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#1039918 - 10/13/00 07:33 PM Programming own sounds or not??pi
Pim Offline
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Registered: 10/13/00
Posts: 865
Loc: Amsterdam
To me, the essential playing synthesizers is to program my own sounds.
Anyone who doesn't is not a real synthfreak.
Any pro's or cons?

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#1039919 - 10/13/00 08:24 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Grave Bryce Administrator Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by pim@dancewave.nl:
To me, the essential playing synthesizers is to program my own sounds.
Anyone who doesn't is not a real synthfreak.
Any pro's or cons?



Programming is definitely a huge part of the whole synthfreak thing; however I feel that performance is equally important. Is someone who can play other people's programs wonderfully and evocatively not a synthfreak? I know guys who can program like the dickens, but can't play at all - what about them? Or what about tweakers - people who can edit pre-existing sounds, but can't write a sound from scratch (boy, were there a lot of those in the DX7 days!!!). Where do they fall in the synthfreak rating scale? Synthfreak-in-training?

For me, the interface really influences where it is I am drawn first on a synth, as I guess it does for a lot of folks. I find that (strangely enough) I am definitely more likely to explore presets on instruments that have less real-time controls. If it's got knobs or sliders, I'm all over 'em right away.

However, no matter what the interface, it is only a matter of time before my presets are the only thing in the user banks.

dB
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#1039920 - 10/13/00 09:18 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Pim Offline
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Registered: 10/13/00
Posts: 865
Loc: Amsterdam
You have a point.
But what is "wonderfully playing"?
Who is the judge of what is wonderfull. Is it more notes per second, or is it that ultimate one finger melody that moves everyone?

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#1039921 - 10/14/00 03:45 AM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Anonymous
Unregistered


I think that "wonderful playing" is one of those subjective yet obvious traits. For example, you or I may think that someone is or is not beautiful, but Heidi Klum is obviously beautiful. She may not be your cup of tea (how sad your life must be), but you would have to agree that she is very classically attractive.

I think that the performance is much more important that whether you can program or not. I'm a sound designer (sound effects editor for film) and I sometimes feel guilty for using too many stock library sounds. I should probably be walking around with my own DAT machine more often. But, when you take a bunch of samples, reverse them and pitch them down, maybe use a few not-so-obvious choices, you come up with something new. I created a "beast roar" effect with eight stereo layers today, no one will e able to tell that most of them are from a library. They're mangled beyond recognition.

Perhaps you can apply the same theory to synths. Since most synths have at least 64 voices these days, maybe a new way to program is to take a bunch of presets in "performance" or "mix" mode, detuned and mixed, to make a new layered program.

Whie we're on the subject, I really want a synth with an "I-ching" button. Something that I can press that randomizes all of the parameters. Maybe it should stay away from the envelopes, so that you don't get a four minute attack time. Does the A6 have this? Maybe it should. I know that software programs have this feature, but I like programming on the synth, using it's buttons and sliders.

And that's all I have to say about that. -jl

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#1039922 - 10/14/00 04:25 AM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Grave Bryce Administrator Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by synthetic@earthlink.net:

Whie we're on the subject, I really want a synth with an "I-ching" button. Something that I can press that randomizes all of the parameters.


It's been done! The Prophet VS has that function (press and hold Enter, and press 2). Most of the sounds are nonsense, but every once in a while...

Does the A6 have this? Maybe it should.>

I actually did request this, based on the Prophet VS being able to do it. Not sure if they decided to put it in there, but to the best of my knowledge, it's not in there now. I will ask, though - thanks for reminding me.

dB



[This message has been edited by Dave Bryce (edited 10-14-2000).]
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#1039923 - 10/16/00 09:28 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Erik Norlander Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 10/16/00
Posts: 152
Loc: Placerville, California
As someone who has programmed more than his fair share of synths both analog and digital, let me be one to PRAISE well written preset patches. I am not put off by using factory patches nor third party patches. If the sound is right, I use it. And I don't feel guilty about it. I guess it's the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" idea. There are some programmers in the world who are true geniuses at this stuff, especially in the deeeeeeeeeep world of digital synths. Guys like Andrew Schlesinger, Manny Fernandez and Dan Fisher to name only a few (okay, and let's add our moderator Dave Bryce to this list too) have created some sounds that I would never even THINK of to create. Alright, and it's fair to say that I (or any of us) could create some sounds that would be equally out of nowhere to these guys too, but I truly think the culture of anti-presetism is a thing of the past.

In the old early microprocessor-enabled synth days (Oberheim OB series, Prophet 5, JP-8, etc.), it was certainly shameful to use factory patches. But consider that one could fully grok the entire scope of those instruments with a reasonable understanding of subtractive synthesis. Nowadays, I don't have the time (nor the interest) to audition the entire sound ROM of a Roland, Yamaha or Korg digital synth. Nor do I want to figure out how to get optimal performance out of their ten zillion parameters. With these kinds of synths, I find a good patch for the application and then either tweak it for that application or use it as is (if it is right). With an analog synth, perhaps it's a different story. Okay, then dialing up a sound from scratch is much more appealing (and rewarding). But for me, forget about doing this on a digital machine. I'd rather be making music.

I should add, though, that if someone is working in a style of music where the synth sound IS the music (i.e. some techno or ambient electronic styles), then that's a different story. Your sound design and your music composition are then inexorably intertwined. My diatribe above is more in the context of "traditional" rock and pop music.

Cheers,

Erik

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#1039924 - 10/16/00 10:48 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Anonymous
Unregistered


Who is Heidi Klum?

I seem to recall that the Waldorf Q also has a random patch generator.

The question of whether or not you're "a real synthfreak" is, in the end, not very interesting. Also, this thread ignores the whole bit about sampled sounds. Eric Persing should be included in the list of genius sound designers. If you use his samples in your composition, you're definitely not a synthfreak, but you may still be a brilliant composer/arranger. Or not.

--JA

[This message has been edited by jaikin@musicplayer.com (edited 10-16-2000).]

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#1039925 - 10/17/00 04:33 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Erik Norlander Offline
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Registered: 10/16/00
Posts: 152
Loc: Placerville, California
I definitely agree with Jim's addition of Eric Persing to the synth programmer hall of fame. Perhaps this guy can be considered the father of the "modern" Roland sound.

Yes, I acknowledge that we're all horribly burnt out on "Digital Native Dance" and "Staccato Heaven" in the old D50, but the plain fact that these presets were (over)used so much is a tribute to Eric's originality.

And his Spectrasonics samples ain't bad either.

As far as sampling goes, that's really an art unto itself. Quite dissimilar from synth programming, I think. I know many folks who are excellent sample creators and sample editors, but who are not particularly great synth programmers. And vice-versa. Hey, and how about those guys that did the ultra-tiny samples for the early Fairlights and similar machines? Man, gotta hand it to them. Now I complain that 32MB of RAM in my S1000s isn't nearly adequate. And don't even mention newer stuff like Gigasampler. Geez, how spoiled are all of us now?

Cheers,

Erik

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#1039926 - 10/27/00 10:22 AM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Rob Wallace Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 10/16/00
Posts: 33
Loc: ,,UNITED KINGDOM
I come from the analog days of the early 80's. Back then the synths didn't even have memories so you had to make up your own sounds or use some of the manufacturers patches by copying them from diagrams in the manual. I used to love doing this as I would find that creating a new sound on a synth would inspire me to write a piece of music. I think this may be the case with professional musicians of the time as well. Just listen to some of those classic songs of the 80's, the main element of the track is a particular synth sound ie. that Moog Bass in Vienna by Ultravox, the cheesy pan pipe sound in Save a Prayer by Duran Duran or check out Nik Kershaw or Go West etc.

The other great thing about making up your own patches is that it gives your songs a certain individuality as no one else has got those sounds. These days everyone sems to use the same factory patches and I know that there are certain individuals out there who like to play 'Spot the Preset' (they really must have nothing better to do). Ironically, modern synths are trying to copy sounds that people made up themselves in the first place !

You can't beat doing a bit of knob twiddling with an analog synth and getting some great unique sounds. Roll on the Andromeda.

Bassment

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#1039927 - 10/27/00 07:56 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Pim Offline
Gold Member

Registered: 10/13/00
Posts: 865
Loc: Amsterdam
Quote:
Originally posted by Rob Wallace:
The other great thing about making up your own patches is that it gives your songs a certain individuality as no one else has got those sounds.

Roll on the Andromeda.

Bassment


This is where it is all about with synthesizers. Make your own sounds, stand up from the crowd.
How many times people asked me from
which syntesizer I got these great sounds...

Andromeda is a fantastic synthesizer for making your own sounds. Paradoxical I (and a dozen others) am programming the factory presets at this moment. But still I want to encourage everyone to program your own.
Turn a knob and listen what happens to a sound. Try to remember what the knob does.
By doing this, everyone can become a true synth programmer step by step.

------------------
http://www.dancewave.nl

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#1039928 - 10/27/00 08:06 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
marino Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 10/20/00
Posts: 7999
Loc: Rome, Italy
I'm afraid it's the old "player or programmer?" thing. Those of us raised in the seventies learned the answer the hard way, because we had no choice: you were supposed to be a player because there wasn't any other way to make music, and you were supposed to understand programming because all we had was analog synths with no memory.
Let me say that it was a great school. You learned (or at least, the most motivated and talented learned) to tailor your sounds to your playing and to the needs of the tune.
So how does it feel to have so many presets in today's machines? Wonderful! It does NOT prevent you to program your own! What often happens is, you make a note of the presets that sound appealing/useful/interesting to you, and you end up using them in preproduction, because you are thinking of the piece as a whole and don't want to be slowed down by programming. Then when it's time to commit to tape/hard disk or to prepare your live sounds, you start tweaking and often totally changing the initial sounds.
It wasn't like this with analogs: The first thing I did with the Chroma and Matrix-12 was to program good Hammond, Rhodes, Strings etc. and guess what? I'm STILL using those sounds, often layered with sampled ones, because they add depth and character to the samples.
You should be able to work at all levels; For a piece of "serious" (?!?) electronic music, I recently created sounds with a speech synthesizer and a program that extracts sounds from images (that's Coagula, not Metasynth), then I imported those in Granulab (a granular synth program) for further mangling, then loaded the results in the K2000 to VAST them. Doing these things takes days, but the result can only be called yours.
On the other hand, if you need an acoustic guitar sound for a quick demo, nobody should feel guilty for dialing up a preset and go.
Look, this long ranting was prompted by the post by Pim, talking about "one finger melodies that move everyone". While one finger melodies have their reasons to exist, I think that this kind of reverse snobism is dangerous. Knowing how to play in real time doesn't mean to play a million crazy notes. Tecnique is only freedom to express your ideas in a more precise way. Playing tecnique, programming tecnique; having both it's the most fun you can have out of music, in my opinion.
Once again, I apologize for my English!
marino

[This message has been edited by marino (edited 10-27-2000).]

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#1039929 - 10/27/00 08:16 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
marino Offline
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Registered: 10/20/00
Posts: 7999
Loc: Rome, Italy
oh yeah, and WHO is Heidi Klum?!?

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#1039930 - 10/27/00 11:09 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Grave Bryce Administrator Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by marino:
I'm afraid it's the old "player or programmer?" thing. Those of us raised in the seventies learned the answer the hard way, because we had no choice: you were supposed to be a player because there wasn't any other way to make music, and you were supposed to understand programming because all we had was analog synths with no memory. Let me say that it was a great school. You learned (or at least, the most motivated and talented learned) to tailor your sounds to your playing and to the needs of the tune.


Very, very well said. Necessity was certainly the mother of invention...however, I have to admit, as I'll bet that you will as well - the idea of playing with the knobs was fully appealing to me! It's not like I dreaded having to do it, and made myself learn because I had to - I was truly fascinated by the realtime control aspect (fancy way of saying I wanted to play with all those cool knobs, switches and sliders) from as early as I can remember. The process was (and still is!) just as cool as the product.

Quote:


So how does it feel to have so many presets in today's machines? Wonderful! It does NOT prevent you to program your own! What often happens is, you make a note of the presets that sound appealing/useful/interesting to you, and you end up using them in preproduction, because you are thinking of the piece as a whole and don't want to be slowed down by programming. Then when it's time to commit to tape/hard disk or to prepare your live sounds, you start tweaking and often totally changing the initial sounds.


I love other people's presets. It makes me do stuff I wouldn't do, and go places I wouldn't go. Plus, I am a great admirer of imaginative sound design.

Everyone wants different sounds. Obviously, you say...well, it might explain why people can't possibly like every preset patch in their synth. Not only are a variety of people writing them, but the presets chosen (usually by more than one person) need to have an appeal that reaches across as large a spectrum of musicians as possible. The synth needs to be attractive to the player who grew up listening to prog rock, plus it needs to be attractive to the younger crowd listening to dance/trance/techno thing as well, and styles and genres in between and on both sides. This is truly one of the marks of a fine instrument.

A good preset bank needs to show off the capabilities of the synth - it needs to inspire the potential buyer, ideally resulting in him/her imagining its sounds in their music; or, even better, to inspire them to create music. Also, the plain truth of the matter is that only a small percentage of synthesists program, so the preset banks are very important to the life of the product.

It's amazing how many synths that have great engines have suffered (in some cases fatally) because the presets were less than inspiring...it is always sad to see this happen.

dB
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#1039931 - 10/28/00 03:31 AM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
marino Offline
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Registered: 10/20/00
Posts: 7999
Loc: Rome, Italy
I totally agree. I would put the M1 and DX7 among the synths with great presets, and quite a few Ensoniq synths among the negatives...
Anyway, I never meant to imply that I didn't *like* to tweak the analogs. I loved it!
I think there was a sort of "golden age" at the time of the Prophet-5 and the OBX-a, when you had one single function for every knob, and also the programmability. The turning point, in my view, was the Rhodes Chroma. With it, you had a lot of power, much more than any other (non-modular) analog, but you had to learn to think one parameter at a time. Of course all the manufacturers learned instantly how to save mountains of money in hardware, and the next step was the DX7. With its combination of new "digital" sound and difficult programming interface, it started a whole new generation of musicians that didn't understand how to get sounds on their instruments. That's how the third-party programmers started, with the support of the new computer memory, cartridges, etc.
That said, I'm really happy that people like Eric Persing do exist! When I find dozens of good sounds in a new synth, it only stimulates me to come up with original sounds with the same quality.

And now a bit of personal diary...
I was working in Japan when the D-50 first came out, so I put my hands on the very first generation. At that time my rig was a piano, a DX7, a JX8P, and the D-50. Guess witch one I was using all the time? The JX8P. A lot of musicians, like me, had problems to adapt to the digital sound, be it sampled, FM, or whatever. Yes, it was a new sound, with harmonics you couldn't get from an analog; but it was also small, static and cold. Now I guess our collective ear is more than tuned to that quality... just food for thought.

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#1039932 - 10/29/00 05:35 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
synthfool@synthfool.com Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 10/18/00
Posts: 113
Loc: Burbank,CA,UNITED STATES
Dave Bryce said
"you were supposed to be a player because there wasn't any other way to make music,"


In my book, that's still true.
So much technology, so little talent...

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#1039933 - 10/30/00 11:37 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Peake Offline
Platinum Member

Registered: 10/13/00
Posts: 1184
Loc: LA, CA, USA
Synthfool wrote: "So much technology, so little talent. :("

Dude, stop picking on me \:\)

Anyhow, programming to me is just a matter of wanting to hear new things and getting to interact with them. I suppose that's a pure 'synthesist' point of view, in terms of feeling that a composition is done when you get a great sound and work it a while. Not that I'm fit to lick his shoes, but Subotnick worked in a purely impressionistic/metaphorical idiom. To convey through pure tone and movement, that is a different skill entirely.

Just directing your attention to an alternate viewpoint.
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#1039934 - 11/22/00 05:35 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Anonymous
Unregistered


I love programming my own sounds, but I regrettably find that I rarely have time to do it these days. Generally, if I'm working on a project, they want it yesterday, and if a preset fits the bill, I use it. However, give me a little time off from paying the mortgage, and being a conscientious parent, and I'll be back in there tweaking away in a minute!

On the other hand, I don't have any problem with people who choose to use primarily presets. Being able to express yourself and communicate via keyboard playing does not necessarily require intimate knowledge of the underlying technology. I can't tune or string a piano, but I think I can play it halfway decently.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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#1039935 - 11/26/00 08:09 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Max Ventura Offline
Gold Member

Registered: 11/13/00
Posts: 511
Loc: Bergamo, Italy
Let us anyway remember that the main target remains the composed musical piece, not the programmed sounds you use to build that up. The music in its entirety goes thru to reach anybody and everybody, no matter their musical or technical knowledge, whereas the individual sounds, timbres, mixing techniques or other details are perceived only by the initiated, if at all.
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#1039936 - 11/29/00 04:54 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Grave Bryce Administrator Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by argomax:
Let us anyway remember that the main target remains the composed musical piece, not the programmed sounds you use to build that up.



Ahh - the old "process vs. product" argument...

I find that the method that I go through to make a certain piece of music is very important and valuable to me. For example, I can definitely get good results doing stuff by myself, but I have so much more fun when I play and record with other people - even other keyboard players. It's not just that I get good results, or better results, or anything like that...I just really like the experience of playing/recording/producing music with other people.

Similarly, I find that in certain moments of inspiration (or the search for same) that the tweaking aspect can really enhance the music-making process for me; and, even if I don't end up with a tune that I want to keep, I might end up with some other results that are satisfying in a whole other way.

dB
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rockit ==> David Bryce Music Funky Young Monks <==rawk


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#1039937 - 12/14/00 12:06 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Anonymous
Unregistered


Personally, I think both arguments (value of prest playing versus value of programming) have their merits. But perhaps the argument itself is going to become less relevant. Both live and recorded music are going to present viable shortcuts to those who don't have a specific technique. If my fingerwork isn't that great, there are arpeggiators and loops. If my sound design isn't great there are presets. I think we artists should do what moves us and what we are good at (i.e. what differentiates us)and satisfice the rest.

Despite the broad availability of technology shortcuts, I don't think it pays to be an averageman. (a little soundesign, a little songwriting, a little production talent, etc.)

Personally I am a little disappointed with myself. I was going to program a little s&h rhythm effect on my AN1x (lfo modulating noize, pitch & sync, maybe), but then I found a Arp 2600 loop in a loop cd, which fit the song. So I just lined up the loop,
pitch shifted it a bit, and completed the song. Kinda like buying from McDonalds, instead of cooking.

I don't want to have an entire party catered by McD's though. That would make me sick.

Cheers,

Jerry

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#1039938 - 12/14/00 06:27 PM Re: Programming own sounds or not??pi
Anderton Offline
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Registered: 01/28/00
Posts: 7379
>>Whie we're on the subject, I really want a synth with an "I-ching" button. Something that I can press that randomizes all of the parameters.<<

A lot of editor/librarian programs do this. As Dave said, everynow and then something very close to cool pops up, then all you need to do is tweak.
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