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Synth sound strategies...

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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby ManFromGlass » Sat Dec 28, 2019 2:39 pm

I’m the opposite of OCD. (DCO?)
Each project requires its own sonic signature. I tend to start with a preset and then turn stuff off within the patch as most take up too much of the spectrum. With softsynths like Omnisphere (wot more than 5000 patches and growing?) I use their category suggestions and then jump in anywhere in the extensive list and start to audition. I find something close. I want to get writing as soon as possible without the sound hunt getting in the way.
The idea of spending down time organizing patches has no appeal here.
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby Adam Inglis » Sat Dec 28, 2019 2:53 pm

Great topic Bill, and you make some excellent points, viz:

BillB wrote:A problem with ranking synth sounds is, what are you ranking them for, at the time you are auditioning? Probably the sounds that stand out and make you pay attention, but that may mean you only keep stand-out sounds and that some vanilla sounds that would work well in a mix might not seem to make the grade...

BillB wrote:It’s a valid approach, but do you ever worry that ‘your sound’ may be at the expense of missing a wider sonic palette that might take you in different compositional directions? Or is the self-imposed limit a fair trade-off?.

More and more, I find my own taste is my enemy!
Well, at least, the narrowing of focus that occurs when one is "searching for a sound"!

I'm currently about 12 months into learning Midiquest. Incredibly deep program, with dizzying potential for building tagged libraries of sounds ("patches"). It's been quite a curve, but, oh joy, to have a DX7, D-50, two CZ101s, a Proteus, Ultraproteus, M1, TX81Z, MKS-50, and a bunch of drum machines all accessible from one program... what took me so long?? It's not for everyone, but for managing the vast number of sounds available from that many synths, there aren't a lot of options anymore. Or should I say, there are maybe too many options, all separate and not integrated...
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby Folderol » Sat Dec 28, 2019 3:10 pm

... and another thing :)
Quite often when inspiration finally? strikes, I use just any old sound to get it fixed in place and broadly arranged, then go back at my leisure trying different sounds, splitting parts out and developing counter melodies, for which again I use any sound at first.
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby BillB » Sat Dec 28, 2019 4:12 pm

Adam Inglis wrote:Great topic Bill
I'm currently about 12 months into learning Midiquest. Incredibly deep program, with dizzying potential for building tagged libraries of sounds ("patches"). It's been quite a curve, but, oh joy, to have a DX7, D-50, two CZ101s, a Proteus, Ultraproteus, M1, TX81Z, MKS-50, and a bunch of drum machines all accessible from one program... what took me so long?? It's not for everyone, but for managing the vast number of sounds available from that many synths, there aren't a lot of options anymore. Or should I say, there are maybe too many options, all separate and not integrated...

Thanks Adam. I am a MidiQuest user too. That’s where my 5000 SQ80 sounds reside. And yes, it edits or ‘librarians’ a whole load more of my MIDI synths and devices, which is when it comes into its own in cost terms. Just checked - about 17 :crazy: of my bits of gear are on this list.
https://squest.com/Products/MidiQuest12 ... ments.html

I have set up tags to suit my own approach to categorising them, but I’m not sure I can face the process of categorising all the sounds on all the synths/fx, to the depths that MQ allows (as per examples in my first post). However, it is fairly quick to dump everything from an instrument into an MQ library, then give it a basic category label (bass, lead etc) and a ‘star’ ranking as Desmond does.

From there, they could be made into banks of category types, with ranking. Whether you can then store these in the synths’ memory or a card/drive for quick access, depends on the synth and what ingenious storage updates may have been made for it.

Not sure that I want to work with the patch librarian premise of MidiQuest, which is to enter a search for all the sound parameters you are looking for, to get a refined set of sounds. This is rather like the hardware equivalent of the patch selection in VSTs like Omnisphere, Alchemy (as already noted by Martin), Analog Lab, and software like Yoshimi (if I am understanding Will correctly). I have an idea that that approach may work better in the software world than it does in hardware. If you select a softsynth VST sound within a DAW for a project, it stays selected. Whereas, if you squirt a patch as MIDI Sysex from a software librarian to a hardware synth, it needs a place to live if it is to be recalled for further song development. So fixed banks perhaps make more sense.

There is a MidiQuest response to this, which is to use each librarian as a VST, embed it in your DAW project and have the sound sent each time you load the project... super clever, but feels like a layer of complexity too far at present. Plus, I really enjoy not turning on the PC and just noodling, so the idea of working towards a hardware-based solution, albeit getting there via software librarians, is what appeals. Those who actually make a living from their music might want something more efficient...

If I wanted real efficiency I would just a get a capable DAW + Omnisphere or similar, and be done with it. Not my bag!
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby Eddy Deegan » Mon Dec 30, 2019 4:40 pm

Interesting thread. I must admit I've never had this problem as I simply don't bother categorising things. It's far too organised for me :-)

At a quick rough estimate I'd say I have a ballpark 25 thousand patch memories collectively between my various hardware synths and the thought of doing any form of manual indexing on them is something of a nightmare.

What I do have is a good awareness of the sounds that each synth can make, so when I need a string sound, I'll either use the built-in category search on one of the digital synths or flip through the sounds on one of the analogue polysynths until I find something I can use for now. Most things I record the MIDI performance along with the audio anyway, so changing it later is easy enough.

Other than a handful of special 'goto' patches that I made myself, I like trying to use new sounds in my work anyway and I find that happy discoveries are quite common with my approach.

One thing I do often is make notes on paper about each track with information about the synths, patch locations and other salient info for future reference. This then gets stuffed into a folder and never looked at again in the main. I've not always kept that up to date but it's something I try and do.

Possibly not a method for everyone, but it suits my way of working as, with a few exceptions for some special patches, I prefer forging new paths to retreading existing ones!
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby IAA » Mon Dec 30, 2019 6:43 pm

One thing I do often is make notes on paper about each track with information about the synths, patch locations and other salient info for future reference. This then gets stuffed into a folder and never looked at again in the main. I've not always kept that up to date but it's something I try and do.

I’m impressed Eddy, I’ve set myself this challenge for a 2020 resolution. In logic there is a way to store notes and even pics so when the studio is up and running again, this is the way I’m going. :bouncy:

I’ve also used the time without my analog synths to explore the nooks and crannies of the Kronos, the string engine paired with the MS20 exi is sounding great, layering sounds is a cool thing to try.
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby Ben Asaro » Mon Dec 30, 2019 7:23 pm

LOTS of great ideas and strategies here!

Personally, I have no strategy whatsoever. :)
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby Rich Hanson » Mon Dec 30, 2019 7:46 pm

I must be a bit strange, I find myself very much heading the other way these days, in that I find myself gravitating towards synths without presets, although I suspect that might be down to my increased confidence that I can dial up the sound I want without too much effort. I like the idea that each time I get a sound that it’s at least a little bit different to the previous times I’ve used it.
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby BillB » Mon Dec 30, 2019 8:41 pm

IAA wrote: In logic there is a way to store notes and even pics so when the studio is up and running again, this is the way I’m going. :bouncy:

That's a nice idea. Sadly I'm not a Logic user and I am sort of keeping away from PC's as far as possible, but I do like the idea of using the DAW as a song/project database. I wonder if Reaper can do something similar...
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby BillB » Mon Dec 30, 2019 8:42 pm

Ben Asaro wrote:Personally, I have no strategy whatsoever.

That's fine, Ben, there are no rules :bouncy:
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby The Elf » Mon Dec 30, 2019 9:50 pm

I just play the whole thing by ear, TBH. When I get a new synth I'll spend an evening fiddling with it and getting to know what avenues it can lead me down, and I may save a few patches during that time, but I neither make a science of it, or have any strategy for patch creation. There are a few sounds that I will invariably aim for, just to see what happens. Rare is the synth that can do a convincing Pro Soloist Fuzz Guitar, a Taurus bass, a raw GR-500 guitar synth, a rolling JX pad and a truly thumping Oberheim poly patch, so I often aim for these stereotypes to see where it leads.

When I'm working on a piece of music I almost always program something new, based on a similar patch to what I need. In the past I would carefully store these new patches, with song names to help me go back if needed. As time moved on I understood that rarely would I go back and so instead just let things happen organically. It's a rare synth sound that has me scratching my head to figure out how I created it - I can rustle up something close enough in a few minutes. If I find something truly unique then the patch will be saved, and I try to give it a generically useful name to help me in future. I have no numbering system, TBH. Wherever is available is just fine.

Once upon a time I was so careful to manage my patches. I recall spending weeks cataloguing my DX/TX sounds in the Chameleon library software, but I consider that time wasted now.

The only common patch I create on every synth is highest numbered patch 'Chu-Ning' I'll leave you to figure that one out!
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby Dave B » Tue Dec 31, 2019 9:19 am

I kind of understand where TB is coming from. In my case, I've traditionally owned a load of synths and had somewhere around a favourite dozen or so per synth. But even that has dropped off these days and I'm down to just one mainstay in the studio which has a card with favourite patches on it and I only really use a handful of those. I do gravitate towards the vst versions of M1/Wavestation for stock stuff for writing but only the latter is really something that I'd keep. I have the odd specialist vst like Chromophone which I tinker with happily. Ok, I do sometimes zip through the Kronos for an alternate pad/string/choir ...

In fact, I've got to the stage where it's all a bit overwhelming. I have one of the older Arturia synth packages and it was all too much for me - I ended up just using the simplest synth (the SEM-alike) for a bunch of stuff and ignored the presets on that. The others were just too many options and patches and life is just too short. My needs are rarely complex and I know enough about analogue synths to be able to knock something up if I need it.

And that's where I'm most happy these days. We have stunning synths of all persuasions and I'm happy to just wheel in something from my collection, plug it in and have fun. I record the audio and just live with it - I have the midi to recreate it and am happy that if I don't like the sound 100%, then saving the preset is almost a waste of time.

So 30-40 stock sounds seems about right. A few pianos and epianos, an organ, some pads, strings and choirs ... yeah ... all the stock stuff should boil down to about that. Get the idea down and if you need to tweak then do it once the music is written. But scrolling through lists of patches all the time? Life's just too short!!

:D
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby Arpangel » Tue Dec 31, 2019 9:55 am

BillB wrote:
Arpangel wrote:so I’m with Tony on this one, any more than that is a waste of time IMO.

Interesting you are the only one to back up your namesake so far... a coincidence? Perhaps... :D

It’s a valid approach, but do you ever worry that ‘your sound’ may be at the expense of missing a wider sonic palette that might take you in different compositional directions? Or is the self-imposed limit a fair trade-off?

I used to be really into making new sounds, and getting inspiration from "them" alone.
Not anymore, I can’t be bothered, and I don’t want to spend any time programming.
I’m relying entirely on my traditional music skills now, it’s the notes that interest me more not the actual sounds, or textures.
I’d be quite happy with a a piano, Hammond and polysynth, and that’s being overly generous in its potential. My Buchla hasn’t been used for ages, it’s just too much trouble to program, so may be heading for readers adds.
I guess I just can’t be bothered anymore, I’m still making music, it’s all going well, so why not just go with the flow, gear doesn’t seem to affect me that much except too much of it, especially if it’s complicated and distracting.
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby BillB » Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:06 am

Arpangel wrote:it’s the notes that interest me more not the actual sounds, or textures.
I think the above summarises an approach that is coming through quite strongly in this thread. Very interesting, perhaps a reflection of the difference between ‘players’ and ‘synthesists’? Not that I am trying to define one or the other, just accepting that people own hardware or software for different reasons.

Given that sense of opting for a limited palette of sounds, why do folks get excited when new synths are announced (e.g. Novation Summit, ASM Hydra, Moog One, ARP 2600) or speculated about (Behringer CS80). Is it new sound creation possibilities, new performance capability or just the prospect of owning something shiny - and new? No criticism of anyone’s approach or motives, my own are not that good (owning a (box)room full of synths that I am forever trying to ‘organise’ rather than play or record) but I am interested in what drives folks to want new synths, if not new sounds....
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Re: Synth sound strategies...

Postby zenguitar » Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:53 am

First World problems ;)

I have bridge pickup, neck pickup, or both pickups as options. And struggle to remember which is which.

Andy :beamup:
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