Programming and Patches from a beginner perspective?

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Programming and Patches from a beginner perspective?

Post by evanb » Fri May 02, 2008 3:21 pm

So Im shopping around for my first synth and would like to get some more info on what exactly programming consists of. One of the synths im looking at the alesis micron people say are difficult to program since its a very difficult to use interface. it does come with allot of presets though.

I considered a alesis ion or a nord lead 2x due to the fact that people say these are easier to program. But my question is will i nend to program?

I am getting a synth to add some synth lines, some drum lines and bass lines to my electronic music at home and use in ableton live. i do not know how to play a keyboard or piano and do not plan on learning how or using the synth in that matter. So should programming ability be a deter ming factor?

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Post by CS_TBL » Fri May 02, 2008 3:32 pm

Here's *the* advantage of programming:

Factory presets usually suck. :D

Whether a synth is easy or difficult to tweak can be explained in two ways:

1) The user doesn't know what he's doing, has no knowledge of basic synth theory. If a synth is easy to program (e.g. lots of kobs and faders to fiddle with) then by just pushing and twisting some of those, the user can soon find out what all things do. And even when the user still doesn't know know the theory behind it, being able to change a parameter here and there at least enables him to change the sound a bit. If a synth is hard to program however (a DX7 for instance), then the user will probably resort to factory presets (which suck :P).

2) The user knows what he's doing, has knowledge of synth theory. In this case having an easy synth is nice, and a less easy synth is only going to annoy a bit, but in theory it'd still be very well possible to make your own patches. E.g., if you know how FM synthesis works and you've used it for years than a DX7 may be a bit of an uncomfortable synth, but it'd surely be possible to make something out of it. It's more a matter finding the relevant parameters.. That's also rather comparable with the Roland JV/XV series. Once you've programmed one you can operate many, it may only be a case of finding where the relevant parameters are, but after that it's 'off you go'.
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Post by Jack Spider » Fri May 02, 2008 8:04 pm

Ultimately, it will be you who decides whether you 'need' to program your synth. The first question you must ask yourself is:

Are you satisfied with the preset sounds?

If the presets do the job then you don't 'need' to program. If you choose not to program then ask yourself:

Are you bothered by the fact that many others will be using the same presets as you?

If this something that will bother you, then learning to program your synth will give you a better chance of sounding different from everyone else using the same instrument.

Don't feel pressured into programming your own sounds - outside this community, nobody cares whether you've created sounds from scratch or used factory presets. What is important is that you are enjoying your new instrument - you can start programming any time you want.

If you do decide to start programming, start small - learn what most of the commonly-used parameters do. Make basic tweaks to presets and as your confidence grows, create a 'blank' patch, which consists of a basic tone - a sawtooth, for example - and then use it as a blank canvas for creating a new patch. A good exercise is attempting to recreate synth sounds from your favourite bands from scratch.

Programming is a worthwhile pursuit as you can have just as much fun (if not more) creating new sounds as playing - especially if you aren't too good at playing. A fellow I recently introduced to synths bought a Roland SH-201 and is having a lot of fun just creating sounds while he learns to play!
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Post by clubbedtodeath » Fri May 02, 2008 9:27 pm

Sterling advice from the good Jack Spider.

Tweaking presets is how I started on my Nord, after which I decided to read a bit to explain the theory, and within a few months I was quite comfortable with creating patches.

The great thing is, is that this is a skill you can take with you to other synths.

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Re: Programming and Patches from a beginner perspective?

Post by Yoozer » Sat May 03, 2008 10:23 am

evanb wrote:But my question is will i nend to program?
You're doing yourself a disservice if you don't.

A Nord costs $1000. You get what, a few hundred presets? You pay $2 per preset.

By programming your own, you reduce that cost vastly.
i do not know how to play a keyboard or piano and do not plan on learning how or using the synth in that matter. So should programming ability be a deter ming factor?
You might as well skip on everything and just get Live and a sample CD with construction sets.

No, it's not necessary to learn how to program if you can pay others to do so, but you'll bleed money and you only get what THEY think you want, not what YOU want.

No, it's not necessary to learn how to play a keyboard, but it's infinitely easier if you know at least the basics. Few things are as frustrating as trying to find the next note or next chord that fits and not knowing how to do it. No, you don't have to learn how to read notes, but if you can't determine the notes by ear you're closing yourself off of centuries of music.

It's all knowledge. Knowledge only makes you richer as an artist and a person. To those who claim that knowledge stifles them, it's purely their lack of creativity and the inability to look beyond what's right in front of them.

tl:dr; version: take the effort to learn stuff. It's not scary, it's not hard, it's a lot cheaper and infinitely more rewarding.
"Part of an instrument is what it can do, and part of it is what you do to it" - Suzanne Ciani, 197x.

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Post by sacredcow » Mon May 05, 2008 12:16 am

No one needs to program, but if you start to a bit and get the hang of it, there's an adequate chance you'll never use presets again. I really doubt I'd own synths if you couldn't program them. Imo, there's something really satisfying about being able to create your own original, complex timbres. It makes the music feel more like your own. Also, a lot of electronic music is built off of timbral evolution moreso than musical progression and because of this a basic programming knowledge is kind of essential.
Oh, and programming is FUN!
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