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Rambling thoughts on coolness


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I'm not sure where this post is headed. There certainly is a point I'm trying to make (albeit a lighthearted one), but I'm not sure what it is.


This is a great time to be a synthesizer enthusiast. I'm sure even greater times are coming, but 2000 - 2005 will be, I predict, historic for people who love synths.


We are at the "big bang" of software synths. It's only this year that I have felt that one didn't need to be a pioneer or maverick to use them in mission-critical environments. A lot of that is because of processor speed, but I think the manufacturers "get it" now.


We have also, I believe, reached the pinnacle of many types of practical synthesis engines in terms of hardware. ROMplers are taking incremental steps instead of huge leaps...this is the sign of maturity, not slowing progress. Dedicated hardware sampling is finished, and that is a good thing...it reached perfection and then was assimilated into other platforms...romplers, software, etc. The VA designers will soon learn that what people want are not perfect emulations of analog (which is a slippery slope, at best). Instead, we expect them to transcend analog synthesis while maintaining its intuitive paradigm. And true analog has shrugged off its "egghead/vintage" reputation...although it's still a boutique item.


So in every direction, we are either at an exciting "birthing" point, or we're witnessing the maturing of a technology. That is totally kickass.


Let me go down my personal list. I'm sure you have your own.



F__king ROMplers. The unholy triangle of performance/price/power, and never the three shall meet. What would you consider the first true imitative ROMpler workstation? M1? ESQ-1? Can you even appreciate the leap we've made from the M1 to the Triton Extreme in terms of usability, power, and sheer storage capacity? The Fantom X is definitely the fulfillment of some nameless Japanese engineer's dream two decades ago. I cannot fathom the frustration felt at having a Fantom-sized vision in a W30-sized world. And the Motif ES? What could I possibly add to the thousands of kudos that would be of any significance?


They no longer need to compromise, and that's really the reason for the apparent jump to coolness. Performance, Price and Power finally can meet, thanks for Moore's Law.


Digital Pianos, Clonewheels

The very fact that we argue about which B3 or Piano sound is better, instead of about which sounds even marginally convincing, is a staggering development. Will it ever be perfect? Of course not. Will the audience notice? Of course not. I think we are two or three product cycles away from a near-perfect B3 emulation. We probably have a decade or so before you see classical guys begrudgingly use digital pianos in some limited non-performance situations.


VA's, Analog, and Esoterica

In this department, you get the engineering cream of the crop...the fatherly (or grandfatherly) American EE's with iconic names (Moog, Smith, Oberheim, Linn), the Japanese megacorp pocket protectors, and the Euro rave dudes who pronounce "synthesis" as "sin-THEE-sis" (that rules). Everytime I see a synth in this broad category, I want to write more music immediately. The synths in this catergory don't need a company surname...they are marketing entities in themselves: Virus, G2, Sunsyn, Monomachine (what a monster), Ion, Voyager, Adrenalinn, Evolver, MOTM...the list goes on and on. I read a post recently complaining that there was nothing new out there...I say look a little harder.




We're standing on a golden road of synth development. We should appreciate where we've been and where we are going.


I'd like to write about software synths, but it's getting late.


Just my 2 cents.

"For instance" is not proof.


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I see two futures for keyboards.


The MEGA Keyboard

This would have EVERYTHING but the kitchen sink in it. Right now you could call it the Fantom X8


The Controller Keyboard

This would be all about keyboard action, feel, and convienent knobs/buttons for settings you customize for. Everything else would be done in a PC/Mac (computer). This would be the ultimate for upgrading sounds, programs, and overall flexibility. Right now you would probably want two computers hooked up incase one failed :) I think this route isn't completely ready yet but it must be getting there--we are talking about "the future".

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Originally posted by Junkstyle:

[QB]I see two futures for keyboards.


The MEGA Keyboard

This would have EVERYTHING but the kitchen sink in it. Right now you could call it the Fantom X8



do you also mean it will have a clone B3 onboard.. because I think that will never happen. looks very inconvenient to me, to have drawbars, pitchwheels and knobs on the same keyboard. that's gonna be heavy :)




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I predict we'll see keyboards that accept modular control surfaces. Want drawbars and B3 controls, just slide in the appropriate control module. Or maybe you need the minimoog knob unit. Just plug it in.


This combined with plug-in sound engine cards, (or load the equivalent software plug-in) might well be the future.


Maybe we'll even be able to disconnect the organ keyboard and attach a weighted keyboard instead! And hopefully all the manufacturers will agree on a common interface standard so we can mix and match sound engines and control modules :D

hang out with me at woody piano shack
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Awesome post 09. :thu:


The manufacturers have delivered. Now it's up to the users to deliver fresh ideas and unique idioms that can capture the imagination of the public. If we want to make the keyboard a desirable instrument, that is. Coolness (now more than ever) is up to us.



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I agree that we live in great times! Those of us who started on Wurlitzer electric pianos and those early Yamaha CPs back in the 1970's welcome the advances.


I'm thrilled to finally be able to use a stage piano that has a very convincing acoustic piano sound. I think the first electric piano that I used was a RMI and it really was horrible. I actually used that on concerts with a big band and it was horrible. We have come a long way.


I am looking forward to attending the Music Fair in Frankfort next April to see and hear what is new under the sun.


(I still get a kick from my cheap Casio wrist watch that keeps accurate time to within a minute or so a month.)

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.


In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.


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Great topic. I really enjoyed reading it. It reminded me of a similar thread I started not long ago, heralding the advances in emulative sounds and how glad I was to no longer depend on a JX-8P for piano sounds! Here is the thread:


We\'ve come a long way...


As for the FUTURE, I speculate...

With wireless technology and high speed connections being so ubiquitous, I can almost envision what the gigs coiuld be like in 2015 - maybe earlier. We'll have this lightweight keyboard that can be anything we want it to be...piano action, waterfall organ action, unweighted synth action...totally customizable. It will have the ability to "connect" with an arsenal of hardware and software, anywhere in the world, but most likely residing in the user's home studio. No longer will portability be a factor. Due to advances in wireless, virtual reality and holography, the user will be able to port instruments from their home studio to the gig...maybe even have a holographic display of these truly virtual instruments! This is kind of crazy, but maybe it could happen! Then, it could become more of a licensing issue rather than a gear ownership issue.


The marketing copy could read like this:

"Here's the opportunity to actually 'play' Nick Rhodes' venerable Jupiter 8 with your band...always wanted to harness the power of Geoff Downes' rig?...well, now you can! Transport any keyboard to the stage without it actually leaving the privacy of your home, thanks to the power of the amazing 'Ronco 24/7 Keyboards on Demand Portal' All you need is the '24/7 Portal' along with proprietary access codes that unlock the vaults of great synthesists around the world...you can even tap into the legendary horsepower of Dave Bryce's Motif ES8 - truly a classic, folks... the '24/7 Portal' is yours Now for 3 low payments of $3,599 each...act now and receive the '24/7 Studio on a Toothpick' free of charge! Unleash the power of today's 2800-track studios in a device small enough to carry in your pocket! This special gift is yours to keep at no obligation, even if you decide you don't want to keep the '24/7 Portal'..."






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