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comment by flac
flac  ·  97 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: 409th Weekly "Share Some Music You've Been Into Lately"

I think KB's probably right - the Monologue's pretty nice, and Behringer ain't too great as a company. If you're looking for a hardware synth, that's a really good place to start.

Ultimately, I think the "right" gear is whatever gets you making the most music, period. I totally get not wanting to be locked into the computer after working on it all day - that's part of what attracted me to hardware synths initially. Now I use sort of a mix of hardware and software, and I sequence it all through my Keystep Pro, which is both the most expensive and by far most useful piece of equipment I own. It's the only piece of gear I own that I couldn't part with without dramatically changing the way I make music.

Obviously, the big benefit of going digital is that there are a STAGGERING number of choices to try out. Even Modular (or, hey, even FREE MODULAR). I have yet to pay for a single digital synth, and I feel pretty happy with my options. And, importantly, I don't believe that there is any sound that you can create on any analog synthesizer that can't be recreated digitally (with a bit of knowledge and the right software). Obviously, I am a huge fan of Helm and Vital, partly because they are really intuitive, and partly because they have no right being as great as they are while still being free. I hear good things about NI, but haven't tried it myself.

The big downside to digital is that, if you only want to play one synth, then it's not quite as "giggable" as hardware. It can be great if you're going to jam with some friends to just grab a synth and a pedal and head out, but it can get a bit more involved with digital. My favorite hardware synth, the Microfreak is super light, and I can just throw it in my messenger bag with a cable and head out. That being said, the more gear you get, the more incredibly time-consuming hardware setup becomes.

On the other hand, one of my favorite bits of tech is my PiSound, a HAT for the Raspberry Pi that can turn the Pi into a pedal or any number of synths. Once you have it all set up, you can just boot up the Pi, plug in a Midi Controller, and run "headless", as it were. I mainly use ORAC, which has a bunch of great synth/effect options, and allows you to run several synths at once (I have done sets with just the Keystep running 3 synths at once on my Pi, and using a drum machine on the last track. Beautifully streamlined). There's also an app so you can use a phone or tablet to change parameters of whatever you're running. You can also run Pure Data patches on it, which gives you access to lots of community-made synth and FX modules. The PiSound is a bit of an involved project to get set up, but it sort of gives you the versatility (and cheapness) of digital, while giving you the portability of hardware. And, if you end up buying a synth, you can set up MODEP (the FX module) to run a midi-synced delay, which is pretty rad.

From a performance standpoint, I find hardware synths a lot easier to manage in a live setting. One knob does exactly one thing on each synth, and that is wonderfully intuitive and hard to fuck up live. Not quite the case when dealing with a computer, and unlabelled knobs on a midi controller (to say nothing of operating a mouse precisely in a high-stress setting). For an example, here's what my Midi mapping looks like when I run three synths at a time on the Pi, as mentioned above (I switch between Midi channels for each synth):

That becomes less of a problem if you are consistent in how you have your Midi controllers set up, and don't use a ton of different synths.

If you're on the fence, I'd recommend buying yourself a pretty nice midi keyboard with lots o' knobs, and messing around with software synths. If you get a midi keyboard, you can assign each of the knobs to control a different parameter of the synth software (ADSR, Cutoff, etc). It's really easy to set up in Helm and Vital, and I'd be more than happy to do a quick video on it. The great thing is that most software synths will remember those mappings, so you can just boot it up and get going right away. This will seeeeriously cut down on your time looking at the screen, highly recommend it.

Second-to-last bit of advice: if you are thinking of just using a synth as a solo instrument, either in a band or recorded, then analog might make just as much sense as digital. But if you think that you might end up want to make whole synth tracks, then I'd really recommend starting with digital. It becomes really unwieldy (and real fuckin' expensive) really quickly if you go the analog route there.

Actual last bit of advice: a big part of why the Keystep Pro is my favorite piece of gear is that, once I have my synths picked out, I can make a whole track without really having to look back at my computer. I can sequence things on 4 separate tracks, and send them to 4 digital (or analog) synths/drum kits. There's also this cheaper pad-style sequencer by Arturia, which has most of the same functionality. In any case, if you decide to go digital, I strongly recommend starting with a nice free synth, and spend your money on a good Midi keyboard with lots of knobs and sliders.

Edit: I swear to god I'm not being paid by Arturia, but I found this deal on their entry level keyboard, which also comes free with the lite version of: Ableton, Analog Labs (a really great sounding synth software), and a grand piano sim. For your consideration.





goobster  ·  96 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Man, you are seriously getting yourself into trouble here, by being so helpful! Yer never gonna get rid of me!!! :-)

So the place I bought the Behringer from has made the return and credit process VERY easy. That's a relief. Credit should be on my card next week.

End Phase 1.5 of my Synth Journey. (Phase 1 was your video series!)

I found out I kinda know a Waldorf dealer, and he had an open-box never-used Blofeld Desktop for a discount. But the Blofeld was at his friend's record shop... which also happened to have a recording studio upstairs and he sells some second hand music hardware like mixers and ... synths. But his store was closed yesterday... but he responded to my text message.

So yesterday I went and picked up the Blofeld from the closed record shop, but because it was the Desktop version of the Blofeld it did not have a keyboard, so I needed a cheap MIDI keyboard to use. Turns out the shop had a Novation Bass Station 2, and I walked out with it for $200.

Now - for this long weekend - I have the Blofeld, Bass Station 2, and also iMaschine on my iPad, and I will be delving into (mostly) hardware synths FOR REAL. (And for about $200 less than the Poly D.)

The nice thing is that the hardware I bought maintains their resale value VERY well. So I can use the hardware to understand how synthesis works and get over the initial learning curve, and then sell it on to someone else if I decide to just go fully digital.

Live performance is pretty much the furthest thing from my mind. I've played in metal/rock/funk bands my entire life, and if I never play to a mostly empty bar on a Tuesday night at 11:30 PM ever again, it'll be too soon. I'm too old for that shit. (And too COVID-averse to frequent the kinds of dives I feel most comfortable in, anyway.)

I'll have my SoundCloud account. And if I ever get enough cohesive tracks together to feel like compiling them into some sort of digital entity, I might even check out DistroKid and release an album, of sorts. (Although it is more likely I'll just produce soundscapes and one-shots for use in video production, or something.)

But my music being heard by others is not an important goal for me. I just play for myself, and want to have the agility with my tools to just sit down, and in 5 minutes be playing and recording and jamming on some sort of groovy thang that came out of nowhere.

I'm not a songwriter; I'm a collaborator. And since collaboration is basically dead now, I need some tools that can surprise me and come up with interesting things that inspire me to build on the foundation they create. That's what I have found goofing around with synths... a collaborator that surprises me with interesting things that I can build on.

So. Starting this afternoon after work, I'm gonna be Synth Goofing for the weekend. I expect I'll wind up buying Ableton at some point when I get frustrated with GarageBand... or I might go to Logic, but I don't see as many helpful YouTube videos on Logic, as I do for Ableton/Reaktor/Reason/Maschine.

Let Phase 2 begin!

flac  ·  96 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Happy to help ;)

Damn, that is quite a haul! Sounds like you've got a hell of a weekend lined up.

One thing that might be of interest if you're ever looking remotely jam with people is a free Reaper plugin called "Reaninjam":

Basically, you can play in pseudo-realtime (in sync, but a few bars behind) with either friends (in a private server) or total strangers. I have a private server set up, if you're ever looking to play sometime! I've been missing collaborating with people, and while this is not quite the same, it does scratch the itch.

Edit: this plugin called Jamtaba seems to let you connect to NINJAM users in any DAW!

am_Unition  ·  96 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I bought the Arturia Synth package a few months ago. It's pretty great, in terms of capabilities and presets, but it will make your CPU work pretty hard. Constant 10% CPU usage of a 2.9 GHz 6-core Intel i9 for each running instance. If you have a lot of other processing going on, like for other tracks and mixing, the latency really adds up too damn quick. I'm still pushing the limits on what I can hope to do live. Trying to simplify how I mix, and conceding that there's no way to push everything through the mastering plug-in I have (iZotope's "Ozone") without slappin' on 150 ms of latency. I'm also learning to better use the native Ableton programs, since they're much more computationally efficient. I've learned that pretty much all of the limitation is on my end. Sky's the limit (Mr. Bill is awesome, btw).

You might know about this channel already, but LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER is one of my fave synth people.

And this guy's pretty cool, he's just up the road from me. I'm planning on visiting their store after things get back to normal.