Why do presets universally suck?

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by hfinn » Sun Aug 10, 2008 7:36 pm

Also to say that those same musicians might need to call up a sound on a second's notice. Literally. Just because they might now how to make the sound doesn't mean that hitting two buttons is wrong when you're in the middle of a show. I think some people are forgetting that a lot of it is musicianship that matters, not how quickly someone can dial in a trumpet sound. Both have their place, but if you're in the middle of a concert in front of 20,000 (or even 200) people, the rest of the band (or audience) won't want to sit and wait while you tweak your piano patch.
Last edited by hfinn on Sun Aug 10, 2008 7:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Sun Aug 10, 2008 7:36 pm

griffin avid wrote:At the end of the day, I'm not sure my audience cares whether or not I surfed presets or made every sound from scratch.
Well, I don't know who your audience is, but it seems like this statement might be in contrast with the philosophy portrayed in your quote.
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by WDW » Sun Aug 10, 2008 8:41 pm

I am sooooo sick of my one Hoover preset. It really does suck.
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by sensorium » Sun Aug 10, 2008 10:12 pm

Let me clear something up. I asked this question just to hear your opinions. I would still make my own patches even if the presets were fantastic. After years of synth reviews exclaiming "Make sure to program your own sounds, the presets are horrible", or "Don't judge the synth by it's presets" it made me wonder WHY?

If I were a synth designer who spent lots of $$$$ designing a synth from the ground up, I would be damn sure that the presets would make a buyer excited to make the investment.

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by WDW » Sun Aug 10, 2008 11:42 pm

But therein lies the dilemma. I've heard folks rave about presets on certain machines, but those presets were horrific to me. Not that the programming of the patches was bad but, rather, that those particular patches (and associated genre of music) were not my preference. Ironically, the patches that they thought were lame happened to be the ones that I liked. It's completely subjective.

By the way, last year, this same topic was discussed, and several professional sound designers who make patches for various vendors contributed to the discussion. They all said that there is no pleasing everyone all the time. Thus, they make a variety of patches to try to appeal to a wide audience.

What ends up happening is that, rather than be appeased by the patches that appeal to a particular person, he rants about how the majority of patches "suck."

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by griffin avid » Mon Aug 11, 2008 1:42 am

Well, I don't know who your audience is, but it seems like this statement might be in contrast with the philosophy portrayed in your quote.

Which aspect are you referring to?
I don't think patch storage or 'saving my work' is linked to the mastery of my tool set.
That's a personal choice.


It's one thing to not use a preset because it doesn't fit and it's another thing to make an 'artistic statement' or to create a rule for yourself that you will never use a preset no matter what.

As far as any audience goes, well, what would they know? Or better yet, how would they know?
If I bought a bloefeld and used it's presets, who would know unless you owned one. How many buyers of your record(s) would know if you Mastered The Programming of the Roland D-50 or used a JV80 preset?

For 90% of my synths, I have no problem competing with the original sound designers. I'll dump my sounds in the same global library and skim through tham all without prejudice.
My soft editor/librarian rarely ports over the actual patch names so I rename them all as I see fit. That means 'searing Lead 16' could be a patch I made or a preset. I look at it as best sound wins.


Some peoples music is dominated by sound design. It's really cool/evolving/layered/complex/etc sounds over a beat. For others it's composition based.

And lastly thgere are a number of synths that have great engines, but are a nightmare to program.
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by monolith » Mon Aug 11, 2008 2:51 am

I love frogman. It sounds like something from a ween song. 8)

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Mon Aug 11, 2008 4:16 am

griffin avid wrote:Well, I don't know who your audience is, but it seems like this statement might be in contrast with the philosophy portrayed in your quote.

Which aspect are you referring to?
I don't think patch storage or 'saving my work' is linked to the mastery of my tool set.
That's a personal choice.
When you use the term "preset," are you talking about your own patch storage, or the patches created by engineers and included in various synths?

Your quote talks of creativity and equipment mastery... which is pretty much the reason a person would want to create their own patches instead of using those provided by the synth manufacturer, is all.
griffin avid wrote:It's one thing to not use a preset because it doesn't fit and it's another thing to make an 'artistic statement' or to create a rule for yourself that you will never use a preset no matter what.
It doesn't have to be a postmodern decision about specific process, it can just be the situation where you want to be responsible for all creative content in your work. Of course, as I've said, being responsible for patch creation in modern synths isn't particularly fun, or in some cases, necessary.
griffin avid wrote:As far as any audience goes, well, what would they know? Or better yet, how would they know?
If I bought a bloefeld and used it's presets, who would know unless you owned one. How many buyers of your record(s) would know if you Mastered The Programming of the Roland D-50 or used a JV80 preset?
I think you might be doing your audience a disservice. Most people may not be able to tell whether you're using a specific preset, but they may be able to distinguish whether you're creating a unique sound or not. I tend to think it's better to aim not at those who can't tell, but at the few who can.
(which is not to say that great/unique/etc. music can't be made from presets, of course!)
griffin avid wrote:And lastly thgere are a number of synths that have great engines, but are a nightmare to program.
That's true! The whole time I had a Korg Trinity, I never once programmed my own sound.
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Bitexion » Mon Aug 11, 2008 4:22 am

Doesn't it count as Presets when you've made the sounds from scratch and stored them and play them?

Or are we only talking factorymade presets here? In a way, you could say Rick Wakeman used presets when he had 6 Minimoogs on stage, with tape over all the knobs to ensure the "patch" would stay in place and in tune.

Tweaking sounds on stage is quite hopeless, as you have to listen to what you're doing, but you don't want the audience to hear it. Plus you might be in the dark. The most I've heard Wakeman has changed a MInimoog sound was to switch from saw to square and change the filter envelope for a more percussive sound in the middle of a solo. You don't have time to mess with EG Amounts and filter settings when you're inbetween songs, do you? Thus the massive rigs of the 70's synthists on stage.

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by griffin avid » Mon Aug 11, 2008 6:09 am

I'm actually not sure which types of patches we are talking about ...specifically. My understanding of the idea of mastering a synth so well, you can recreate/create any patch in an instant seemed a bit impractical and maybe unnecessary. I would probably say mastery is pulling what you need/want out of a tool. And that may not include being able to do every single feature or operation blindfolded.

Plus I think we all own several synths and don't use/program each one every day. There are some that are leaning up in the corner collecting dust - waiting for that perfect project to come along. I may remember everything I ever knew about them and I may not.

The production process flows several ways. Sometimes while doing sound design you stumble across a sound that inspires. Other times you already have the song in your head and only need flesh it out. Sometimes you experiment and noodle around. I will say reverse engineering is not always as easy as it seems since many sounds don't sound like they are made. Trail and error and happy accidents- that's magic I would want to capture (save) and not just hope I can do this again in the future.

I think as artists we all have these voices in our heads that direct our feelings towards our own music. I think it whispers about creativity and pride, ownership and the stamp or injection of yourself into your music. I feel it's a circle. some days I can drop a loop and feel fine. Other days I have no problem using a 16 step sequencer and other days I need live input and even have to do some actual (electronic drum set) drumming or else I feel funky.

I stopped using presets a minute ago, BUT I just dove back in to Absynth and will use a lot of its presets and add on banks because I don't feel like programming those kind of sounds myself. sometimes I play arps till my fingers are sore and other times I hit the button and hold down three keys.
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Post by crystalmsc » Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:33 am

some synth do have nice presets. I was very impressed when playing the Wavestation presets for the first time.
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Pilot352 » Mon Aug 11, 2008 11:26 am

Assumption: "presets" refers to the factory programmed sounds.

I use "presets" all the time. I'm too lazy nor do I has the time to create custom sounds. What I do to make them unique is i will take the "presets" from two (or more) synths and layer them to the point that the originals are unrecognizable. I have made my own sounds in the past but they always come out sounding the same. So, I leave the sound creation to the guys who like doing that sort of thing. I stick to making music with the tools that I have.

Anyway, that's my POV on that!! :wink:

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Sexor » Mon Aug 11, 2008 12:40 pm

Some people seem to be mixing up two different concepts in this debate, presets, and patch memory.

I think AG hit the nail on the head when he said that it's important to be
responsible for all creative content in your work.


I would feel guilty about making a song made just from presets. First of all, I would never feel that the song was "mine", and second, it would greatly reduce the fun factor for me, in the composition/production process. If you have all these synths, why not enjoy them to the max??

There are cases where I would consider using presets. That is when using the presets is an artistic statement. Like using the DX7 bell sound because it is "the DX7 bell sound". Oh and some rompler c**p (piano etc.) which is of course just a piano sound, but that isn't really synthesis (a creative process).
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by DocT » Mon Aug 11, 2008 12:53 pm

Sexor wrote:If you have all these synths, why not enjoy them to the max??
And invent that dry analogbass again and again and... ;)

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by spookyman » Mon Aug 11, 2008 1:53 pm

I'm using presets...not only factory presets, but also presets that i programmed by myself. I would'n say that the presets universally suck.

On my Moog Prodigy, i don't have presets, but it's so easy to use, even in live situation that i don't need any memory or preset. In the opposite, on the CS-15, i prefer to use it at home, as once i have a good sound, i should be able to memorize the EXACT setting to recover the same sound. 0.01mm more turn on a button change the sound.

Preset, when good programmed is a perfect solution to give an overview what a synth can do. When bad programmed, it can kill the reputation of a (perhaps) good synth. And some free space to storage other preset is the beginning of a good use of a synth.
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