Discussions about anything analog, digital, MIDI, synth technology, techniques, theories and more.
User avatar
Retired Moderator
Retired Moderator
Posts: 940
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 7:35 pm
Location: Dallas, Texas


Post by braincandy » Sat Jul 07, 2007 11:14 pm

Slow day today, so....

Presets are the debbil, or at least many of us (gearheads on Internet forums) think them to be. I see a lot of griping about presets on message boards and some holier-than-thou attitudes when it comes to using them. I'll admit to using them if I find them useful, but often use them as starting points to tweak my own sounds, too.

What sort of presets would make you happy vs. gnashing your teeth as you scroll through them? What presets would you find the most useful or inspiring or even practical (besides emulations of acoustic instruments)?

Or, would you prefer a synth to come to you as a blank slate, a chunk of metal/plastic/wood to be molded and tinkered with from scratch with no presets at all?

Posts: 37
Joined: Tue Jul 18, 2006 7:07 pm
Location: mpls, mn

Post by hey_timj » Sat Jul 07, 2007 11:25 pm

when i've got a great idea for a track, i don't feel like sitting down for 40 minutes to try and squeeze out the exact sound i need. it's about workflow for me.

having said that, i have no problem sitting down with a synth for 40 minutes getting sounds i want! just not when i'm working on a track.
fender rhodes, moog little phatty, moogerfooger mf-103, mf-105, all going into ableton live 6

User avatar
Analog Freak
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 286
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 5:29 am
Location: Ohio

Post by Analog Freak » Sat Jul 07, 2007 11:42 pm

Presets are fine so long as they can be overwritten. Nothing annoys me more than havings thirty or fourty saxophone patches in ROM that I can't get rid of. I do like having some starting point for editing though, it's pretty hard for me to start a new patch from scratch. Some people seem to be able to get whatever sounds they want with minimal effort and don't use presets at all, but I usually have to work at it, so sometimes I just use presets rather than programming something myself.
"All Your Synthesizers Are Belong To Us!" Literally.

User avatar
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 703
Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:27 pm
Location: Chicago

Post by micahjonhughes » Sun Jul 08, 2007 12:01 am

I completely ignore them. The sound of the patch I use often reflects my ideas more than the notes that are played. Using a preset just wont do. Happily many of my synths came with dead batteries and no presets.

One thing about presets on vintage synths is that they sound dated. If you are in an 80s cover band you're set but otherwise you end up sounding like your in an 80s cover band.

Posts: 35
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 10:15 pm
Location: A beautiful place out in the country

Post by TheBeezus » Sun Jul 08, 2007 12:39 am

I agree that it's all about the workflow. I must confess i've used presets on my fair share of tracks...but it's only people like us that notice these things. The overwhelming majority of listeners don't have a clue. When it comes to arranging, i'm more concerned with doing just that, arranging. I'll spend a few minutes trying to find a preset that's fairly close to what i'm trying to achieve...continue arranging and after i'm satisfied, THAT'S when I really go to work. A lot of times I will just tweak parameters to make them completely my own, or sometimes just slightly different...but a lot of the times it's just a glorified preset. Guilty as charged hahaha. I'm a big fan of randomization features, I've often acquired some interesting tones that way. I'm more interested in the arrangement, In creating something new rather than spending hours getting the perfect tone on every sound before i ever get started. But it takes all kinds i suppose.

Posts: 35
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 10:15 pm
Location: A beautiful place out in the country

Post by TheBeezus » Sun Jul 08, 2007 12:49 am

Oops, forgot to respond to braincandy's question. I think there would be a lot less negativity towards presets if the companies would just take a chance & put some freakin life in them. I think from a business perspective it would be financially justifiable, because if you were the company that had the balls to just go crazy with your soundset, you would stand out to potential customers. Most of the sounds on even modern synths are still the most vanilla, whitebread kind of sounds that are just okay ( or a lot of times even have the " Are they serious? " in are they seriously going to load a rompler with all these hits & chords ? you can tell i've got an E-MU right ) I can only guess the sound designers leave these middle of the road presets to serve as previously stated, as a reference point. But sometimes it'd be nice to have some presets that aren't so lacking. I would prefer for modern analogs to have as few presets as possible, because with analogs, sound design is the adventure. As a side note, does anyone else feel that soft synths in particular are notoriously overloaded with all these b.s. patches that just make it harder to find the needle in the hay?

User avatar
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 203
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 12:14 pm
Location: Fitzroy

Post by MissionBrown » Sun Jul 08, 2007 12:55 am

I'll go through 'em and see whats what, then delete what I don't like.
Generally most things are deleted.
I like making sounds. Sometimes I come up with stuff that isn't as good as the presets.
Other times they can be a lot wilder.

I usually look for really nice basics like Organ and Strings since I use 'em a lot. Rhodes emulations annoy the pantaloons off me though.

User avatar
Posts: 19
Joined: Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:06 pm
Location: Komet Vector Reverence

Post by psiapir » Sun Jul 08, 2007 1:06 am

Preset patches are just a great vantage point to understanding the sonic 'supremacy' of the synth... However, I'm not saying these need to be the best reflection and example of the engine's capacity.. eg JX10. The synth is such a great pad machine.... yet as for preset patches pads are scarce..good though... They often come as an inspiration... or auxiliary tones. All in all, most of JX patches suck..
I usually make sounds based on some other random (yet done) presets... working things out from scratch sometimes simply feels too dry and accidental (sorry guys. no sound designer here.. I still take it more as fun)... Furthermore, preset sounds can be a complementary factor to your own deeds... I did commit some nice sounds, but adding layer of preset boosted them a bit (either acting as backstage filler or snap-attack to a layer).

If you have no hard time coping with presets in terms of principles.. and you obviously find any of those nice to yur ear... they're a great virtue, period!

btw.. a nice thread you've done :P

Roland Alpha Juno 1 | Roland Super JX + pg800

User avatar
Expert Member
Expert Member
Posts: 1390
Joined: Sun Oct 09, 2005 1:31 pm


Post by Yoozer » Sun Jul 08, 2007 1:49 am

braincandy wrote: What sort of presets would make you happy
Any. Doesn't matter, really. Part of 'm should be bread & butter, part of 'm should be showing off technical tricks. Can't please everyone, and certainly not such a fickle, picky group as the fanatics.

The synth's range of sounds is an ocean. Presets are the islands you can jump off from and swim to wherever you like.
Or, would you prefer a synth to come to you as a blank slate, a chunk of metal/plastic/wood to be molded and tinkered with from scratch with no presets at all?
You wouldn't sell anything with that; but if you do, make patch sharing stupidly obvious and encourage it. It's a simple fact that if you include nothing, those not interested in programming (never underestimate that amount) are simply not going to buy it.

Even preset-less synths had patch sheets showing settings for common usage. That's a pretty obvious indicator that you need a starting point somehow.
"Part of an instrument is what it can do, and part of it is what you do to it" - Suzanne Ciani, 197x.

User avatar
Posts: 811
Joined: Sat Apr 29, 2006 4:46 am
Real name: WD
Location: Neverwhere

Post by WDW » Sun Jul 08, 2007 2:25 am

In general, I tend to have a visceral reaction to brass and EP presets. Everything else I either like or am neutral towards. For whatever reason, I have never liked brass or EP. Don't know why.

I'm certainly not opposed to using presets, but, given the opportunity, I prefer to create my own unique patches, which I believe make my works sound different from everyone else's.

And, yes, presets make a convenient launching platform for quickly creating a new sound, which will share a lot of the same parameters.

Admittedly, I am one of those nerds who truly enjoys sitting down to an ARP 2600 and just starts patching and sliding and tweaking sounds from scratch. [Same with starting with init patches on modern programmable synths.] There is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from deriving sound from nothing.



No Longer Registered

Post by hearttimes » Sun Jul 08, 2007 5:15 am

in some cases, such as with aturia's moog modular, it is unlikely i would have gotten any sounds at all out it myself for quite sometime without the presets.

the real arp 600 was that way too.

of course there's no better way to learn than with experiment, but you'dre gonna need time, brother.

Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2007 2:01 am

Stop the madness

Post by kraster » Sun Jul 08, 2007 5:51 am

The problem with most presets is that too often they're A: Outdated B: c**p C: Emulating another synth badly.

I realise this maybe because marketing people will always often opt for the safest option. ie. Synth Brass, Analog strings, Moog Bass and that awful "Lucky Bastard" patch that always seems to crop up. Is it some kind of joke? Not to mention the plethora of toe-curling Mid-80s nonsense that seem to make up the majority of presets.

It's worth bearing in mind that many of the large synth manufacturers are trying to appeal to a mainstream customer base so many of the sounds will have "generic synth" written all over them and also whatever music is in vogue at the time will surely feature heavily in the presets.

But, having said that, it still amazes just how whack and off-target the majority of presets are. Particularly when you are dealing with boutique synths that are aimed at the more discerning customers.

Considering presets are the first point of contact people have with a synth it would be good to have a decent and representative collection of sounds at your disposal. The least the manufacturers could do is spare us the moments of mortification when we accidently select the digital pan-pipes patch in the middle of a gig. :oops:
Alesis A6 Andromeda, Arp Odyssey, Moog Micromoog, Polyvox, Yamaha AN1-X, Elektron Machinedrum, MPC 2000, MPC 2000xl, Akai Z8, Wurlitzer EP200, Nord Modular, Novation Bass Station, Metasonix Hellfire Modulator, Akai MFC 42, Roland RE201.

User avatar
Posts: 39
Joined: Sat Mar 11, 2006 8:57 pm

Post by Megatron » Sun Jul 08, 2007 6:04 am

When it comes to subtractive synthesis, I tend to really prefer programming from scratch, and even get annoyed having to work from presets if the knobs' positions aren't apparent. When I get my hands on a synth, or my mouse on a softsynth, I like to really dig into it and designate the parameters of every link in the sound-producing chain myself. If I can do this easily, the existence of presets isn't bothersome, but more or less irrelevant.

User avatar
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 166
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2006 10:06 pm
Location: Wicklow, Ireland

Post by kk994 » Sun Jul 08, 2007 1:57 pm

I don't like/use presets. I think that even if you make a crappy patch at least it has character and doesn't sound like somebody elses and it doesn't have this professional lowest common denominator sheen.

I find it quicker to patch from scratch :)

Also synths tend to be the focus point and not the backdrop in my tunes so they have to have a little me in there. I mean I can understand using presets in rock or pop where the synth is just a backing but in primarily synth driven music, for me, you have to roll your own :)

Does that make me a snob? Am I now an elitist?

User avatar
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Nov 01, 2006 1:12 pm
Location: Newcastle

Post by williamharris » Sun Jul 08, 2007 2:07 pm

Much as though I dig my trance, too many presets are dance-orientated nowadays if you ask me.
Yamaha QY70, Akai MPC 1000, korg Poly-61, Roland Alpha Juno

Post Reply