just starting out with synths

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mallard
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just starting out with synths

Post by mallard » Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:09 pm

hi, I played with a synthesizer before.....all of 15 minutes before my friend had to give it back to the guy she borrowed it from.

but it was amazing! Since I was a kid Ive always liked synthesizer music. Stuff like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Residents, Yello, Vangelis, ELP, Wakeman etc.

My problem is that back then, it was just impossible for me to afford or ever get to use one.

(Fast forward 25 years)

I started taking piano lessons last fall. One of the first things on my to-do bucket list was learning an instrument and how to read music and learning a foreign language. I havent got around to the language part yet but I really do enjoy the piano. I am getting a Roland stage piano because an acoustic just isnt right for my living conditions and while sampling the various voices on the piano I wandered over to play with the synths in the music store. I would really like to get a synth to compliment my piano. why? simply because I can. Its something ive always liked the sound of and something I always wanted to investigate.

So that led me around looking and I'll ask this here: what differences should i expect from various types of synths? is the sound of a Moog (which i am familiar with from so many albums) any different than others? As far as learning what hardware to use, how to use it and how to record what Im doing....what kind of reference should I look for?

message forums like this are always a starting point for me because I know ill get a diverse range of opinions.

thanks for your time.

Matt Friedman
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Post by Matt Friedman » Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:47 pm

Welcome to the family!

There are a number of ways to categorize synths...

Number of voices: Most synths are either monophonic [they create one tone at a time and cannot play chords], or polyphonic [they can play more than one note at the same time].

Sound generation technology: Mostly, this is a question of digital [sounds are generated in software, usually from sampled waveforms] or analog [sounds are created by electronic oscillator circuits that are controlled by electrical current]. There is a subset of digital synths called "virtual analog," or VA, which emulate the controls available in analog synthesizers.

Synthesis method: There are so many of these. Most analog synthesizers are primarily subtractive. That means that you create sounds by subtracting certain harmonic frequencies -- and enhancing others -- from basic waveforms [usually triangle, saw, square and pulse]. Most VA synths work this way. There is also additive synthesis, which take usually sample tones and harmonics and builds them up to create a unique tone. All additive synths are digital. There's also frequency modulation... but you don't want to go there right now.

All Moog synthesizers currently in production are monophonic analog subtrractive synthesizers [though I suspect you can slso do some FM... I haven't tried].

What you need to do is decide what you plan to do with the synthesizer -- playing leads, basses, chords, etc.? -- and what kind of sound you are looking for. Most synth players will tell you that analog and digital synths can sound quite different. Personally, I think they both have their uses, though I lean more toward the analog side of things.

And, do you want to buy a new instrument, or a used instrument?

Moogs do sound unique -- as unique as an ARP or a Dave Smith or a Roland. I love the sound, which is why I have one. If you love the sound, then it could be the one for you. But you really should hie thee to a music shop and try some out.

One synth, by the way, is never enough. You'll learn that. ;)

There are a number of resources:

Vintage Synth Explorer: http://www.vintagesynth.com/
Synth Mania: http://www.synthmania.com/
Synthtopia: http://www.synthtopia.com/
Blue Synths: http://www.bluesynths.com/

Also check Youtube for synth demos and information.
Last edited by Matt Friedman on Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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EricK
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Post by EricK » Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:49 pm

Well I think Roland makes fantastic pianos.

What pianos have you been looking at so far?

If you want my opinion, you can get the best of both worlds in something like a Fantom G. They have counterbalanced keys, simulated Ivory and feel really similar to a piano. Now the piano sounds that Roland delivers are very very wonderful. And on top of all of that, they have a very nice synthesis engine.

I think you would do very well to find a keyboard that does both.

SOmething like the Rd700sx; Fantom X8; Fantom G8

But some other ones like this that seem to be pretty good are the Korg Triton and the Yamaha Motif. THese are expensive boards but you will have lots of synthesis as well as samples to mess around with that sound great.

My favorite is the G8. They have the best sounding horns ive ever heard and various other professionally sampled instruments like strings, nylon string acoustic and, very realistic sounding percussions. Roland is great.

I think if you go the route of a Keyboard workstation loike the G* you get your piano and your synth all in one and it could very well be bettewr quality than some of those electric pianos that look like upright or baby grand acoustics but are all digital.


Music THeory IS another language!

THe different synths are going to sound similar but it all really depends on the route that you are trying to go. Monophonic or Polyphonic. Now a Moog just wasn't destined to be polyphonic and polyphonic synths from the 80's weren't set up to sound like Moogs. I think ill leave the nature of that question to another member.


Rd700GX 2495.97
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/RD700GX



Roland Fantom G8 3695.97
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FantomG8


Yamaha Motif 3299.99
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MotifXS8/


Edit: images removed for ease of reading
Last edited by EricK on Wed Jan 07, 2009 2:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Matt Friedman
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Post by Matt Friedman » Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:56 pm

I have a Fantom X6 and can highly recommend the Fantoms. Withe re release of the G series earlier this year, the Xs have been going pretty cheap. This being a Moog forum, however, it behooves me to remind you not to forget the Moog, either.
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Voltor07
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Post by Voltor07 » Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:39 pm

Matt, to own a Moog is to become a Mooger. It is an intense and very expensive lifestyle choice, although most of us are quite pleased with our decision. One simply cannot have too many moogs.

Take EricK, for example. He was given a Micromoog by his father. He now owns a Voyager, numerous Moogerfoogers, a theremin, and even Moog modules to build a modular, which he will likely spend the rest of his life completing.

The sound and build quality of even the Little Phatty is unmatched by other companies, and you'll never find better customer support anywhere.

On the other hand, if monophonic isn't your thing, there's always DSI. However, these are very different as the oscillators are digitally controlled. Also, DSI uses Curtis filters which are very weak sounding to my ears. Some people like the sound. I can't stand the knobs on those, though. They feel like they're about to snap off in your hand.

A lot to consider, I know. Nothing sounds like a Moog. Nothing sounds like a Future Retro. DSI sounds very similar to a Waldorf, but the Waldorf has a bit more bite. The best thing to do when considering a synth is to play it before buying it. I tried a MicroKorg and hated it. It didn't feel like an instrument. I was drawn to the Moog Little Phatty by the fact that when I played it, it felt like it was an extension of myself. Good luck!
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Post by EricK » Tue Jan 06, 2009 9:25 pm

Also a definate honorable mention goes to synthesizers.com. If you wanted the sounds of Tangering dream and kraftwerk and bands like that that you gre up listening to, chances are that they used Moog modulars.

Synthesizers.com make clone Moog modulars for a fraction of the price. THey have an entry level system that you can get for 120 dollars a month that will about halfway fill up a 22 space cabinet.

And Voltor, lol. It won't take me the rest of my life to build the modular lol. :lol: maybe in a decade Ill have a huge collection of stuff.

And there are also the Taurus Bass pedals!

Eric
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Voltor07
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Post by Voltor07 » Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:32 pm

If it won't take you the rest of your life to build your modular, then you're not thinking big enough, EricK! I know that when I'm done filling up the .com entry level synth, I'll order another. And another. And a portable cabinet. And sequencers to fill said cabinet. And another .com entry level system. And the three systems will be decked out thanks to Mojo Musical Supply's tolex. I'll also have my LP, Taurus III's, and a Voyager OS. And a massive PA with Kustom KPC215H's powering it all. :lol:
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calvinistsandlutherans
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Post by calvinistsandlutherans » Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:38 pm

My two cents...

I would HIGHLY recommend to you the good old Korg MS-10. As a beginner synth I think it's almost perfect. Here's why: it has an extremely simple and intuitive interface, that maps out the signal path and makes it very easy to see what's going on. It isn't the most versatile, or most feature packed thing around, but it does what it does quite ably, and you'll definitely find a host of uses for it. Plus they can be had for quite cheap (comparatively) and, as far as my experience goes, they are very rugged (and light, which is nice sometimes). Add to that the fact that it looks really cool, and you've got a winner.

Of course there are all sorts of downsides (not compatible with Moog CV gear, boo), just like with every synthesizer, and it definitely does NOT sound like the prototypical Moog sound. But, as an intro to synthesis with a pretty good sound I would suggest it. If not an MS-10 look for something somewhat like it.

It might sound picky, but I suggest that the interface makes a HUGE difference when it comes to analogue synthesis, and especially learning analogue synthesis. The dynamism of the sounds is what makes us all love synthesizers so much, so if you look at a machine (completely apart from its price or reputation) and don't think "cool, I want to mess with those knobs" then don't even bother - for a first synth. You'll learn so much from just screwing around that it will more than make up for it not necessarily being the "best" or best sounding board you can get.

I should add that my recommendation is for someone on a budget. If money is no object then don't screw around: buy a Voyager immediately.

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Voltor07
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Post by Voltor07 » Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:51 pm

calvinistsandlutherans wrote: It might sound picky, but I suggest that the interface makes a HUGE difference when it comes to analogue synthesis, and especially learning analogue synthesis.

I should add that my recommendation is for someone on a budget. If money is no object then don't screw around: buy a Voyager immediately.
I was introduced to analog synthesis by the Little Phatty. Only because I couldn't afford a Voyager, and the Old School wasn't yet available, not that I could have used the thing anyway. :lol: The LP is a great starter synth, for those who can afford it. People look at me funny when I tell them what I paid for it. :roll: Plus, it's got that great Moog sound.
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Matt Friedman
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Post by Matt Friedman » Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:17 pm

I was introduced to analog synthesis with a Korg Poly 800. And hated it.

Analog synthesis was redeemed for my by the AX60 and JX8P [for different reasons]. It was confirmed with the LP. Don't get me wrong; I do have a love of digital synthesis [and damn, I want that CZ3000 back!]... But it doesn't go as deep.

To the original poster: None of us would be here if the Moog sound didn't give us all a warm and vibratey feeling in the guttie-wuts. You wouldn't be here if you weren't considering a Moog. All things considered, if you want to get into the old ultrasynthing, and the Moog is your sound, then it's only a question of whether you want to do a Little Phatty or go all the way to a Voyager.

Personally, I'd say your best bet would be to spring for the Phatty and use the money left over for a solid digital workstation like the Fantom/Juno-G range. That'll give you a sequencer and rhythm. And since you can never have enough synths [seriously... it's a fact of life], you can always keep your eye out for a vintage polysynth like a PolySix, Juno, JX or AX60. If you have the rhino, there's always DSI and a whole range of really useful VAs.

ANd, yeah... the MicroKorg doesn't seem real to me, either. Must be the tiny keys.
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Post by EricK » Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:31 pm

And theres all sorts of software out there that you can probably download. THe software helps with the real synths, the real synths help with the software. Anyone with some internet skills can find some software on the jolly roger style, like the Minimoog plugins from Arturia, and the modular Moog plugins. THey also have vintage electronic piano software, orchestra and brass software as well as drum programs. If you know where to lok and are willing to you can find a host of resources only limited by the size of your hard drive.

And they will produce sonic bliss you wouldn't think capable with a simple softeware.

Keep in mind though that you get what you pay for and because something says SYNTH on it doesn't mean that it sounds good. I have not been too impressed personally ith the Roland Juno series and the DBeam leaves a lot fo be desired.
Honorable mention also goes to the Roland V synth.


And you know, if you do get a good piano with MIDI you can also go for the rack based modules to save a lot of pennies. FOr like 1200 bucks you can have a ROland Famtom synth engine contained in a 1 unit rack space, so that with a cheap midi controller will give you the sounds of the fantom for a fraction of the cost.

Basically its a matter of how much money you want to spend.


Volt,
I think ill be satisfied with my 17 module configuration and a few sequencers and the set of Foogers. One grande synth with a few Moog collectible pieces and Ill be happy. With the Voyager at the centerpiece, the Micro and the Taurus, Ill have my wannabe constellation. THen theres housing it in a soundproof facillity with drum rooms and oh crap.

Eric
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Post by Brian G » Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:48 pm

If you are just starting off “programming” a synth any of them are going to be intimidating. The LP is pretty intuitive, some “old timers” complain that having only four knobs makes it harder. I don’t agree, you quickly learn to press the button for the function you want to adjust and move on to the next. While it can be intimidating looking at all the knobs on the Voyager you will become more comfortable as you use and learn it, things will become second nature. After you learn that you can dive into the menus and use the more advanced functions, that goes for the LP also. IF you can go to your local store and try them out see whch you feel more comfortable with.


Programming synths in the early 80’s that had the Data slider only to edit parameters was not much fun and could be and was a deterrent. For me I became pretty fast at programming and tweaking the DX7. The D50 started getting a bit more deep with menus though . Having knobs for sure makes life easy

As you can see there are lots of choices in a synth. As others have said it depends on what you want to do. Just about any of the Yamaha Motif, Korg, or Rolands will allow you to do some nice polyphonic things with some degree of programming. True most are sample (Rompler) based but they can get the job done. The Roland SH201 and new Juno synths are pretty nice from what little I’ve played them in the store.

Moogs do have their own sound and character and we all of cource love that sound but having a few other “brands” in there helps widen your Pallet . To start off if you just want o do leads bass and some effect sounds, a Little Phatty or Voyager along with a few MoogerFoogers would certainly give you a wide pallet. Analog Polyphonic wise the Prophet 08 is worth looking at, it can sound very Moog like but it also has it’s own sound that works very well with other synths. Yes, some do not like the “sound” of the CEM, for me they work and sound fine they are another pallet of sound. There are a lot of nice factory presets in the 08 but you can program some really killer thick punch, warm, organic, subtle, soft, biting…. patches on your own.

You can always buy a three tier or second stand and get a poly synth and a LP or Voyager

Recording wise, there are several options for both PC and Mac, for the audio interface ( to get the audio in and out of your computer) M audio is among the most used, but there are plenty of other choices out there. There are also a bunch of software packages for recording, Cakewalk, Cubase, ProToole Le ( come with the M Audio) I think Mackie still has their Tracktion software out there. Look and see which you think will work for you. It’s best if you have a dedicated computer just for production, put as much ram in as you can and it’s best if you use a separate drive to record to. Most of the packages also have MIDI sequencing capability along with audio recording.
You also can go the dedicated recorder route, there are still a few companies making nice multi track recorders. Check out some of the Boss ones. My studio is based around the now discontinued Roland VS2480, for me that works best rather than recording on the PC, any sequencing I would do I can either do in the Motif or on the PC and sync it up to the 2480. For mixdown and mastering though I do 99% of it on the PC using WaveLab. For quick live recordings I’ll either go direct to CD or lately the Zoom H2.

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Voltor07
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Post by Voltor07 » Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:42 am

EricK wrote:Volt,
I think ill be satisfied with my 17 module configuration and a few sequencers and the set of Foogers. One grande synth with a few Moog collectible pieces and Ill be happy. With the Voyager at the centerpiece, the Micro and the Taurus, Ill have my wannabe constellation. THen theres housing it in a soundproof facillity with drum rooms and oh crap.

Eric
Yeah, that works. :lol:
Sub 37 #000068, Minitaur, CP-251, MF-102&103, EHX #1 Echo, EHX Space Drums/Crash Pads, QSC GX-3, Miracle Pianos, Walking Stick ribbon controller, Synthutron.com, 1983 Hammond organ.

mallard
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Post by mallard » Wed Jan 07, 2009 11:53 am

Wow! thanks for all the replies and a ton of information. I'll reply post by post to further illuminate my position.

EricK
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Post by EricK » Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:06 pm

Something that I think needs mentioning, and that other Voyager owners can agree, is that the Voyager will SPOIL THE CRAP OUT OF YOU.

After I got my V'ger I went to the local MA and PA music store and I spent some time on the Fantom G to compare its sounds to the Moog's. Well of corse there was no comparison. The Oscs sounded different, the Filter didnt have that OOMPH that the Moogs has.

The Voyagers knob per function panel that is intelligently laid out provided for an expressive experience unrivaled by any other synth except for its father, the MiniMoog D.

Once you get a knob per function synth, you might find it really hard to go back to a menu based one, scrolling and tapping buttons to get to paramaters that should have a dedicated knob on the front panel.

Basically the Fantoms synth engine was absolutely weak in comparison to the Voyager and I found that I needed my plethora of knobs. Now this isn't dissing the Fantom at all, it produces great sounds, but the Voyager is just that bad A$$.
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