So who wants to talk about synthesizers?

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by broj15, Mar 19, 2021.

  1. broj15

    broj15 SS.org Regular

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    Since this is a guitar forum probably no one, but I figured it was worth a shot :lol:.
    Either way, of you actually DO dabble with hardware synths let's talk about. What do you have? What do you wish you had? Links to any music you've made? Tips and tricks for fellow synth nerds? And of course picks of your set ups are always welcome
    As for me my (small but efficient) set up is an elektron digitakt (drums/percussion, samples, weird noises) and an elektron model:cycles (bass lines, leads/melodic stuff, additional percussion, more weird noises) and an Arturia keystep sending midi signal to the model:cycles just for the arpeggiator (cycles doesn't have an arp. Only bad thing about the unit considering the price).
    I'm currently working on releasing an EP/visual album with a video for each track. Hard to pin down what I'm going for but I'd say deep house and/or minimal/dark/industrial techno would all be good genre tags, but I'm also looking into utilizing these units to make "cybergrind"/noise grind tracks along with my guitar.

    So far messing with synths has been a ton of fun and pretty rewarding, especially since playing live music is still on hold indefinitely (probably gonna be the last thing to return to "normal"). I still do most of my composing on guitar since it's super familiar, bit then I rework whatever chord progression or melody i i me with so I can play it on my keyboard which has forced me to actually learn some theory so it's also helped out my compositional skills on guitar as well.

    Disclaimer: at the risk of sounding like a pretentious dick (I already know I'm going to) I honestly couldn't care less about whatever synth plug ins your using in your DAW to add "omg such atmosphere" to your pseudo-prog solo guitar project. Even if you aren't making electronic or dance music I'd like to keep the focus on hardware synths/drum machines/samplers & how you utilize them either live or in the studio.
     
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  2. Wuuthrad

    Wuuthrad SS.org Regular

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    Love me some synths. Have played on (messed around with) various Kurzweill, Korg, Roland Jupiter (my friends OG 8 ball back in the day, talk about tripping the dark fantastic!) and owned a few digital additive synths that work well with guitar. Also like sample based synths. The Elektron stuff is crazy!

    Big fan of Symphonic Metal genres and bands that incorporate other Electronic instruments besides guitars.
     
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  3. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    I have digital/rompler stuff.

    Roland D-50 and a Yamaha that's like a cross between a Motif and a stage piano, weighted keys.

    I got the Yamaha for some more realistic string/piano sounds that the D-50 doesn't have. I seem to gravitate towards 90s rompler sounds that kinda don't sound real but you can still get away with using them as if they did. It seems the more modern the stuff gets the more lame the sounds get.
     
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  4. broj15

    broj15 SS.org Regular

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    The elektron stuff is SUPER crazy. Probably some of the most in depth gear I've ever messed with. The m:cycles was a great intro to hardware synthesizers and is a real heavy hitter at just $300. The digitakt is absolutely insane. Such a deep sequencer and the way it let's you totally mangle samples beyond recognition you can make pretty much anything sound like anything. Lately I've been having alot of fun sampling old vinyl record crackle and tape noise and seeing if I can make it sound like a useable drum sound (so far getting a good kick or a shaker/maraca type sound has been a blast and I've come up with some stuff that's actually pretty useable).

    Some of those old 90's rompler units have a cool sound, especially the fake sounding strings. Fake string samples are kinda a defining feature of house music from the mid-late 90's. As far as modern gear sounding not so great my opinion is kinda mixed. Obviously analog percussion is the best when it comes to kicks, toms/congas, claps (really, analog claps ftw) and snares, but I've yet to hear a truly good analog high hat/cymbal sound. I'm pretty sure even the super iconic roland tr909 & tr707 used sampled metal sounds in conjunction with analog percussion and those (along with the classic 808) are regarded as the grails of vintage drum machines. As far as synths go, thankfully Roland has started re-issueing thier more iconic designs at pretty affordable prices in recent years. Behringer (despite thier short comings as a company) has went and reissued tons of old & out of production synths/drum machines with added features at a fraction of the price the original would cost. Their Roland TR x0x reissues make the Roland reissues look like toys: true analog circuitry unlike the Roland reissues being entirely digital/sample based, added features that make them more useable in a modern set up and INDIVIDUAL OUTPUTS (the thing that made the originals so amazing and the one feature Roland left off of thier reissues to cut cost) meaning you can send each instrument voice through it's own signal chain/channel on a mixer (ie. Compression & EQ on the kick, delay on the clap, reverb on the snare, low/high pass filters on the hats & cymbals, etc.)
    I mean $300 will get you a guitar that's playable but it'll have inferior hardware & probably need some TLC to be a real player, but $300 will get you a great sounding synth with good build quality straight out of the box. For example, the Arturia microfreak (additive synthesis I'm pretty sure, but I could be wrong) is on my short list of stuff I wanna incorporate into my set up. The UI seems intuitive, tons of features and parameters to tweak, and the sounds I've heard people get out of it are way more than what I'd expect from a $300 piece of gear.
     
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  5. Grindspine

    Grindspine likes pointy things

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    Hardware-wise, I still dabble on a Kurzweil K2000s synth with sampler that I bought back in '03. Around '94, I had learned a bit about step-recording on an Emu Ultra Proteus, but something about the Kurzweil sound library just stuck with me. I have the audio outputs of my K2000s running into my Focusrite Scarlett, but also have my MIDI output running to it. That way, I can both use the on-board libraries for real-time play and writing, but also have access to the software synth libraries I have.

    Related, I also have an Akai MPD218 trigger pad that I primarily use for finger drumming in Superior Drummer. It isn't exactly a synth, but very useful for home recording!

    2020 May 12 234-5.jpg
     
  6. Merrekof

    Merrekof SS.org Regular

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    I had a Roland JV-1080 with a couple of expansion cards along with a midi keyboard. I used to mess around with it and even used it for recording, that was a hassle though. Creating midi files on pc and sending those to the rompler while recording what came out.
     
  7. eclecto-acoustic

    eclecto-acoustic "That" guy.

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    Used to rock a Novation UltraNova...that thing was a monster. I tried to dive into the "analog-esque" world with it, and while I could definitely go lo-fi and stack a bunch of oscillators with classic waveforms, that wasn't where the fun was. I had it paired with the Arturia DrumBrute Impact, which was also crazy fun but also really limited. The sounds were great (except that cowbell thing...such weird) and their sequencers are just the bomb for live playing. If I ever dive into the modular world (please God, no...I need money for other things), their BeatStep Pro is on the top of my list.

    I've since sold both and gone software. I know I know...you said no software. But it seems like you're making the distinction based on use case more than anything. I use softsynths in the same way I used hardware: make songs out of crazy noises. Between the KeyLab 61 MkII and the Launchpad X, I can basically control everything I need with the laptop lid closed. With the exception of building sounds and dealing with controller assignments, there's very little computer interaction. The Launchpad X has actually proved to be revelatory in a way. I got it to do drums and control loops, but it makes me approach playing synths in a whole new way...melodies and lines that I wouldn't have conceived of on a keyboard sprang to life on the grid. The Launchpad Pro can do external hardware MIDI control, so there's a possible future upgrade.

    There's still probably some monster mono in my future. If playing with softsynths has taught me anything, it's that I really want a 2600 and a Grandmother or Minitaur. I'm definitely in a bit of a synthwave/techscape phase, and I'm not the least bit interested in moving on from it.
     
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  8. Wuuthrad

    Wuuthrad SS.org Regular

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    One thing I sort of remember doing back in the day was borrowing my friends MPC500 (!!!) like the most frowned upon and cheapest MPC out there, which is what drew my attention! lol

    Seriously though I would take a really distorted guitar tone and record it in, then edit the sample loop points to milliseconds, maybe layer them. Great way to make industrial drum sounds!

    MPC sequencer and pad layout was always great, but not nearly as “out there” as what I’ve seen from Elektron, who I think it’s fair to say really pushed the envelope with creative sampling, synth and sequencing.
     
  9. narad

    narad Progressive metal and politics

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    Who wants to synthesize about talking?

    [​IMG]
     
  10. broj15

    broj15 SS.org Regular

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    I don't have any experience with novation stuff but the bass station sounds sick and the circuit/circuit tracks is a strong competitor in the "groove box/all in one production station" that seems so populated now, especially at it's price point. The only thing that turns me off about the circuit is the lack of visual representation of the UI.

    I had the regular drumbrute for a bit and I totally get where you're coming from in regards to the DB impact. Great UI, amazing sequencer, and the sound that sound good (kick 1 & 2, clap, shaker, Tom's/congas) sound REALLY good. That being said the other sounds (mainly the cymbal & high hats) were borderline un - useable imo. Really sucks because the individual outputs for each drum voice is a HUGE plus especially when paired with a whole bunch of guitar pedals & a good analog mixer, plus the sequencer was so easy to jump right into and start making stuff.

    Also, I don't have anything against using softsynths/plugins & a midi controller. Honestly for what I have invested in hardware I know I could've bought a really nice laptop geared towards music production that'd be WAAAAAAAYYY more capable than my hardware set up. I just decided to go with hardware because I already spend so much time on my computer at work so the last thing I wanna do when I get home is stare at my computer screen while I try to write music. I mainly just said that to weed out the djent kiddies still trynna put sumerian-core synth lines over breakdowns :lol: (idk if that's even still a thing around here, but better safe than sorry).

    Also, in regards to Elektron, I know they have the analog heat, but I feel like if they made a standalone reverb/delay unit using the reverb and delay from the digitakt/octatrack the guitar community would eat it up. Probably the nicest sounding digital reverb and delay I've ever heard.
     
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  11. Deadpool_25

    Deadpool_25 SS.org Regular

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    I tried a Digitakt and Digitone but quickly realized the learning curve was a bit beyond what I wanted at the time. But damn those things are cool. If I wver explore it again I’d definitely consider reacquiring that stuff.
     
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  12. eclecto-acoustic

    eclecto-acoustic "That" guy.

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    I got the Circuit for my younger son as a birthday present and he's been having a blast with it; we've even started recording his ideas. I totally hear you on the lack of labelling...I see why they did that, and I generally like the idea of trying to get out of my own way when making music, but this went too far in that direction for my liking. FWIW, the Circuit Tracks looks to improve that very aspect. I'm looking forward to the Circuit Rhythm to pair with the original...apparently you can load samples into it, which the aforementioned son is very excited about.

    As far as Novation stuff goes, I'll agree with the popular sentiment that says it's really great for more modern sounds and ideas. That UltraNova really was a beast of a synth, and the best parts of it to me were the novel touch-sensitive knobs along the top row that you could use to animate your sounds. As much as I didn't want to believe that I was a sucker for the big deep grinding beauty of Moog fame, it makes me weak at the knees. One day I'll have the genuine article. Part of the reason I got the Arturia KeyLab MkII was because of its ability to act as a wicked controller for analog stuff.

    Yep to all of that. I think the real problem I ran into was that I wanted to make a lot more styles of music than just the industrial stuff that the DBi lends itself to so well. Between that and the UltraNova experience, I decided that going the computer route was a faster and cheaper way to get there.

    Message received ;)

    I initially stayed away from the computer because I have a history of analysis paralysis. My most significant blockage to making music is the simple act of getting started, making noise, and committing. You see a lot of advice in the music world to not lean so heavily on preset sounds and to do your own thing, but I discovered that while that advice was good, it isn't well timed for me. My computer rig handles every instrument right now, but I leaned heavily into saving channel strips, keeping my favourite sounds close at hand, and saving presets/templates when I land on something really special. Keeps the tweaking to a dull roar, and I figure it's a lot like having your one amp and your one synth with the knobs marked off or taped down. :cool:

    As far as your Elektron stuff, how did you find the process of adapting to the UI? With one son deep into making music and the other likely to follow, I have all the excuses in the world to bring in new and funky gear. Elektron are high on the list, but I wonder how their philosophy feels on first contact. Feel free to bore me with the details...I LOVE the details :cheers:
     
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  13. cGoEcYk

    cGoEcYk SS.org Regular

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    I got into it last year, I enjoy it quite a bit. It's cool to be hands on and cook up your arrangement live. You definitely have to learn some stuff, each device is like it's own instrument. It only becomes more complicated and technical when you start trying to link up a bunch of units or find a way to pull off longer/more dramatic arrangements. I told myself I wouldnt be one of those cats with like 12 keyboards but I did finally get an actual synth recently. My progression went in this order:

    Volca Sample
    Keystep
    Kaossilator Pro 3+
    Model Cycles
    Novation Circuit
    TD-3 (no love for the wacky sequencer on it)
    Volca Kick
    Octatrack
    Microbrute
    Mono Station

    My plan was been to use the Octatrack as the central brain but it's a lot to get into (I mainly wanted to use it as a sequencer but it's a lot to think about both creatively technically). I do a lot of quick and easy jams with Circuit + Cycles (between the two you get 12 tracks) and mix in extra beats from the V Sample. I am probably going to set up a second "rig" with the Octatrack/MicroBrute/Mono Station.

    This something I was sketching around with the Circuit/Cycles and some rusty guitar playing.

     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2021
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  14. Grindspine

    Grindspine likes pointy things

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    So far, this is a great thread. For me it is really hard to separate the hardware and software since I have my Kurzweil running both MIDI and audio lines into my interface. I have always dug industrial music, so this reminded me to look into some Moog stuff that I had heard previously. The DFAM (Drummer from another mother) seems like it would be such a great rhythm synth to add some gritty rhythms alongside other instruments.

    My problem with making music in general is that I like soundscapes and creating sounds more than actually writing a song. The nice thing about a lot of synths (hardware or software) is that you can focus on the sounds and sometimes rhythms and melodies appear, especially with arpeggios and sequencers involved.
     
  15. broj15

    broj15 SS.org Regular

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    The only way I was able to jump into my Digitakt so easily was because I'd already gotten a feel for elektron's (very specific) work with the model cycles. The sequencers are nearly identical, although the digitakt is alot deeper and more capable, but the sound design is very different. Obviously because the cycles is an FM synth and the digitakt is a very deep sampler.

    Like I said, the only way I was able to adapt so easily to the digitakt was because I started on the cycles. It's a great entry point to Elektron both in terms of simplicity and price. The "one knob per function" UI makes it feel like a Korg volca, but it's bigger than a volca so it feels more playable (those small knobs on the volcas make it really hard to do much tweaking in the moment/as a performance tool). The screen, although small, is really good at conveying the necessary information so that you can actually see what each knob is doing in the moment, but without feeling overwhelming or confusing. The sequencer portion is about as deep as you want it to be. If you just wanna program 4 bar patterns it can do that no problem, but it's also pretty easy to set up polyrhythms by adjusting the pattern length of each individual track and the trig specific micro timing is a nice feature (the ability to move a single step in the sequence either before or after the beat), kinda like being able to put swing on just a couple steps in a given pattern. My only real complaint with the model cycles is the lack of arpeggiator and no way to easily mute multiple tracks at once or solo a single track. There is a work around for the lack of an arp function that's kind of a pain: pattern length to 3,4,6,8, etc. And then use parameter locks (elektron's term for parameters that are specific to a single step in a given sequence) on each trig/step for that tracks sequence to change the pitch to whatever individual notes in whatever chord you wanted to arpeggiate.
    The cycles was my first piece of hardware and before I got I had no idea what a sequencer even was, but even I was able to jump in and start making stuff almost immediately once I learned it's basic conventions (live recording mode vs. grid recording mode, and the basics of the sound design and data management). That being said, I've spent quite alot of time using it over the past 5-6 months and I still won't say I've mastered it. Every now and then I'll get tired of the sounds I'm getting out of it and then I'll stumble onto a new set of sounds that I didn't think were possible to make with that unit.
    I'd say the one mistake I see people making with the model cycles is using each synth engine (there's 6: kick, snare, metal/cymbal, perc, tone, and chord) for it's "intended purpose". Once you learn the basics sound design just toss those conventions out the window. It's entirely possible to make a fully fleshed out track just using the Kick or Perc (percussion) synth engines by adjusting the sustain, overdrive, filter, etc.
     
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  16. eclecto-acoustic

    eclecto-acoustic "That" guy.

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    If you're anything like me, you need movement to steer the ship. Using devices and their sounds as a tool to get the ball rolling is perfectly acceptable. Not really synth related, but that Catalinbread Echorec pedal spawned a TON of jams when I had it. Synths like the 2600 do the same for me.
     
  17. cGoEcYk

    cGoEcYk SS.org Regular

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    I enjoy the Cycles too. It's probably the deepest unit you can get in that price range. The sound design on it is nuts. I find it's hard to get any normal sounds on it but it mixes together with itself. I really like using the Kick on it... like a dirty tuned kick that doubles as a bass line. Started getting into Chords more recently. I've had mine almost 3 months and haven't explored Fill Mode or Conditional Trigs on it yet.
     
  18. jonsick

    jonsick SS.org Regular

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    I have a few bits. My main is softsynths such as NI Konplete and Omnisphere.

    Hardware wise, I have an MOXF which does the main duties and I recently splurged on a Korg Minilogue XD and an AFX Station. The Korg hasn't arrived yet but I really like experimenting with the AFX.

    I recently set up my old Amiga with the S3000xl but dang it sure takes up space. Considering I have Kontakt sitting there, it may eventually replace it totally. But hearing those old sample mangles and Octamed sequences I made back in the day sure sounds good.

    Other old gear is the Korg X5, its basically old Dimmu Borgia in a box. Love it.

    The Access Virus is currently in that space where I'm considering parting ways with it. Firstly as I get more or.less the same from my software, but I keep looking at the Waldorf Kyra and getting excitable. So we'll see what happens.

    The top tip I can give you is to keep synths mono. They get a lot harder to mix when recorded in stereo. So unless you really have a reason to go stereo, e.g. some chorus or reverb that needs stereo, keep it mono.
     
  19. darkinners

    darkinners my fingers are lame

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    I don't have many synths, nowadays I use mostly Ableton's built-in synths and some 3rd party soft synths. The hardware synths are just for show and when I want to jam a bit without sitting in front of the computer. While I love knob twisting but the workflow for ideas/squencing is much faster with software synth inside of a DAW.

    Currently have.
    Elektron: Analog Rytm MKII, Octatrack MKII, Digitone
    Behringer: Model D
    Korg: Minilogue XD
    Controller/Sequencer: Novation SL61 MKIII and Arturia KeyStep.

    wishlist:
    Vintage MS-20
    Vintage TB-303
     
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  20. RevDrucifer

    RevDrucifer SS.org Regular

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    The only hardware I have so far is a Korg TR-1 rack unit that I dig quite a bit. I’m currently trying to get me dad to give me his Kurzweil K2600 rack unit that he’s used for all of 10 minutes in the last 10 years.

    I always keep on the lookout for a K2000, as I LOVE the sounds Rick Wright/Jon Carin got on the ‘88/‘94 Floyd tours. Those are some of my favorite synth sounds of all time.

    I’d also like to get a legit Triton. Derek Sherinian’s tones on Dream Theater’s Falling Into Infinity are just to die for. I can get close with some stuff in the TR-1, but that slider they had on the keyboards is what I’m after!
     
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