monophonic keyboard chops

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Gump
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monophonic keyboard chops

Post by Gump » Sun Apr 16, 2006 4:43 pm

I'm not a keyboard player, but I've been playing guitar and other instruments long enough that I can find my way around a piano reasonably well.

But it seems like a monophonic keyboard is actually harder to play than a polyphonic. I'm always 'slurring' when I don't want to, and a lot of patches are very picky about velocity. There are so many ways to screw up. Adding to the general confusion are things like aftertouch, the mod wheel, pedals etc. I can understand the concepts but actually performing them in a controlled way is another matter.

Has anyone come up with warmups or drills specific to this instrument? Or does it just come with time?

P.S. Happy Easter!

martin
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Post by martin » Sun Apr 16, 2006 9:17 pm

playing a monophonic synth such as the voyager, or any other mono, is tricky but can be mastered.

a monophonic synth can sound like many different things: a bass, a flute, an alien attacking our planet.

when you use a monophonic synth as a bass or lead, it's worth studying the typical playing techniques of a player of that respective instrument.

i like to think of my moog(s) as singing instruments. i imagine i sing through them. i can't really sing, but some techniques i tend to employ are vocal techniques, or borrowed from vocal techniques, such as phrasing, pausing, tremolo, vibrato, embellishment, crescendo, portamento, etc. each technique can be effectively used when playing, and it's cool to have a palette of tricks you can memorize.

when you're playing the funk, it's also worth thinking about correct posture: what is the most comfortable and yet economic way of approaching the keyboard? is the piece slow? then sit up, concentrate, and listen to the melody that the dude in your head wants you to play. (works for me. no idea who the dude is, but it's just an imaginary technique)
Is the piece you are playing fast? then maybe you can sit at an angle, so your arm isn't uncomfortable.

as for actual playing technique, listen to the masters, but listen also to anything monophonic, such as saxes, flutes, singers, birds, burps, monks, a voice you like, a voice you dislike, etc. lisen to the way ducks quack, car engines rev up, kids scream, a news guy announces the news. anything can find its way into your playing.

also, practice some tunes by playing along with cds you like. when i started out i got a casio vl1 and played along with anything by kraftwerk. their melodies are easy to play along with, and they are funky. soon enough you'll be finding your own riffs and little melodies or intervals that work cool.

playing an instrument well is a matter of a lot of practice, and trying to make it sound right can be frustrating if technology gets in your way. so it's a good idea to try out what sounds good in relation to what else is there in the mix. and read the manual...

i also strongly recomment doing a lot of boring stuff: playing scales, figures, or just plaing octaves or other intervals at different speeds, and with different sounds, just to get a feel what's possible, what works well, and what sounds ugly or inappropriate. do that a lot, and you'll have no problem with the restrictions of the monophonic synths because you will have learned how important melodies are.

try using effects for cooler, better sound, and compare that to the sound you get when playing dry. never overdo the effects! fingers are great effect units, and those little guys can put out some funny stuff sometimes.
talking of fingers: play with warm hands, or warm em up by stretching em or stiuck em under hot water.

the scale stuff can help players get a better command of their instrument, and will help a lot when you're improvising, once you can translate the melody in your head straight out to the world without pretzeling your fingers. that's pretty rewarding!

as a guitarist you might want to do a lot of bending or soloing or some chord work. a monophonic can emulate chords if you have a number of oscillators. this technique can work well, but the chord only ever gets transposed, while you play such sounds. it can screw up your song unless all the chords are meant to be of the same interval. but that technique is fun and always worth a try.

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Re: monophonic keyboard chops

Post by nicholas d. kent » Mon Apr 17, 2006 6:17 pm

Perhaps an alternate approach is to discover how to customize these performance features to best suit your playing ability now and then further customize them as your skills develop.

Certainly piano and generalized keyboard fingering excercises can be found, but one major difference is on a synth like the Voyager you can customize and resave your sounds fine tuned to the way you perfer to play.

Since you don't have to, why force yourself to play someone elses patch that's probably created to best suit a particular style

Firstly the original Minimoog from 35 years ago had no velocity or aftertouch, so one thing I imediately noticed when I fooled around on the voyager is some patches are sort of straight recreations of original Mini sounds and others take advantage of the Voyager's new features. So when you asked the question I began thinking that perhaps that might throw someone off. Depending on the bank, some banks have sounds not only created by different people but seemingly suitable for a bunch of very different playing techniques. You definitely don't want to assume there is one proper way to play. Developing your technique is important but so is adjusting the synth to it.

Also for what it's worth I discovered the aftertouch isn't all that great no matter what you do. Not that it doesn't work, but other keyboard mechanisms output what I'd consider better quality data.

What I'd recomend is to address velocity and aftertouch one at a time. Find out how to adjust it's response and turn it off when you choose.

Okay, as for the "slur", that's usually called portamento or glide. There's a knob, "Glide Rate". Turn it all the way left to zero if you get slurred notes when you don't want them. I personally think hearing every note gliding that way is tacky, but I guess some people think it's hip because it was novel in the early 70s to do that. Anyway one technique is to play that knob with your other hand, get the hang of turning it up at the right moment and you are cool again.

Anyway as with all these control options, learn how to adjust them to how you play now and readjust them as your skills expand.
Last edited by nicholas d. kent on Tue Apr 18, 2006 12:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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museslave
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Post by museslave » Tue Apr 18, 2006 1:22 am

Let's face it... people get too caught up in the "monophonic" notion. No one makes a big deal about other instruments only playing one note at a time. The only thing that makes people freaked out about "monophonic" synthesizers "only playing one note at a time" is because keyboard instruments have traditionally played more than one note a time... but the synthesizer is NOT a traditional instrument. I daresay that had synthesizer manufacturers gone the Buchla route, no one would have made a big deal about "monophonic." I'm sure someone at some point might have desired the ability to play more than one note at a time (since, as an modern instrument, such alterations are possible), but it never would have been like it is now, where keyboard players the world over from 1965 on are confused and baffled by a keyboard that "only plays one note at a time."
Playing a keyboard does not require playing chords any more than playing a violin, a saxophone, or any other musical instrument. Polyphonic instruments are the exception, not the rule.
It drives me mad when synthesizers (I won't say monophonic, as polyphonic came AFTER, it is what requires distinction) are relegated to "lead" and "bass." Somehow, Clarinet players were able to make more musical contributions than just "lead," and they can't even do "bass." These are distinctions made by people after the fact, when faced with non-polyphonic synthesizers... and category and history should not be written by those who came along after the fact.
A synthesizer is not a piano. A synthesizer does not need to be polyphonic, it does not need to be touch-sensitive, it does not need to have weighted action. All of those things are fine, but they are foreign to the original concept of the synthesizer, and only became desireable whe people wanted a synthesizer to act like a piano. When all synthesizers were monophonic, musicians were very creative and virtuosic with what they did with them. Now that most synthesizers are polyphonic, most musicians are content to have a cool sound (often a preset), and play a chord.
Don't think of a synthesizer as limited because it is monophonic. That is the default state of the synthesizer.
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martin
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Post by martin » Tue Apr 18, 2006 5:30 am

:wink:
of course, lead and bass are not the only thing a mono can do, i meant to elaborate on this distinction as a playing technique explanation. learning to play a synthesizer should cover all possibilities of the instrument.

of course you can make crazy sounds or squelches or bloops or squawks or you name it.

musically, it makes a lot of sense to categorize the sound possibilities in classic musical terms, this is based on our experience with orchestration.

when listening to newer types of music (e. g. silver apples of the moon by morton subotnick or gesang der jünglinge by karlheinz stockhause etc.) you obviously won't find lead and bass. however, you'll find that there are low tones and high ones. not necessarily easily accessible for all listeners, but there are in every piece, modern or not, elements of classic, determined orchestration, and that covers the frequency ranges from low to high. if listeners perfer to listen to cop sirens for 20 minutes, ok. but bear in mind that it makes you meshugge.

i personally think that the moog sound excels in a broad range of sounds, and the bass ond so called lead sounds are musically very popular, so why not take time to study them and hone your technique with classical musical sounds? ok, it's not avant-garde, top-notch, cutting edge, top of the range postmodern intellectual heehaw.

a violin or a guitar can produce pizzicato (=bass) and solo voices (lead), and students study these techniques alongside crazy modern squawks these days. can't remember anyone complaining about that.

:wink:

Don
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Post by Don » Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:58 am

As you can see, there are many responses, so I thot I'd throw in my 2 Sheckels.

All synthesizers are composed of various parts. Then can [i]generally[/i] be divided into three basic sections: sound sources, sound modifiers, and controllers.

In an analogue synth, sound sources include such things as oscillators, noise generators, filters set to ring, etc. Sound modifiers consist of filters, envelope generators, amplifiers, ring modulators, LFOs, etc. In a well-designed modular synth, most of this can have an effect on any of the others.

Note that I haven't, as yet, discussed controllers. These can consist of such things as gestural controllers (theremins, color harps, 3-D generators), any other instrument with a pitch to MIDI or CV device, touch sensitive (flat) keyboards (see Don Buchla's devices) and the gift and pain of synthesis, the organ and/or piano style keyboard.

Respectfully, the problem is that you are thinking of your mono synth as a keyboard instrument, like a monophonic organ or piano. It is not. It is hundreds or thousands of instruments, each with their own distinctive voices and method of play.

Playing an instrument with a short attack and release in a legato fashion will have a much different effect than using the same touch with an instrument that has either a long attack, a long release, or both.

So what I would suggest is looking at each different setting as actually having a different instrument in front of you. People who haven't studied them may not know that the style of playing an organ is quite different than that of playing a piano. Just because they have the same controllers--the keys--doesn't mean you play them the same way.

Find a sound you like and give it a name. For the sake of discussion, call it "instrument 1." Now, start playing around until you find a performance style that matches the sound while using the keyboard.

Now find a new sound and name it "instrument 2." Play around until you find a performance style that matches the sound while using the keyboard. It may be quite different than the style used to play instrument 1.

If you just want an organ, get an old Farfisa. If you just want a piano, try a Yamaha. If you want hundreds of instruments put into one case, get a synthesizer. Each one of those instruments deserves time and energy devoted to learning how to play it.

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latigid on
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Post by latigid on » Wed Apr 19, 2006 5:32 pm

Regarding monophony: with the Voyager (and perhaps other synths?) you can use it to your advantage. Depending on the note priority, you can get some >insert your favourite guitar-orientated metal band here< type "tapping" guitar sounds by holding one note down, and playing rapid/short notes with a higher/lower key. And then grab the pitch wheel for a killer divebomb! On a poly, the (lower) note would be present as a constant tone. Of course, you could go into trills etc. but the fact is, you can do things on a mono that can't be done on a poly.

How many polyphonic modulars do you know of? Perhaps a few duophonics, but mostly mono.

The point of a "synthesiser," as used in the same sense as previous posters, is to create a broad spectrum of sounds, from the natural to the unheard of.

Gump
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Post by Gump » Wed Apr 26, 2006 12:56 am

Wow, I was thinking more in terms of simple tips & tricks, this thread ended up going in a number of other directions. It's all good though.
martin wrote:as for actual playing technique, listen to the masters, but listen also to anything monophonic, such as saxes, flutes, singers, birds, burps, monks, a voice you like, a voice you dislike, etc. lisen to the way ducks quack, car engines rev up, kids scream, a news guy announces the news. anything can find its way into your playing.
When I used to take trumpet lessons my teacher had me study a lot of jazz sax parts. For whatever reason sax parts tend to be "notey" and change keys and modes a lot. Jazz is not really my cup of tea but sax leads are great for studying ANY instrument. (except drums)
nicholas d. kent wrote:Okay, as for the "slur", that's usually called portamento or glide.
What I meant by slurring was maybe "envelope sharing", I'm not sure what the technical term is, when you depress a second key before completely letting off the first. In the meantime I've discovered the electric blue "rubbery keys" patch which exercises exactly this problem. That patch I use sometimes now for practice but would NOT use to perform with.
martin wrote:musically, it makes a lot of sense to categorize the sound possibilities in classic musical terms, this is based on our experience with orchestration.
Ah yes, the voyager OS 3.2 has supports sound categories but doesn't actually categorize the presets, that's left up to the end user. That is a can of worms that deserves its own thraed.
Don wrote:Respectfully, the problem is that you are thinking of your mono synth as a keyboard instrument, like a monophonic organ or piano. It is not. It is hundreds or thousands of instruments, each with their own distinctive voices and method of play.
Notwithstanding, the voyager is controlled by a keyboard, mod wheel etc. which require developing keyboard skills (not just scales & arps. but velocity and other tricks of the trade as well). The fact that each of the patches has a different feel comes with the territory. I think that's part of the "gift and pain" you're talking about.

I'm using it more as a musical instument than an effects device, the patches I use are pretty plain. Playing notes only scratches the surface of what the device can do but it's all I'm really interested in (for now). My "working patch" selection very small, I think 5, and are tweaked so that the input parameters are fairly similar.

I'm getting the impression that a synth just plain takes a long time to grow into.
latigid on wrote:Depending on the note priority, ... Of course, you could go into trills etc. but the fact is, you can do things on a mono that can't be done on a poly.
That's got some possibilities. Is there a way to set it so that it opens a new ADSR envelope when you release the upper key?

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latigid on
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Post by latigid on » Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:09 am

Gump wrote:
latigid on wrote:
Depending on the note priority, ... Of course, you could go into trills etc. but the fact is, you can do things on a mono that can't be done on a poly.

That's got some possibilities. Is there a way to set it so that it opens a new ADSR envelope when you release the upper key?
As far as I know, no. As at least one key is depressed, so the envelope will stay open.

Would it be possible to somehow route the MIDI back to the envelope gate? Or use a footswitch to manually trigger it.

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Kent
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Old Thread Revival FTW!!

Post by Kent » Wed Nov 04, 2009 7:53 am

I just stumbled across this thread. It reminded me of this video. A great and simple idea.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mycMgZE7PdI

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Post by EricK » Wed Nov 04, 2009 9:28 am

Mues,
Your responce reminded me of the interview with Bob Moog in the Moog Movie where he was talking about the desicion he was faced with of whether or not to put a keyboard controller on the instrument. I think he said that some people advised him not to, because people woudl see the keys and automatically lump it in as to be played like a piano.


I don't have time to respond to some of the other posts right now but I will.


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Post by ozy » Wed Nov 04, 2009 9:53 am

EricK wrote:Mues,
I don't have time to respond to some of the other posts right now but I will.
This must be TOP in the INTAGTLW department ["I need to always get the last word"]. You posted on three forums today, in each case saying only "I don't have the time of posting today, but I have something to say anyway, see you tomorrow". :wink:


On a more serious note, for Gump:

as a drill, try building a patch emulating an instrument you CAN REALLY play (guitar, I presume)

check these links (guitar-based): it's all really clear and detailed:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul04/a ... ecrets.htm

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/Sep01/a ... rets29.asp

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/Aug01/a ... rets28.asp

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/Oct01/a ... rets30.asp


I'd recommend that you read the whole "synth secrets" series. It's amazing. It teaches you acoustics+synth programming, and it's strictly about emulating the behavior of traditional instruments on most common analogues.

I learnt a lot from it.

While you build the patch, you will understand what each component of the synth does, compared to your favorite instrument.

Then try playing that patch as you would play a guitar.

You will miss something, but you will know WHAT controller is doing WHAT, and you will think of adjusting your patch.

(Do I really need velocity? Why? Routed to what? Why? Do I use a lot of it, or did I routed aftertouch to filter envelope just because they say so? And is it filter envelope or filter cutoff? or is it "filter spread" on the voyager? etc etc]

At that point you'll have learnt a lot, and practised a lot,

at made your minimoog into something which is YOURS.

Hope this helps.

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DeFrag
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Post by DeFrag » Wed Nov 04, 2009 11:01 am

Is there an index to the Synth Secrets series?
Little Phatty TE #1023 • Schrittmacher • Walking Stick ribbon • Korg microXL/Electribe MX/KaossPro • Sonnus G2M
MF-101 Filter • MF-102 Ring • MF-103 Phaser • MF-104Z Delay • MF-105 MuRF • MF-107 FreqBox • MF-108M Cluster • Etherwave
_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

ozy

Post by ozy » Wed Nov 04, 2009 11:11 am

DeFrag wrote:Is there an index to the Synth Secrets series?
this is it, sort of.

I just searched for "synth secrets" in their search engine, and that's the result. It should be a reverse-order index.


http://www.soundonsound.com/search?url= ... esults=yes

Enjoy (I did)!


Some of the chapters are wonderful.

For example, the ones about Physical Modeling with Analogue Synths ( :shock: 35 years playing synths, I had never thought of that):

in short, it uses a short-reverb, inserted between the oscillators and the filter, as a way of emulating the behaviour of air in a wind instrument.

Sir Nose
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Post by Sir Nose » Wed Nov 04, 2009 12:05 pm

Legato: On, Off, Reset

latigid on wrote:
Gump wrote:
latigid on wrote:
Depending on the note priority, ... Of course, you could go into trills etc. but the fact is, you can do things on a mono that can't be done on a poly.

That's got some possibilities. Is there a way to set it so that it opens a new ADSR envelope when you release the upper key?
As far as I know, no. As at least one key is depressed, so the envelope will stay open.

Would it be possible to somehow route the MIDI back to the envelope gate? Or use a footswitch to manually trigger it.

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