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Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Dec 03, 2020 12:42 am

N i g e l wrote:I think that its not just about the sounds but the realtime control as well. There will be new methods of intelligently assisted parameter changing which leads to new styles of expression and seemingly new sounds.

That's a really important point N i g e l - one of the main reasons I bought my Prophet 12 keyboard a few years ago was that it offered a separate dedicated knob for almost every parameter. The icing on the cake for me were the two short ribbon controls, which along with the pitch and mod wheels, and a footpedal controlling my choice of real-time parameter tweaks, made it possible to easily get really expressive performances without having to first map controllers to parameters and suchlike.

All the above control movements also get sent out as MIDI controller data that you can capture in your DAW, so you could build up even more expressive performances via multiple passes.

The thought of having to manually map stuff like that is a real inspiration killer :headbang:


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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Thu Dec 03, 2020 12:47 am

The subject came up on the SOS Online Meet tonight and we had a really good chat about it. It would have been good if you'd been there Elf!

When I last visited Martin I took the Hydrasynth up for him to try out. He really liked the ribbon controller and the poly-AT in particular but has decided he doesn't need one because his main synth fulfills all his needs and as an experienced sound designer as well as a musician he continues to get more and more out of the instrument to the point where he isn't tempted by anything else right now.

Rich Hanson mentioned he'd bought a couple of new synths lately and was finding that having a handful of them (it is 4 now Rich?) was adequate for his needs.

I was sitting in a room not entirely unlike Elf's toadstood insofar as I was surrounded by synths on all sides but was making noises to the fact that I've got another coming soon in the shape of the Arturia PolyBrute and am about 80% (and rising) of the way to adding an UDO Super 6 to the mix as well.

Dave B. asked me why I was thinking of buying the Super 6. After some discussion, it emerged it's all down to workflows at the heart of it. Martin creates music from sound sources and spends a lot of time crafting and programming in order to build, modify or create sounds using a relatively limited number of electronic sources (although his acoustic sources are many). For him, his current main synth from Dave Smith's Instruments is proving more than enough to meet this requirement.

The manner in which Rich creates music is such that having multiple synths works to a point but doesn't feel the need to replicate or overly-overlap too many specific technologies in order to achieve his results.

In my case, I am primarily a performer and I find having many keyboards to hand suits a workflow where I flit from one to another, finding inspiration as I go. I also like doing live jams in my environment and I am aspiring to increase the use of my primary hardware sequencer (a Squarp Pyramid) in these sessions.

Were I to work exclusively in a DAW I'd have no need of any more synths, indeed having more than I would need in that scenario, but in a situation where I'm doing more live jamming/composing using the Pyramid then each synth is effectively a channel in its own right, so more is better.

There are certainly strengths and weaknesses in any synth but assuming someone has one or two capable instruments already, the the answer to the question "why do you want/need another one?" comes down to workflow.

If it suits the workflow, it's valid. My synthesizers are my muses and each adds a voice to a choir of sorts. The more I can do live the merrier, and I know I'm not alone on that front!
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby Rich Hanson » Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:15 am

Eddy Deegan wrote:Rich Hanson mentioned he'd bought a couple of new synths lately and was finding that having a handful of them (it is 4 now Rich?) was adequate for his needs.

...

The manner in which Rich creates music is such that having multiple synths works to a point but doesn't feel the need to replicate or overly-overlap too many specific technologies in order to achieve his results.

Take that 4, double it and add 2 for the drum machines :D (5 analogue monosynths, 2 digital polysynths and a string synth)

I think my point that I didn't adequately make last night, is that I don't really have a defined work flow, it's very much ad hoc - I don't have a given way of starting something off.

What I was wondering is whether I have the _need_ for those monosynths, given that I can cover most of their ground from the KingKorg. What I meant by me buying into the "myth" of analogue was solely that assuming that analogue automatically sounds "better" or "warmer" than digital - as somebody that used to own a Korg Delta I know that's bollocks!

I like the sounds of subtractive synthesis, and the KingKorg does that extremely well. My other love is for wavetable synths which is why I go the Argon8X - I could cover all the ground that I do already with just those two synths.

OTOH there's simply the joy of owning something for its own sake even if you don't have a need for it.
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby BJG145 » Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:22 am

Some interesting points; perhaps these days it's less about adding to the range of sounds that are technically possible, and more about adding to the ones that you're actually likely to use, and are fun to create/manipulate.

At some point I became more interested in collecting MIDI controllers than synths. (I still love hardware synths, though at the moment I only have a couple.) They all produce the same notes, but the way I approach music on a melodeon, say, is completely different to the way I approach it on a guitar. Likewise I could imagine wanting to explore different synths with their own engines/UI/workflow even if similar sounds were already possible with what I had. Just because it's achievable, it doesn't mean you're going to find it. Different approaches make different discoveries.

Rich Hanson wrote:OTOH there's simply the joy of owning something for its own sake even if you don't have a need for it.

Guilty. :tongue:
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby Arpangel » Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:46 am

I think a lot of people have realised that it’s not sounds that make music, it’s music, that makes music.
We’ve had more than enough sounds and technology to express anything we want to say in our music for a very long time, the challenge now is trying to think of new ideas, in a world where ideas are getting thinner on the ground, the more we think of, the more difficult it gets to make new permutations.
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby Rich Hanson » Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:55 am

Arpangel wrote:I think a lot of people have realised that it’s not sounds that make music, it’s music, that makes music.
We’ve had more than enough sounds and technology to express anything we want to say in our music for a very long time, the challenge now is trying to think of new ideas, in a world where ideas are getting thinner on the ground, the more we think of, the more difficult it gets to make new permutations.

Very much this.

Certainly a new (to you) sound can certainly be inspirational, but you still need the ideas to turn it into something that is worth listening to.

OTOH there is definitely value in doing something just to please yourself.
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby The Elf » Thu Dec 03, 2020 10:10 am

I don't agree. I think that the sounds are just as much the music as the notes being played.

I can't imagine 'Popcorn' would have grabbed the ear if played on a trumpet, or 'Tom Sawyer' had its impact without that synth growl. 'Switched on Bach' was *all* about the sounds being used - we'd had the music long before.

And for those of you creating soundscapes with modular systems - try doing one of those with a Stylophone and see how far you get.
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby Rich Hanson » Thu Dec 03, 2020 10:17 am

Popcorn on trumpet? No, it wouldn't work. But... I can certainly imagine it working with percussive instruments, xylophone for instance.

Hmmm, I feel a project coming on... :D
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby Arpangel » Thu Dec 03, 2020 10:20 am

The Elf wrote:I don't agree. I think that the sounds are just as much the music as the notes being played.

I can't imagine 'Popcorn' would have grabbed the ear if played on a trumpet, or 'Tom Sawyer' had its impact without that synth growl. 'Switched on Bach' was *all* about the sounds being used - we'd had the music long before.

And for those of you creating soundscapes with modular systems - try doing one of those with a Stylophone and see how far you get.

Sometimes the musical idea comes before the sound, sometimes they are conceived together, but both are nothing, without each other.
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby ManFromGlass » Thu Dec 03, 2020 2:06 pm

And today I bet somewhere in the world Popcorn is being played on a trumpet in some elevator or supermarket. That really tickles my fancy because it seems so subversive in it’s own way - rebelling against everything that Popcorn stood for within an easy listening construct.
I remember hearing Little Black Spot by the Police in an elevator played on marimba with the most fascinating godawful feel. It was horrible and yet I had to give it a hard listen.
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby desmond » Thu Dec 03, 2020 2:11 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:I remember hearing Little Black Spot by the Police in an elevator played on marimba with the most fascinating godawful feel. It was horrible and yet I had to give it a hard listen.

It's actually called "King of Pain" and that gives it an extra dose of irony... ;)
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby ManFromGlass » Fri Dec 04, 2020 2:49 am

By jeez that’s right plus the irony! But alone in the car I would sing at full volume “King Of Spain!”
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby CS70 » Fri Dec 04, 2020 9:18 am

The Elf wrote:I can't imagine 'Popcorn' would have grabbed the ear if played on a trumpet, or 'Tom Sawyer' had its impact without that synth growl. 'Switched on Bach' was *all* about the sounds being used - we'd had the music long before.

Popcorn! The first time I heard it was almost 40 years ago.. it was the soundtrack of Pengo, the arcade game, which I played every morning for a few months on the way to school when I was about 11 or so. I absolutely loved it!

I did not hear the actual song - with the original sounds - until not long ago, maybe three or years ago! And then I was like "this sounds odd!" :D :D

I feel perhaps there's strong music, where the sound is fairly incidental; and weaker music, which falls apart without a specific sound. Perhaps strong and weak aren't the right words, dunno, but I use them for wanting of better ones.

The "strong" music is so powerful that sticks out no matter what. You can play Smoke On The Water on a banjo or on bagpipes or toys, and it will still be itself and just as powerful and crowd-moving.

Popcorn is strong! :D
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby CS70 » Fri Dec 04, 2020 9:23 am

ManFromGlass wrote:By jeez that’s right plus the irony! But alone in the car I would sing at full volume “King Of Spain!”

Haha so did I occasionally! :D One of my favorite lyrics ever - together with the music buildup - is from "Wrapped Around Your Fingers"

Vanish in the air you'll never find me
I will turn your face to alabaster
When you'll find your servant is your master
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Re: Synthesizers. Is it really about new sounds these days..?

Postby blinddrew » Fri Dec 04, 2020 7:02 pm

I don't think i'm familiar with Popcorn but i am absolutely going to go and fish out King of Pain for a listen- probably my all-time favourite Police song.
:)
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