Why do presets universally suck?

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meatballfulton
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by meatballfulton » Wed Aug 13, 2008 4:51 pm

Automatic Gainsay wrote:The point of synthesizers (at least originally) was that you were given the freedom and power to design timbre. That's what synthesizers were (and should still be) for.)
Milton Babbitt, who worked extensively with the RCA MkII synthesizer in the 50s and 60s:

I didn't turn to the electronic medium for 'new sounds.' Nothing gets as old quickly as 'new sounds.' It wasn't for the superficial titillation of sounds. It was for, above all, music time, the way you can control time. There's such a difference between being able to produce a sound as a performer, being able to strike the keyboard, it's automatic. To produce a duration, it's totally different. Teaching a child to imagine rhythm, a succession of durations, is so much more difficult than teaching someone who to put their finger down in the right place on an instrument. Time has always created problems with contemporary music- that's why the music wasn't performed and when it was performed, it was done sloppily. We were tired of this. The idea that we could control time as we wanted...
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Windreaper » Wed Aug 13, 2008 5:21 pm

supermel74 wrote:To be completely honest, most presets I've heard are better than most user submitted patches I've heard
This =D>. I usually spend the first days with a new synth going through the factory presets and trying to figure out how the programmers managed to create some of the patches (also a great way to learn some "chef tricks"). Most companies hire professional sound designers to program the presets and those guys are good. The presets may not be suitable for the niche genre you're into, and yes they'll probably be dated (yea, good luck keeping up with the flavor of the month, this complaint always makes me see red - talk about issues), but you lose a ton of programming tips by throwing them away right from the start.

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Synthacon » Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:17 pm

Some really interesting points in this discussion.

I must admit I am happy to use Presets, most are programmed by people who are far better than I am at creating sounds. Eric Persing and Rob Papen etc are all bloody good!!!!

The thing that makes me laugh is most "synth" type sounds do not require much "programming" so to speak, I do not know about most people but there tends not to be much difference in a Lead or Bass sound I can knock up to one that comes ready shipped in a synth. I know my atempt at doing a FAT MOOG type sound is not much difference to a couple of the presets on my Voyager.

Where I do find I like to programme stuff is when I am doing more complex sounds, such as pads etc. This is where the fun is for me, lots of complex modulation etc, but I do not often start from scratch, sometimes just tweaking something I have already.

I also tend to use Acoustic presets more as I really can not be bothered to come up with realistic sounding stuff when nearly everything has been so well on dedicated expansion cards or samples.

I use what I need to use to make my tune, I do not care if it is something I have made or if it is a preset, and to be honest the people who listen to my "music" really are not too bothered either, and I think that is a big thing. We as a community are sometimes too anal and expect everyone to know, or indeed care, how our music is made. I know alot of people who LOVE music, but do not give a s**t how it is produced.

I think there are too many people sat gently sweeping their real analogue VCF's and lusting after classic synth's and spending hours working out a seriously complex patch and yet do not make any music at all compared to the other guys who grab a synth, find a preset and get a track done.
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Jack Spider » Wed Aug 13, 2008 8:38 pm

I'm pretty much with Synthacon and a few others on the subject of preset usage - if I like it and it suits more than something I've created myself then I'll use it. It's what makes me happy, that counts, and it should be that way for everyone, rather than worrying about whether others will see them as being unoriginal or unworthy. I hear many presets from the likes of the MicroKorg in tunes and I think "Ah, a MicroKorg", rather than "Yuk - preset!".

I think learning to program is a worthy endeavour, but not a necessary one. Many of the patches I've created have been for my own amusement (effects etc.), rather than for musical use. I've nothing to prove with them.

I've actually gone out of my way to recreate a few presets on synths that I used to own, because they were so good - the 'Soundtrack' from the JX-8P is smashing pad, and I love attempting to recreate it on other gear (did a close enough job on the KS5!). There were a few outstanding Juno 60 patches that I always recreate, and I've a penchant for recreating cheap electronic piano/harpsichord sounds on subtractive synths.

My Jupiter 6 came with unusable patches in the memory, so I overwrote the lot with my own - the more usable ones tend to sound similar to other patches on other synths - brasses, strings etc.

That said, I think two distinct topics have come up in here - the original 'Why do presets universally suck?' and 'Is using them a bad thing?'. Short answers are 'depends if you like them' and 'depends on whether YOU think so', respectively.
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by aredj » Wed Aug 13, 2008 8:56 pm

I would like to tell you about my favorite moment in creating electronic music.

One time, me and 6 other people (a few of whom I never met) each submitted a sample into a 'sample pool' from where each of us were to make a song using only those samples.
7 sounds, 7 people, 7 songs.
After the alloted time, we all got together and had a little listening party.
I was blown away by the diversity of the results. Each track was sooo different. That was my lesson in 'its not what you use, but how you use it...'

This is what I started thinking while reading this thread. Do presets suck...universally? Universally would mean EVERYONE hates that sound, right?
I hardly think it would be impossible for someone to make a fantastic piece of music with a preset that you personally hate...

How many f**k awesome albums have been made with just a guitar and a voice? Who says you have to tweak that sound?

There are no rules kids. Get to work.

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Wed Aug 13, 2008 9:01 pm

meatballfulton wrote:
Automatic Gainsay wrote:The point of synthesizers (at least originally) was that you were given the freedom and power to design timbre. That's what synthesizers were (and should still be) for.)
Milton Babbitt, who worked extensively with the RCA MkII synthesizer in the 50s and 60s:

I didn't turn to the electronic medium for 'new sounds.' Nothing gets as old quickly as 'new sounds.' It wasn't for the superficial titillation of sounds. It was for, above all, music time, the way you can control time. There's such a difference between being able to produce a sound as a performer, being able to strike the keyboard, it's automatic. To produce a duration, it's totally different. Teaching a child to imagine rhythm, a succession of durations, is so much more difficult than teaching someone who to put their finger down in the right place on an instrument. Time has always created problems with contemporary music- that's why the music wasn't performed and when it was performed, it was done sloppily. We were tired of this. The idea that we could control time as we wanted...
I suppose we could trade famous electronic music composers quotes back and forth, but I suspect you would run out of anti-timbre quotes before I ran out of pro-timbre quotes. :wink:

So, is it your premise that the main point of synthesizers was not new timbres, but rather sequencing?
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by shaft9000 » Wed Aug 13, 2008 9:36 pm

Presets Suck?
oh, PHOOEY.

It is their use or abuse in composition that matters.

Bad programming is one thing, and overplayed cheese is another.

They're just individual sounds. How they are used and in what way they enable the music to be more effective... is all that matters in the end. Obviously the DX7 rhodes has lost it's 'sparkle', but in 1983 that was what many people would think of as the latest and greatest in 'magical, wonderful sounds'.

This is often simply a matter of 'fashion'. Like acoustic guitars (Unplugged) in the early 90's. 80's nostalgia after a decade of grunge and smatterings of electronic. People naturally get tired of certain sounds, then they miss them after a decade or so, and they pop back up again.

i am not generally impressed by cookie-cutter copycat work.
i am moderately impressed when someone uses sounds that they alone create in an original composition, regardless of whether i like the tune or not.
i would be most impressed with a composition utilizing factory presets many are familiar with, yet in a completely unfamiliar way. retool the purpose, and manage to 'tell the story' in an interesting way.
e.g. : the 80's acid house pioneers used the 'thoroughly lame and cheesy' tb-303, not for bass accompaniment as it was designed, but for mutating patterns. whether you like that sort of thing or not, that misuse of the original sound clearly has inspired many people, even to this day.

after all, there are really only a few different kinds of music:
- jams (improv. - the oldest kind of music)
- varieties of folk music (most music made en mass becomes a type of folk once it is 'handed down')
- the various 'schools of thought' forms (pop and academic)
- accompaniment/soundtrack/program music
- and then there is the 'previously unknown as music' class.

here is not the place to elaborate on these kinds of music, but it covers everything i have and have not heard 'as music' before. As long as it is a stated composition of sounds, it is some form of music.
2600.solus.modcan a.eurorack.cs60.JP8.Juno6.A6.sunsyn.volcakeys.jd990.tb303.x0xb0x.revolution.
999.m1am1.RY30.svc350.memotron

shaft9000.muffwiggler.com <- singles & mixtape
shaft9000.bandcamp.com <- spacemusic album
youtube.com/shaft9000 <- various synth demos and studies

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by DocT » Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:50 am

I nearly exclusively use presets. My own presets, that is.

They are presets because I usually don't program them for a specific song. I have my sound programming days when I program and store sounds, then I have days when I try to make a little track with these sounds.
Not using presets means that you program each sound for each song from scratch.

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by Sexor » Thu Aug 14, 2008 3:18 pm

DocT wrote:I nearly exclusively use presets. My own presets, that is.

They are presets because I usually don't program them for a specific song. I have my sound programming days when I program and store sounds, then I have days when I try to make a little track with these sounds.
Not using presets means that you program each sound for each song from scratch.
That's what I was talking about when I said people here were confusing presets with patch memory

You're not using presets in doing this. Presets are sounds designed by sound designers (you should know this, of all people!) that come pre-programmed with the synth.

Making your own sounds and saving them to patch memory is not preset rocking. It's just a way of working.
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by synthesizerist » Thu Aug 14, 2008 4:07 pm

meatballfulton wrote:
Automatic Gainsay wrote:The point of synthesizers (at least originally) was that you were given the freedom and power to design timbre. That's what synthesizers were (and should still be) for.)
Milton Babbitt, who worked extensively with the RCA MkII synthesizer in the 50s and 60s:

I didn't turn to the electronic medium for 'new sounds.' Nothing gets as old quickly as 'new sounds.' It wasn't for the superficial titillation of sounds. It was for, above all, music time, the way you can control time. There's such a difference between being able to produce a sound as a performer, being able to strike the keyboard, it's automatic. To produce a duration, it's totally different. Teaching a child to imagine rhythm, a succession of durations, is so much more difficult than teaching someone who to put their finger down in the right place on an instrument. Time has always created problems with contemporary music- that's why the music wasn't performed and when it was performed, it was done sloppily. We were tired of this. The idea that we could control time as we wanted...
Wow, I'd hate to put a drink down without a coaster in this guy's house. Yes, the problem with music has always been it's not rigid enough. I hope he lived to see the days of digital when his sterile world could be more fully realized.

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by hfinn » Thu Aug 14, 2008 6:22 pm

This whole conversation is so subjective. Not everyone buys a synthesizer so they can create all their sounds from scratch. It's great to be able to tweak a sound a little bit for some which is why a synth would be good. If you're playing a show and you have a good piano preset, who cares if YOU created or someone else did. If you can PLAY the synth and people are enjoying it, who cares?

Everyone has to remember that there are several camps people can be in. Players, sound designers, both, etc. I have a friend who plays lots of shows a year. He can program some rudimentary stuff on a synth, but he plays mainly organs and a Motif. He can play circles around me, but I'm better at creating sounds. It doesn't make one worse than the other, or even one more right or wrong.

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by whiteyhouston » Fri Aug 15, 2008 12:12 am

the preset that came with my sh101 was killer

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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by nitkov » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:00 am

i hate to lead the thread further off the topic, but you guys keep talking like [example]:
hfinn wrote:If you can PLAY the synth and people are enjoying it, who cares?
of course, most listeners don't care if you use presets or not. but my point is that a musician shouldn't choose his methods / tools / professional ethics / etc by thinking 'who cares / what do the listeners know anyway'. even the best professional hit producer who thinks this way won't have artistic integrity. [oh, what do listeners know about artistic integrity anyway, right?]
so, the question for a musician is, not 'who cares about presets?', but 'do i care about presets?'
therefore,
griffin avid wrote:If I used a preset, it already passed my Ethics of Creativity Test. It’s not on anyone else to set my bar.
i understand that, and respect that as a consious decision.

come to think of it, i think that this little dogma of mine [that it's a shame to use presets] came to me before i even had a programmable synth, only a couple preset toys whose sounds frustrated me. that's when i became aweare of the importance of sound design and, being stuck with bad toys, i understood how it would be a shame to own a programmable synth and not get most out of it by creating my own sounds.
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by gd » Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:33 pm

Back in the early - late 70's many of us kybd players on tours would get together and share patch sheets, it was a lot of fun and very educational to really get to know one's synths. The only remaining synth I have since those days are my miniD. I have a number of synths that I program and the VA's I tend not to for some reason as there are enough sounds on them that I quite like. Many here did not like the Radias when it first came out due to its presets but I quite liked it, albeit I have none of the original presets left on it. The upgrade OS made for some very usable prests that I still use from time to time, some of the others that I couldn't see where I would use them I played around with and was able to tweak some nice sounds that for me are quite useable. The P08 is in the same ballpark for me - not sound wise but some presets I quite like, some I have tweaked and many sent into hibernation on my hd. I think it is all about what works for you and your music. I really couldn't careless if I used a preset or programmed my own patch from scratch as after 35 yrs of playing synths I adhere to the adage "whatever works" best.
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Re: Why do presets universally suck?

Post by DocT » Tue Aug 19, 2008 5:13 pm

gd wrote:The P08 is in the same ballpark for me - not sound wise but some presets I quite like, some I have tweaked and many sent into hibernation on my hd.
So did I, though I programmed around 30% of the factory presets ;)

As mentioned before, manufacturers like to show variety in the factory presets. So they choose only one from the 20 reasonibly good bass patches that the programmer delivers but take some other more different sounding FX or so instead.

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