The Model D sucks

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The Model D sucks

Post by 23 » Mon Nov 12, 2007 1:04 pm

I was re-reading "Analog Days" (great bio over synth history with a focus on the Moog company), and something about the Model D struck me strongly in regard to something I'd been discussing with some associates recently.

Basically, apparently when the Model D was released, there was a substantial number of synthesist out there that were disappointed with it.
In a nutshell
"This thing is to limiting. Modulars are far superior"

I can't say I can't understand how/where arguments like this would erupt.

In essence, it's something that I've even found myself in debates on on here at times. And the whole thing seems to be rooted in a matter of "ease" and/or "amount of knowledge needed" Vs. overall timbral capability.
This in and of itself could be arguably boiled down to "what is the point of a synth"

Of course the most simplistic answer is that something should have a very wide timbral capability and a high level of ease (to me, the 777 is the best blend of these two areas I feel I've ever encountered).....but the fact of the matter is, is typically speaking, the more you increase timbral capability, the more you're going to lower "ease"; and the more you raise "ease" the more your going to lower timbral capability.

I think we as syntheist, as was the case even back during the birthing days of the Model D, still tend to tend have a sort of split. Leaning more to one way than the other. Going back in time, I could easily see myself as one of those going "What's the point? Get a modular"
While others I think would have been heralding the D "What's the point of a modular? It becomes to complex and interferes with the music creation process"

In the end I really don't think either side of the fence is wrong.
If synths are viewed first and foremost as a means of creating new sounds to use musically, the "modular" strain wins out. Which in essence, I'd say this has grown into your additdive crowds and else.
However, if synth are to be viewed as a means of simply complementing musical creation without complicating (putting large learning curves up) along the way, I think the "Model D" crowd wins out.

Anyhow, what do you all think?

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Post by Track2 » Mon Nov 12, 2007 2:12 pm

Yeah, Just finished reading the book also.

I was struck by how radical the Buchla camp came accros as.

One reading of the book could be:

Buchla and Moog invent modular synths to create pure new sound forms.

Bob Moog bows to pressure from keyboard players to put a keyboard on the modular.

Its all a sad decline thereon in to synths all being used in a way that makes them sound the same via the use of equal temperament and a small set of popular patches.

(Oh, and the invention of the minimoog didnt help).

:D

Being serious though, my admiration for Buchla grew immensley from reading this book. A true original/outsider/radical iconoclast.

The authors made their point imo that the culture shaped the synth as much as the other way round , and the original intention of the inventors and early practioners has been transmuted by the culture into something wholly different.

Personally, if space and cash allowed, I'd go modular every time and the more complex the better- because my interest is in creating new sound rather than "music" in the conventional sense. And the more complex and sophisticated the synth is in terms of numbers of desinations and sources, together with how you can modulate them, the more sonic posibilities are opened up.

I wonder whether there was ever a time in the 1960s/1970's where serious composers in the avant guarde believed that the classical orchestra was in decline as the means of expression, or whether they knew then that they were operating in a niche, a passing fashion with a technology that would mutate and be used in a totally different way by the culture?

Its an interesting question- why has the classical orchestra/instuments survived as the predominant vehicle for avant guard classical music performance (i'm thinking here of atonal music and also non 12 tone).

There was a time, briefly, I think, where it was not certain at all.

Exciting times I imagine.
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Post by MitchK1989 » Mon Nov 12, 2007 2:15 pm

I like to think I'm at a happy medium when I find a good balance between features and ease of use. Then again I love FM synths, so I guess that does kinda put me in the "modular" camp in this debate, as they aren't exactly as simple to program as a model D.

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Post by Bitexion » Mon Nov 12, 2007 2:59 pm

Rick Wakeman tells a funny story in an interview, on how he got his first Minimoog.

He'd seen it in the stores and was intrigued by it, but couldn't afford buying one. One day he looked at the ads in the paper, someone was selling a Mini for next to nothing. He phoned the guy in disbelief to see if it was real, and it was. The guy thought it was broken, because it would only play a note at a time. Wakeman felt obliged to tell him that it's a monophonic synth, that's what Mono means. Then the guy just said "Then it's of no use to me, I'm a piano player, you can have it".

Just goes to show the confusion that a "piano keyed" monosynth would lead to when they first started coming. People thought it would be some fancy piano.
Last edited by Bitexion on Mon Nov 12, 2007 3:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by theotherleadingbrand » Mon Nov 12, 2007 3:02 pm

I believe part of the reason ease of use would be desired over capability in some cases would have to do with the musician's background. Synthesists are somewhat unique in the sense that their instruments require more understanding than a traditional instrument that you could just pick up and play. Someone crossing over from a traditional instrument may find a modular more complex than what is useful to them in the context of their creative habits. I appreciate that there are those with the knowledge who want to keep covering new ground, whereas I usually want to dial up a sound I like and play. That being said, I do spend a lot of time just fiddling around creating patches. I guess that's where the desire for capability over ease of use has its roots.
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Post by JSRockit » Mon Nov 12, 2007 3:02 pm

As a big fan of minaturization... I would have been very into the Model D over a modular.
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Post by Bitexion » Mon Nov 12, 2007 3:06 pm

Besides, the main selling point was that you'd get a bunch of the moog modular modules all in one box, at a fraction of the price a System 3 or 55 would cost you, which was like buying a house. And no patch cables.

No doubt he struck a golden formula, seeing that nearly every single synth ever released afterwards mimick his basic left-to-right structure of

VCO-mixer-VCF-out w/ a couple surrounding envelope generators.

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Post by Huppo » Mon Nov 12, 2007 3:45 pm

MitchK1989 wrote:I like to think I'm at a happy medium when I find a good balance between features and ease of use. Then again I love FM synths, so I guess that does kinda put me in the "modular" camp in this debate, as they aren't exactly as simple to program as a model D.
So, you found your Model D to be simple to program?

:roll:
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Post by 23 » Mon Nov 12, 2007 4:52 pm

theotherleadingbrand wrote:Synthesists are somewhat unique in the sense that their instruments require more understanding than a traditional instrument that you could just pick up and play. Someone crossing over from a traditional instrument may find a modular more complex than what is useful to them in the context of their creative habits. I appreciate that there are those with the knowledge who want to keep covering new ground, whereas I usually want to dial up a sound I like and play. That being said, I do spend a lot of time just fiddling around creating patches. I guess that's where the desire for capability over ease of use has its roots.
I was speaking to an associate of mine on this very thing just yesterday.
I mean really, synths are probably the one instrument out there that just about EVERY musician knows how to play.
What I mean by that is if you come from a piano back ground, there are keyboard controllers out there for you.
If you come from a guitar back ground, there are means of playing them via guitar.
Wind controllers and on and on it goes.

But there's another aspect to synths outside of that playing aspect, and (as this post dealt with) depending on which side of the fence you lean more towards, how central that aspect is to you is going to greaten or lessen the learning curve. In many respects, I think the sound design aspects of synths can be taken seperately from the playing aspect of synths. Of course those two worlds can converege in various ways, but none the less, you don't need to be adept at sound design to play a synth, and being adept at sound design does not make you fluent in "playing" a synth (which is why I say the two can be seperated).

I think most instruments, are primarily "right" brain based. That is to say, once you get past the basic fundamentals of playing, they very much become emotion/intuitive based. Synths on the other hand, forever remain in this "left" and "right" brain domain. Where the deeper into the sound design aspect you go, the more "left" brained (logic and reason based) you're going to need to be....this is something many would argue is completley "non musical". However, using what you develop via sound design as a means of expression jumps over to the opposite end, and is very "right" brain based.
Those that are EXTREMELY right brained, are likely to bypass sound design all together. "Just give me a bunch of presets so I can dial up a sound and get to expressing". And they arguably lose out on a good bit of what synths are all about (sound design).
Those that are EXTREMELY left brain based are likely to have all sorts of ideas in regard to how to generate new timbres, but will have a hard time using those ideas as a means of expression. So like wise, they lose out on a good bit of what synths are all about (musical expression).

The perfect person is arguably equal parts right and left.....or if not perfect, at least the most "balanced". However, in real life situations, I think it's more likely that most people, even if "fairly balanced" are still going to end up leaning a bit heavier in one direction than the other.

Moog himself, given various statements of his, I believe pretty much stated he was more left sided. He could make the instruments and generate all sorts of ideas, but wasn't as adept at expressing himself as most common "musicians" (at least in his oppinion).

It's weird, as the two sides arguably conflict, but are both integral aspects of what synths are about.

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Post by carbon111 » Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:06 pm

Careful, there is a lot of information in Analog Days that is outright wrong - at least according to some of the people who were actually there. ;)

The original Mini is limited, thats part of its charm. The 777 is very limited too, to my mind it would be a killer synth with a couple of decent EGs...its all relative. My Little Phatty is limited too - it can't do some things the Mini can but it can do plenty it can't. But it dosen't sound like a mini. ;)

My philosophy is that no synth is superflous if it inspires you to make music with it.

...In that regard a cigar box with rubber bands around it sometimes is the best tool for the job :D
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Post by 23 » Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:36 pm

carbon111 wrote:Careful, there is a lot of information in Analog Days that is outright wrong - at least according to some of the people who were actually there. ;)

The original Mini is limited, thats part of its charm. The 777 is very limited too, to my mind it would be a killer synth with a couple of decent EGs...its all relative. My Little Phatty is limited too - it can't do some things the Mini can but it can do plenty it can't. But it dosen't sound like a mini. ;)

My philosophy is that no synth is superflous if it inspires you to make music with it.

...In that regard a cigar box with rubber bands around it sometimes is the best tool for the job :D
The fact that some of the information in Analog Days is wrong is actually pretty obvious. I mean for one, it states numerous times, from the get go, that Moog invented the synthesizer (granted, it contradicts itself a number of times on this statement).
Mentions weird forms of house music like "jungle house" (WTF?)

But the book is just about as accurate as I can imagine anyone would hope to get such a piece to be.

Some of it's statements I don't doubt or question, the idea of people that were then working with modulars having a piece come along that potentially SEVERELY limited their timbral pallete and complaining is one that I don't doubt. To that same end, the idea that a large number of musicians that weren't at all interested in modulars (be it for creative or economical based reasons) did take to the D I also don't doubt (historical record blatantly shows it to be true).

The most centeral points the authors attempt to get across, I believe they were able to remain accurate on and I haven't really seen anything to cross that. Really, the stuff they seem off on are relatively minor things.

In the end, I agree, be it a more leftist approach or a more rightist approach, so long as you're being able to accomplish what you want to accomplish, it's all gravy.

You're 777 comment sorta got me thinking though. I mean I've pretty much had a 7 practically since they hit market (I snapped my first up REAL quickly). So the things have never really felt like this "rare" thing to me....
I loved it from the get go, and my love for it really hasn't increased or decreased since that time. It's been my favorite synth since I first obtained one and remains so now.
However, I'll confess, the amount of persons I've personally (face to face) ran into over the years that also had one has been darn low....in fact, there's literally been only one person.
I'm not really sure if over the years the fact that I've ran into so few has really been a part of my relationship with the instrument or not. Maybe that's part of what sustained me having such a high like of it and not getting bored with it, maybe it's not.....who knows. *shrug*

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Re: The Model D sucks

Post by stillearning » Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:43 pm

23 wrote: Basically, apparently when the Model D was released, there was a substantial number of synthesist out there that were disappointed with it.
In a nutshell
"This thing is to limiting. Modulars are far superior"

I can't say I can't understand how/where arguments like this would erupt.
I can say I don't know how anybody would say this. I was around back then, and never heard anybody say anything like this. I bought a Mini back then, after having played a couple of Moog Modulars. I knew what I was buying. A Moog that I could afford, carry under my arm, and fit in the back seat of my car.

Am I missing something on this?
As always, kindly allow for the possibility I have no idea what I'm talking about.

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Post by theotherleadingbrand » Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:50 pm

Those that are EXTREMELY right brained, are likely to bypass sound design all together. "Just give me a bunch of presets so I can dial up a sound and get to expressing". And they arguably lose out on a good bit of what synths are all about (sound design).
Those that are EXTREMELY left brain based are likely to have all sorts of ideas in regard to how to generate new timbres, but will have a hard time using those ideas as a means of expression. So like wise, they lose out on a good bit of what synths are all about (musical expression).
It sometimes feels as though I've got the worst of both worlds. Either I spend a crazy amount of time coming up with sounds I never use, or I make a composition that would have been awesome if only the tones were better. I guess that makes me no-brained. There are those times though where everything turns out like I envisioned and I feel satisfied just knowing that I own these instruments.
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Post by rjd2 » Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:57 pm

remember, the nuge hopped on EVH's rig once at soundcheck in the early 80s cause he loved his "tone", only to find he sounded exactly like......the nuge.

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Re: The Model D sucks

Post by 23 » Mon Nov 12, 2007 6:09 pm

stillearning wrote:
23 wrote: Basically, apparently when the Model D was released, there was a substantial number of synthesist out there that were disappointed with it.
In a nutshell
"This thing is to limiting. Modulars are far superior"

I can't say I can't understand how/where arguments like this would erupt.
I can say I don't know how anybody would say this. I was around back then, and never heard anybody say anything like this. I bought a Mini back then, after having played a couple of Moog Modulars. I knew what I was buying. A Moog that I could afford, carry under my arm, and fit in the back seat of my car.

Am I missing something on this?
I mean I think part of what needs to be counted into that argument is
"How many people could afford adequate Moog Modular Systems (or modular systems period)?"

I wasn't around back then, so I really can't say one way or the other. But one thing that I can understand from back then was that the amount of people running around with large Modular systems was a pretty small number. Up until the D, sure, it was modulars of some sort that syntheist were using for the most part, however, you were also talking about a relatively small amount of people.

So enter the D....I mean when the authors mentioned various synthesist feeling that way, inherient within that statement is that it was a small number (simply due to the amount of people that were into synthesis back then). Further, not all of them felt that way.

A LARGE number of people felt exactly the same way you did, including a large number of people that, as forementioned, rather it be for economical or creative reasons, hadn't really bothered with synthesis previously.

So the size of the D, it's simplicity, etc. of course that all factored into it's success. I wasn't at all tryign to say that the instrument was rejected (it obviously wasn't), more so pointing out that there had appearently been a number of people in the syntheis world at the time (which inheriently would have been small) that thought the thing was limiting.

The cost of synths has dropped significantly, but one thing I think that has remained, is I think there's an obvoius seperation between those that hold an interest and are willing to put into complex synthesis systems, and those that are into more simplistic (but none the less capable) systems.

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