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Do I need a synth?

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Do I need a synth?

Postby Watchmaker » Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:29 am

Lately I've been wanting to revamp my approach to song writing so thinking about riffing with keys. I can't play keys. at all. I mean, I know how to read one, ear training and sight reading classes were part of the education, but I cannot make music on one convincingly.

So being of the mind cheating is fair game in songwriting, I think a synth might fit the bill. I think to myself "keyboardists are a shifty lot, they'll know how to cheat" and here I am putting my theory to the test!

Synths are a foreign realm to me and are one of the few instruments I really know nothing about. Nothing.

For example, how do you get the sound out of the synth? I assume there's a line out. Is stereo out common or necessary? wot aboot USB? Are there hideous driver issues in favorite brands?

Can you control a modular synth through MIDI? I have an AKAI MPK61 which I've had for years and it's a great little kybd for a git like me. All I do with it is play software instrument plug ins. Can I simply wire this in with MIDI?

It appears that modular synths are getting very boutique and expensive. Are there real benefits here or is eleventh dimensional chess among balding Tony Banks fans?

What if I got something like a JUNO or something? That would have the advantage of bringing sounds with me if I ever leave my house again.
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby MOF » Tue Mar 24, 2020 2:38 am

First question to you is what kind of music are you doing? There is a software piano that you put the chords in and it plays them back in different styles, I can’t remember its name, hopefully other people on this forum will tell you.
As a general answer I would say stick with the software instruments and your MPK61, that way you’ll be able to edit your mistakes.
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby Watchmaker » Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:04 am

MOF wrote:First question to you is what kind of music are you doing?

Ah, a stumper right out of the gate! That is precisely the answer I never have. I guess I tend towards "rock" as long as you understand that to include Hildegard van Bingen, through Thelonius Monk with firehose and Masada thrown in. You could comfortably put me in the Americana box I suppose, though post modern punkalyptic jazz also applies.

And that is exactly where I was. Where I want to be is experimenting :-) I'm also not worried about mistakes, as I've spend so much time making them, I must be at a doctoral level by now.

But you bring up an interesting point about algorithms doing things. I'm reluctant to let software do that for me, though I recognize that option inspires creativity for some. The goal would be to put me in a place where I have to rethink and break out of the rut.

The impetus was actually the interview with Oak in this month's magazine. I don't really like the song he dissected - pop ain't mah thang - too much pressure, but I really liked his process.
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby Arpangel » Tue Mar 24, 2020 8:13 am

From what you’ve said so far, I’d recommend a synth type, workstation, they are great at "cheating" very versatile, and can cover most bases that all that trendy modular stuff can, if it can’t, just alter you’re approach slightly and you’ll be fine.
Something like a Yamaha Montage, Korg Kronos, will keep you happy for a very long time.
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby The Elf » Tue Mar 24, 2020 9:07 am

Are you sure you need a hardware synth? At the very least trying out a few softsynths will tell you where you interests lie before you start throwing money at boxes.

Depending on which DAW you use you may already have a wealth a synths on hand that you've not yet discovered! If not then there are plenty of free ones to start you off.
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby Dave B » Tue Mar 24, 2020 9:10 am

I'd go for something different. I'd be more tempted to go for an analogue synth of some kind - something with as much of a full panel of controls as you can handle. I'm guessing that even polyphony would be optional but nice to have. Depending on your budget, I'd look at something from DSI/Sequential at the top end - their various Prophets (and OB6) are all lovely with slightly differing flavours. If money is tighter, you could look at something VA like the Roland System8 if you still want new. TBH, a good s/h Roland JP8000 could keep you laughing for years. Cheaper, but still very good VA synths include the Novation KS range.
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby blinddrew » Tue Mar 24, 2020 10:52 am

If you want to play around with modular it's probably worth starting with this on free download:https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=70832
to see if that kind of thing tickles your fancy.

Aside from that I use synths far too rarely and far too poorly to offer any advice! :)
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby N i g e l » Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:13 pm

A synth can be in 2 parts - controller and sound generator module, often connected by MIDI. The Keyboard is probably the most common controller but control is possible using other instruments. Roland are famous for their guitar synths.

There are some very good VSTs now that will convert your instrument into MIDI in real time.

There are also a lot of good free synth VSTs to experiment with to help you find out what you like.
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby Watchmaker » Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:51 pm

Thanks everyone,

I use Studio One V4.6 which has an overwhelming plethora of gee gaws and I use Presence almost exclusively when I need a piano trill to cover a mediocre vocal. I haven't used MaiTai at all really. These are both soft synths I believe and I can go very far down the bunny trail in whacky sounds.

I think part of my sub conscious drive is to push buttons and fiddle with pots rather than scroll and click but the AKAI certainly provides for that so I guess the only real rub is portability and that's not really an issue.

So I DO already have synths, the question turning to do I need a hardware synth and I suspect the answer is: probably not. :crazy:
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby Rich Hanson » Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:19 pm

For many people, having access to knobs and switches makes an enormous difference to their experience over pointing and clicking. Maybe find yourself something from the low end of the market first to test the waters. I have a Waldorf Rocket which is cheap and cheerful and fun, and that's just one example.
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby blinddrew » Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:23 pm

There's bound to be some cheapish stuff available second hand that if you do decide to sell on you won't take much of a hit on.
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby N i g e l » Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:18 pm

i think theres going to be a lot Ebay purchasing in the comming weeks !
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby The Elf » Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:48 pm

If you really want to step into this word one of the Behringer recreations might be a good start. You can't go wrong with the Model D or Pro-One, thought the Neutron offers more poaaibilities for when/if the bug really begins to bite.
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby Watchmaker » Wed Mar 25, 2020 1:24 am

Ah, excellent suggestions! cheap and cheerful, just the ticket!

The Neutron looks to be just the thing
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Re: Do I need a synth?

Postby zenguitar » Wed Mar 25, 2020 2:05 am

Watchmaker wrote:The Neutron looks to be just the thing

Think of it as a gateway drug to full Eurorack modular addiction ;)

And don't forget to work your way through Synth Secrets. I've already got new printer cartridges ready to print one month's column every week once my synth, keyboard, and skiff arrive.

Already have an additional filter, Roland 510 module and a bunch of utility modules ready to plug in. And fully expecting to purchase more modules and/or B Pro-one/MiniD as and when Synth Secrets requires it.

https://www.soundonsound.com/series/synth-secrets

Andy :beamup:
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