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Time for another "NEXT BIG THING?"


Dan South

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Sample playback is becoming a mature technology. Some of the new sample libraries are amazing, and I'm enjoying the ease of use of the ones that come bundled with their own plug-in style instrument (East West Symphonic Orchestra, Bösendorder 290, et al.).

 

Further, physical modelling has worked well in the replication of analog synths, electric pianos, organs, and some other instruments. There are areas where physical modelling has a lot of room to grow still, but it's becoming mature in the subcategory of keyboard emulations.

 

So, what's next? We seem to have a discussion like this about once a year. What are the promising new technologies? What will they do for us? What technical advances are required to bring them to market? How long will that take? What controllers will we use with them?

 

Also, what technologies seemed promising a year or two ago but don't look as though they'll pan out anytime soon (if at all)?

 

What is the "NEXT BIG THING?"

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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I dont know if it will be the next big thing (as a matter of fact, I doubt it! ;) ), but I would like to see a synthesizer based on the concepts behind orthogonal wavelet transforms as pioneered by Ingrid Daubechies.

 

In fact, some these synthesis algorithms already exist in Prosoniq PowerWORX for the Mac, and may also be at work in the Hartmann Neuron (which also uses fuzzy logic for sound analysis).

 

So please, Yamaha, with your pioneering spirit and chip fab, make a commercial synth based on these lovely wavelets...but please let Elektron design the user interface and operating system! :D

Go tell someone you love that you love them.
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In my opinion, weird types of synthesis have little more scope to expand further (commercially speaking) simply because most areas of sound production (if not all of them) are covered, and covered very well; in fact, the pretty inconsequential attention that innovative software/hardware synths got recently (Virsyn Tera & Cube, the Neuron, Steinberg Plex and others made very small riddles in music world) explains that probably the wider majority of the purchasing public hasn't even learnt to deal with ordinary S/S yet. Also, this "urgent need" for extremely innovative sounds and techniques ( octagonal wavelet transfwhat?) is questionable in the first place: as many people say, "the song comes first".

 

In my opinion, as I stated in a post on this very forum 4 years ago, we will see the birth of synthesized vocals (and I believe something of the sort was recently introduced by Zero-G and Yamaha), both in virtual-reality and as an add-on to real vocals. Also, virtual acoustic and electric instruments should move into their maturity with the appearance of physical versions of their software or desktop counterparts.

 

Pretty soon some software processor will be able to absolutely isolate a single sound or part out of a full mix, for remix purposes for example. Imagine something like lifting Jimbo's vocals right off Strange Days or L.A. Woman and totally rebuilding the music underneath.

 

Finally, I think that active paper will be introduced: I've been saying this for 5 years. A type of paper which, like an LCD screen, carries a matrix and its contents are moving and dynamic.

This latter might be off-topic but what the hell.

Max Ventura, Italy.
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It seems odd that while polyphony has skyrocketed, multitimbrality and sequencer tracks have not. Somewhat surprising some of the limitations that are still very much accepted.

 

Don't know what the next big thing will be - overall it seems that synths have matured to the point that it's more about sound/feel than just specs - which is cool.

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I hope we're finally ready for a good implementation of harmonic resynthesis. I've been waiting for this for 20 years, and witnessed many of the attempts to build this kind of instrument, from the Axcel to the Synclavier resynthesis sub-program to the Kyma to the aborted F.A.R./Oberheim thing that was developed at IRCAM in Paris, then, to my understanding, killed by Gibson... :cry:

 

Researches were somewhat stopped in the 90's. At that time, it was already clear that what was needed was to develop an efficient way to separate the noise from the harmonic components during the analysis process, *then* an efficient way to rebuild it with a separate generator.

Well, the new CA 5000 from Camel Audio does exactly that, and I can't wait to try it. I was about to buy the 'serious' computer and soundcard I would need to run the CA 5000 - the program was on the top of the list. But I bought an Andromeda instead, so that has to wait a little bit more... I strongly hope it's going to be what many electronic musicians ar waiting for: The technology which closes the gap between sampling and synthesis. Timbral changes will use interpolation algorithms - no more velocity switching. And I will be useful for both imitative synthesis *and* for creating new sounds.

Plus, it's controllable and predictable, unlike phisical modeling. Sure, you have thousands of parameters to set, but a good macro implementation should help. :D

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Perhaps the next innovations will come in the form of controllers, real or computerized. The Vocaloid LOLA and LEON, for instance, have a graphical interface customized for the specification of vocal inflection. Perhaps we'll see similar programs for sax, strings, brass, guitar, etc. Standard keyboard/synth controllers aren't going to simulate accurately a violin's vibrato, a trumpet player's fingers pushing valves alternately slowly or quickly, a sax player overblowing the reed (in varying amounts, not just a sample of the effect), and a million other examples of "real player" nuance.

 

Maybe the samples now are as good as they can possibly be and it's time to look in new directions for realism. That said, some sort of resynthesis algorithm that modifies and combines sample data in real time might open doors to a new level of expressive playing, both to emulate natural instruments and to create new possibilities that don't exist in the physical world.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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I think there's room to do a lot more with modeling than we're doing, particularly physical modeling (I think we've got the analog synth modeling down - I'm waiting now for the models of synths that everyone hated - early Korgs, RX-21...). We've got so much processing speed and power now that those old Yam boards should come cheap -- and multitimbral. Or at least polyphonic, fercryinoutloud... ;)

 

The Tassman's fine as far as it goes, but there's still some cool stuff to be done.

 

Shifting gears, I really thought the Noah would make a bigger splash, too. Still on my when-my-ship-come-in list.

 

Yeh, midi 2.0 would be cool, too.

 

Daf

I played in an 8 piece horn band. We would often get bored. So...three words:

"Tower of Polka." - Calumet

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It needs to be applied to grand piano, and other acoustic instruments. We've now had many generations of sampling, and it still has significant shortcomings. Time to travel the evolutionary path of many generations of modeling, and see what happens.

 

Originally posted by DafDuc:

I think there's room to do a lot more with modeling than we're doing, particularly physical modeling

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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I think we could all get behind improvements in cost effectiveness passed onto US the consumers!

 

Can you just see the ads?

 

"All this, for under $100? That's right!"

 

Of course, there's some snobbery attached to low priced gear. I wonder if quality gear could sell at budget gear prices?

 

:confused:

 

Carl

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I agree that the synth/keyboard/MIDI industry segment needs a "next big thing". I think software synthesis, although indispensible, has really reduced the desire for risk-taking on the hardware end of things. I think the next wildly popular innovation (on the level of Minimoog, DX-7, Acid, Reason, Autotune, etc) will come from the computer software industry.

 

That being said, I think we are all being a bit complacent when settling for the quality level of hardware these days. I think VA's are AWESOME in theory...it would be great to have a Minimoog in a one space rack...but, as Marino showed in his frequent reports, we're not there yet. Yes, we are close, but "usable" doesn't equal "best".

 

Another area is drums. Luckily for manufacturers, the listening audience has learned to accept electronic drums, and that's certainly not a bad thing, but it has made individual realistic drum hits a low priority. I think Roland's drum models are very expressive and usable...but realistic? Come on...

 

Maybe it WILL take MIDI 2.0, with 1024 controller units or more, to prompt designers to move ahead into creating more expressivity. I love my VL-1, but I'd never use it to replace a sax, even though I use the sax sound all the time.

 

So let me ask an additional question...does anyone have any insight as to the viability of a new MIDI spec? Insiders that I've talked to keep talking about resistance from a few manufacturers.

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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In last years MIDI 20 Years Old article in Keyboard, they discuss the road blocks that stymie the next version of MIDI.

 

Mostly due to failure to agree on commonality.

 

However, the same article suggested that if a few core companies (i.e., Microsoft, Apple, Yamaha, Roland, Korg, Creative) got together and hashed it out for a year the log jam could be crashed.

 

I'd like to see the 1ms latency barrior finally cracked. Perhaps a parrallel solution (MIDI information travels in series). A bidirectional ability via USB would be nice.

 

There is tons of room for greater MIDI implimentation.

 

Carl

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I'm still waiting for Yamaha to pick up the ball it dropped after the SY-99 and refurbish FM synthesis. The FS1R made gorgeous sound but was severely crippled by perhaps the worst interface ever for a synth with such programming depth. I remember reading one musician's comment that trying to program the FS1R was like trying to decorate a mansion by reaching through the letterbox. And then Yamaha had those "groovebox" DX-200. And they have their DX plug-in module, with only 16-note polyphony and only 1 (one!) part multitimbral. Where is the 2004 version of the DX-7??? Native Instruments has one of the best selling software synths with the FM-7. If Yamaha would simple re-package the DX-7 but with a bigger screen, many dedicated switches and knobs, add a few insert effects, 4- or 8-part multi-timbrality, a few hundred user patch slots, and maybe an arpeggiator or two, and they'd have another *HUGE* mega-seller on their hands. So I don't think "new" synthesis is necessary; simply bringing "old" synthesis up-to-date, which in itself would open up new worlds of possibilities Again, this is like Native Instruments has done with FM-7, and which is what Yamaha should have done a long time ago but in a hardware version.
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I'm surprised at how much this discussion has focused on imitating other instruments.

 

I'd hope that the next big thing for Synthesizers would not really aim to do what other instruments already can, but rather what they can't.

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Originally posted by felix.:

I'm surprised at how much this discussion has focused on imitating other instruments.

 

I'd hope that the next big thing for Synthesizers would not really aim to do what other instruments already can, but rather what they can't.

Thank you!!! :thu:
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The FS1R made gorgeous sound but was severely crippled by perhaps the worst interface ever for a synth with such programming depth. I remember reading one musician's comment that trying to program the FS1R was like trying to decorate a mansion by reaching through the letterbox.
Why not a user-interface so good that pulling up a preset is only the starting point of getting the sound you want? An interface like what the Surface-One wanted to be, but couldn't... An interface that really lets you play the sounds, as well as the notes...
"shit" happens. Success Takes Focus.
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Originally posted by marino:

Originally posted by felix.:

I'm surprised at how much this discussion has focused on imitating other instruments.

 

I'd hope that the next big thing for Synthesizers would not really aim to do what other instruments already can, but rather what they can't.

Thank you!!! :thu:
Every synth, even the most simple model, does things that natural instruments can't do. No natural instrument can make the sound of a square wave being modulated by a low pass or high pass filter.

 

Realism, on the other hand, is a practical application of synth technology and one that can still be improved by leaps and bounds.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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Originally posted by Togakure:

What ever happened to the Surface One? :confused: I must've missed it.

Brett, the surface one just died on the vine. Never came to market. Moog Voyager was supposed use Tactex technology as well, and ended up using a pad that Bob had already designed. I was looking forward to it. :(

 

Dan, If there is a next big thing for me, it would be in the interface and ergonomics.

 

- Generally speaking we have great sound engines in the market, especially if one uses a modular approach to match best of breed.

 

- I'd like to see digital I/O, so that we can get more modular without a lot of D/A conversion.

 

- The keyboard actions are at 90% to me. I'd like them to capture more than MIDI is currently capturing. Release velocity is important. I'd like # of notes to be a midi controller (Note density), so that voicings can become the art form they are on the acoustic piano. (Imagine multiplying # of notes controller by the Note # after processing each through a mapping curve of some sort to focus the attention on mid-range nuance.)

 

- Speaking of which, I'd like to see more math operations for the Continuous controllers. The ability to map a controller through a non-linear curve is key. You cannot have adequate control of a sweet-spot (say the double semitone mark) unless the controller "tends" toward the sweet spot as natural interfaces do. Currently, these are typically provided for velocity only.

 

- More than 128 steps please. (But that belongs in a different thread.) :)

 

- The physical controllers (joysticks, wheels) should begin to include tactile resistance where possible. If one can program the resistance, that would be even better.

 

- A good tactex implementation would rock. It's always been a source of irony for me, that we keyboardists practice finger technique for the keyboard, but the physical controllers (wheels, ribbons) are generally 1 per hand. Wouldn't it be richer to have a surface/object configuration that allows our already developed finger independance to be used.

 

The ill-fated Surface One's descendants (if they ever appear) would allow (for example):

 

- your left thumb to retrigger a pitch envelope (blip, blip)

- your 2nd finger to handle vibrato and pitch bend(as on a small ribbon)

- your 3rd finger to move up and down on the pad, like a slider, perhaps opening the filter.

- your palm pressure to act as a second aftertouch, perhaps adding delay feedback or moprhing the sound.

- etc...

 

As long as the synth engine could accomodate it.

 

As in all things, it would be better if someone actually designed one or more ergonomic models that favor certain idiomatic usages, rather than giving us a blank canvas of controllers. The different fingers of the human hand do different things well. We should use that information.

A couple of models could be:

 

- the "Bel Canto" ergonomic model (for sustained and lead sounds). Control of pitch (vibrato), tone and volume over time become key. As well as attack, in some cases.

 

- the "sequence" model (for triggering loops, scratching, stop/start, loops selection, loops volumes, etc.)

 

Best,

 

Jerry

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Originally posted by rylos:

Why not a user-interface so good that pulling up a preset is only the starting point of getting the sound you want? An interface like what the Surface-One wanted to be, but couldn't... An interface that really lets you play the sounds, as well as the notes...

These have existed since the 60s - they are called analog synths. They have descendants, called virtual analog synths. I have one.... it has about 20 knobs and 30 sliders and pitch & mod controls and a ribbon. Call up a preset, press a key, and start playing with those knobs/sliders/ribbons/etc. You can really play the sounds! Try one sometime.

 

And yes, the ability do do what other instruments cannot do is the whole point of a synth. BTW, in addition to filtering a square wave, one of the things synths do well that others cannot is imitate other instruments. Ever try using a glockenspiel to imitate a trumpet?

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Originally posted by Dan South:

Originally posted by marino:

Originally posted by felix.:

I'm surprised at how much this discussion has focused on imitating other instruments.

 

I'd hope that the next big thing for Synthesizers would not really aim to do what other instruments already can, but rather what they can't.

Thank you!!! :thu:
Every synth, even the most simple model, does things that natural instruments can't do. No natural instrument can make the sound of a square wave being modulated by a low pass or high pass filter.

 

Realism, on the other hand, is a practical application of synth technology and one that can still be improved by leaps and bounds.

I just don't think that realistically imitating other instruments should be the synth holy grail. I think its purpose as an instrument should first be to be its own instrument in its own right - not primarily an imitative device.

 

I think there is plenty of opportunity in UI intuitiveness and removing long-accepted limitations (multitimbrality, 128 steps, sequencer tracks, polyphony) and making truly musical instruments that enhance, rather than get in the way of, the creative process.

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  • 1 year later...
Originally posted by swandiver:

I'm still waiting for Yamaha to pick up the ball it dropped after the SY-99 and refurbish FM synthesis. The FS1R made gorgeous sound but was severely crippled by perhaps the worst interface ever for a synth with such programming depth. I remember reading one musician's comment that trying to program the FS1R was like trying to decorate a mansion by reaching through the letterbox. And then Yamaha had those "groovebox" DX-200. And they have their DX plug-in module, with only 16-note polyphony and only 1 (one!) part multitimbral. Where is the 2004 version of the DX-7??? Native Instruments has one of the best selling software synths with the FM-7. If Yamaha would simple re-package the DX-7 but with a bigger screen, many dedicated switches and knobs, add a few insert effects, 4- or 8-part multi-timbrality, a few hundred user patch slots, and maybe an arpeggiator or two, and they'd have another *HUGE* mega-seller on their hands. So I don't think "new" synthesis is necessary; simply bringing "old" synthesis up-to-date, which in itself would open up new worlds of possibilities Again, this is like Native Instruments has done with FM-7, and which is what Yamaha should have done a long time ago but in a hardware version.

Hello,

 

Question? is it worthied to get a used Yamaha SY-99 now for around $750?

 

Thanks..

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I for one would like to see signifance improvements in the development of the keytar. Even the cheapest keyboards these days have a somewhat decent sound, so why does my keytar still have to sound like a battery-powered Casio from the 1980s? Plus, the action is a mess on those things.

 

What I want: the Nord Keytar. They've already proven that they can put the technology in a small enough and light enough package. Now let's make it happen.

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Originally posted by Bridog6996:

I for one would like to see signifance improvements in the development of the keytar.

You and perhaps a handful of others. I highly doubt any such product will be marketed again in the near future. Perhaps a continuation of a current product (is Roland still squeezing out AX-1 remotes?), but I can't for the life of me see any manufacturer of note investing any time or money into a new remote keyboard[/i].

 

There was barely a market for them in the 80's when keyboards were in vogue... maybe in 5-10 years when the 80's resurface as the hot 'new' trend (Madonna seems to be trying to drag late-70's disco back to the mainstream, I'm assuming Flock Of Seagulls haircuts will return in 2010 :rolleyes: ).

 

Until then, the target market for remote keyboards will remain incredibly limited (no matter how many forum members voice their desire for one... all the members of this forum together represent a paltry percentage of the target market that manufacturers are looking at when creating new products).

 

Cheers,

SG

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