hate to admit this) I don't really like the sound of it as much as I like the feature-set and design. If it sounded a bit more Model D like I would adore it, so I tend to turn the outputs down and use its sequencer and arpeggiator to drive the Model D.

Much as I'm primarily a muso, I've also got a 'collector' streak when it comes to synths and derive much pleasure from ownership alone. I do play them all quite a lot, but I could certainly make more use of some of them in recording. It's also nice to have various random things to grab and take off to a jam to keep things interesting.

Good food for thought!
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby Jumpeyspyder » Fri Nov 01, 2019 6:23 pm

It's not too many synths - its not enought time to use them all !!

I only need one (or two) more synths to be ready for my retirement - when i'll have plenty of time ;)
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby nathanscribe » Fri Nov 01, 2019 6:56 pm

The problem I've had with trying to minimise is that it works for a while and then I want something else. Maybe it's my own limitations I'm butting up against, and maybe they're lower than I'd like. And I definitely rely on the feeling of having lots of gear as a way to feel like I've got the potential to do Really Good Things with it all, though of course that almost never happens.

I tend to overbuy, then clear out a bit a while later and do it again. Though, this approach does mean I've tried a lot of gear over the years, and I rarely buy anything twice. Couple of pedals, no repeat synths. I miss a couple of things, but not much. If I get rid, it's for good reason, and I try to remember that when regret strikes.

"Need" might mean a bit of analogue, bit of digital; couple of polys, couple of monos, couple of drum machines, and some nice outboard. Not a huge list. But can I stick to it? Ha.
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Nov 01, 2019 7:12 pm

Nathanscribe, why I didn't notice this before I have no idea. Either great minds think alike or fools never differ but while forum-ing and working at the same time I just saw my avatar in our project management system at work in a window alongside your post ...

Image

Maybe one had to be there at the time to appreciate just how iconic that sprite is :thumbup:
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby ConcertinaChap » Fri Nov 01, 2019 8:06 pm

Jumpeyspyder wrote:I only need one (or two) more synths to be ready for my retirement - when i'll have plenty of time ;)

What on earth makes you think you'll have plenty of time when you retire?

cc
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby Logarhythm » Fri Nov 01, 2019 9:20 pm

Dave B wrote:But we still have too much gear.
Hmm, yes. It'd be a shame if one somehow accidentally acquired yet another synth :bouncy: :lol:

I'm doing a full slim down at the moment. The plan is to end up with just one hardware synth with some depth to it, and get to know it *really* well - something I feel I've been remiss about over the last few years.
And I'll still have some plugins. And the organ thing. In my head it feels like something of a clear out anyway :tongue:

Can't decide if I'm mad but I have a real hankering for the Korg Oasys that I lusted after but couldn't afford when they were new. Although I'm also wondering if sense will leave me completely and I'll wake up one morning to find that in a moment of stupidity I let the dog use my Paypal account and he's ordered a Waldorf Quantum... :crazy:
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby nathanscribe » Fri Nov 01, 2019 9:20 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:Maybe one had to be there at the time to appreciate just how iconic that sprite is :thumbup:

Ha! Excellent choice ;)

Yes, I fear this makes us both old.
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby CS70 » Sat Nov 02, 2019 1:00 pm

I think people worry too much. If you enjoy having a piece, have a piece. What's the big deal? Is not that you have to answer someone. Just make sure you donate the lot for good causes when your time is up :)

If you buy gear but can't afford food (or space for a bed) then you have a problem...

When it comes to creativity, honestly I think it's nothing to do with it. It's just another excuse - the mirror of "I cannot make stuff because I dont have enough gear" is "too much gear is stopping me to make stuff". BS both.

Creativity is your own drive. I can be equally creative with one or twenty two guitars, or equally non-creative in the same situation. That because making stuff is - like the guy put it very well many years ago - 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Or whereabouts.

Just got a new AC15 Limited Edition, and it sounds lovely :D
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby The Elf » Sat Nov 02, 2019 1:58 pm

Conversely I'm ditching the Kronos. I've never found it a useful keyboard at all and I've finally lost patience with it. It's interface is far too complex, its filing system is absolutely baffling and every parameter I need is hidden in multiple pages.

MY minimal system would now consist of a dumb keyboard (or two) and a laptop - and does, when the need arises!

That said, I'd never give up on my collection - when I have the choice I'll take a real synth every time, and I think my music is the better for them...
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby BigRedX » Sat Nov 02, 2019 2:51 pm

It's something I've been contemplating recently, having started in the Early 80s with just an EDP Wasp and then having built up an extensive collection chopping and changing along the way only to have sold the last of my hardware (Nord Lead, Waldorf Microwave XT, Ensoniq ESQ1 and Akai S2000) a few years ago.

If I was to start again it would be 4 devices as follows:
1. Something to produce percussive sounds and has a drum-machine style pattern/song sequencer built in.
2. Something that excels at bass sounds.
3. Something that excels at melody sounds.
4. Something that is designed for producing weird atmospheric noises that can be synchronised to item #1.

Devices 2, 3 & 4 need to have user programmable memories and a one control per function interface.
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby N i g e l » Sun Nov 03, 2019 9:27 pm

BigRedX wrote:1. Something to produce percussive sounds and has a drum-machine style pattern/song sequencer built in.
2. Something that excels at bass sounds.
3. Something that excels at melody sounds.
4. Something that is designed for producing weird atmospheric noises that can be synchronised to item #1.


Oooo ! thats a 90 deg twist in looking at things, you are driven by the music rather than the sounds - ..........................................focused, but werid ! :smirk: ;)

My top 4 would be....

[1] A workstation with weighted keys to power up in < 5s and get away from that music word processor screen. Ribbon + Breath control inputs.

[2] An analogue [style] poly knobular with semi weighted keys

[3]An FM synth

[4] A wavetable synth. Phew ! Waldorf are getting some competition these days

[4b] A sampler, although Digital data replay and organising functions sounds like it needs a computer attached. Is the EMU "sound" worth the extra librarian effort ?

[4iii] Physical modeling. Once this craze of Analogue modelling &Analogue cloning is out of the way we can get back on track to P.M with modern processing power and quality.

[4.9] A toy with speakers. Whether it be a Reface or a Wasp or whatever.


[4.9999] Somthing that you always wanted but couldn't afford, to give you a warm glow. Preferably the modern clone version for cost & reliability.

....so what have the Romans ever done for us ?
Disco Italia, you will want a Bit 01 [ other BIts are available] too.

Everything to be easily integrated into DAW access when required.
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby blinddrew » Sun Nov 03, 2019 10:25 pm

With the exception of guitars, most of which were pretty cheap and wouldn't really be missed, I don't have a lot of gear. I've always been a fairly careful purchaser - I doubt I've ever made an impulse purchase over £50 in my life. This has now been reinforced by our decision to massively reduce our household income whilst my wife does her PhD, and the decision to get the studio space out back.
So there's stuff i'd love to have but probably never will (anything over a grand really), and there's stuff that's on the save-up-over-the-next-year-or-so plan (anything over a couple of hundred), but fundamentally I have everything I need.
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Nov 03, 2019 11:13 pm

Well what a sensible and long-term approach Drew - I applaud your care :clap:

I tend to be the same, and my impulse purchase would probably be about £50 as well.

But what a lovely feeling that fundamentally you have everything you need.

Contentment can be a greatly underestimated emotion ;)

For me, the most important thing is that I can carry on making music.


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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby arkieboy » Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:33 am

I'm definitely in the minimal camp and always have been. And not just because as a guitar synthesist my choices are more limited.

I normally get by with a good analogue synthesiser and a sampler. Currently I have my Supernova IIR and a maxed out E5K for hardware and in software I lean heavily on either ES2/MonoPoly emulation together with ESX. Luxury is having something overtly digital to handle the high frequencies - my preference is something with wavetables which means either a Wavestation or something from Waldorf. I still plan to pick up a Blofeld at some point - I'm keen to see what I can get out of the user sampling option, which I suspect will be more than enough for live work by the time I've got my hands dirty programming. It would make a lovely minimal rig with VG99 waveshaping standing in on analogue duties.

Even with guitars where I have accumulated a few over the years, at any one time I have a main electric and a spare, together with my trio of acoustics - nylon, 6 and 12 steel. Anything else has mainly sentimental value.
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby Arpangel » Mon Nov 04, 2019 6:35 am

I've posted quite a lot about this kind of thing, but I think it's very simple, you just have to be honest, we all know that in these days of tablets and computers you have to spend any money on anything, synths etc, if you don't want to. That's that one addressed.
As for the minimal approach, that depends what you want to do, but sometimes, what we want to do isn't necessarily, what needs to be done, or, what we are capable of doing.
These last two points are very important, you can sing unaccompanied if you have a beautiful voice that can hold its own, or, you can arrange that song for an orchestra, or a large electronic music studio, the last two options aren't neccassary to actually get your message across, but it takes some of the skill of performing out of your hands, into the hands of others, or into the hands of machines. The more skill you have musically, the less you need to get your message across, it's you're choice how you do that, and no one else can justify your purchases, only you can.
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby Dave B » Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:09 am

I realise it's a bit cheeky for me of all people to wonder about slimming down gear ;)

But it's a thought experiment that has intrigued me and just won't go away. Maybe it's a midlife crisis type thing but with modern recording gear, we don't have to have everything wired in all the time - that's a very 90s way of thinking - and in some ways, all the choice could be a distraction. Throw in some sentimentality and you're now into the guilt zone.

And the question here is : with your choices, are you really justifying the gear itself? Or your desire to own it?

ho hum .. :)
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby Arpangel » Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:34 am

Dave B wrote:I realise it's a bit cheeky for me of all people to wonder about slimming down gear ;)

But it's a thought experiment that has intrigued me and just won't go away. Maybe it's a midlife crisis type thing but with modern recording gear, we don't have to have everything wired in all the time - that's a very 90s way of thinking - and in some ways, all the choice could be a distraction. Throw in some sentimentality and you're now into the guilt zone.

And the question here is : with your choices, are you really justifying the gear itself? Or your desire to own it?

ho hum .. :)

Dave, I don't know if this helps, but one thing I often do, try and make the same piece of music with less stuff, and see if it comes away undamaged, I mean, is all the required musical information and emotion still there?
If it is, you're on the right track, and maybe, even, previous versions may have stuff going on that wasn't necessary, or it was over produced.
All great recordings need what they need, but making that judgement can be difficult for anyone, but that's the skill of a great producer I guess.
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Re: The Bare Minimum

Postby IAA » Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:37 am

For me, the most important thing is that I can carry on making music.

Me too.

I have enforced minimalism at the moment pending house move. So given I had to turn my studio back into bedroom, I decided on computer and Kronos. Aside from its 90s interface, it works well as a controller and I’ve sampled a lot of my gear which I now can kinda still use.

Actually I’ve enjoyed reacquainting myself with the Kronos and whilst it can be pain to program, i rarely have to start from scratch.

I will have a “proper” studio (a complete room with no bed and wardrobe to work around!), in our new place and I’ve already started thinking about creativity and composition rather than just put all the synths back up. So in that vein I’ve been spending my time looking more at studio furniture (A section of music store websites I’ve been completely unfamiliar with to date), not more synths.

So I do think, for me, the space and the time is more important than the actual gear.



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