Tips for making original and creative music with synths

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tom Cadillac
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Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by tom Cadillac » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:09 am

Don't know if this is a good topic or not. But there seems a major drawback to using synths for making original music. They do too much. So much pre-programing and aids are built into the stuff we buy that it dominates the way music is formed. Ideally one would think the synth is a blank canvas, as in theory it can make any noise you choose. But in practice its the stuff that moves out of the shops that the manufacturers are aiming for.

Rather than just a call to switch off the arpegiators, I thought there might be some creative ideas as to how to take mastery of all this tech and use it to do something NEW.

I guess my creative curve is drum machines at the moment. I'm experimenting with playing them live into samplers, and using the sampler to get the loop point. I'm also thinking of playing live drums to mic and sampling and looping. It at least saves me paying out for drum loops from some hot LA hip-hop producer that will make my music fantasctic, just like everyone else's!

Any other tips?
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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:57 am

It's the same as with any other instrument, you just have to use it in an original and creative way to come up with something original and creative. If you follow the path of least resistance when you're using your synths you'll end up with something that anyone else doing things the easy way would end up with too. If you play around with stuff a bit more you'll have a greater chance of doing something that hasn't been done before, or maybe just rarely.

As an example the other day I was jamming with a friend, him on drums and electronics and me with the MEK and a delay pedal. I put a mic on his kick drum and ran it into the Evolver's audio in, then set up a sequence and had the audio input step the sequencer so his drumming would play the synth and I could tweak it while we were recording. Everything was perfectly in time, but it wasn't totally quantised and straight.

I was doing a similar thing last night with an old rhythm box mic'd and going to a delay pedal, plugged into my CS-15 and an amp. I had one osc, filter and amp gated by the delayed drum signal and the other controlled by the keyboard, ended up sounding totally different to anything I've done before.

Basically I think the key is experimenting, getting a whole lot of things together and running the outputs of some into the inputs of others and just attempting to do anything that comes into your head, you never know which ones will end up sounding good. Also it's a fun way to spend an afternoon. :)

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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by Raiven » Sun Dec 06, 2009 7:09 am

Create original sounds. I believe that's an intricate part of expressing one's artistry.

There are several instruments that have unique features to push the boundaries in forward thinking sounds.


V-Synth: Variphase sampling features

Blofeld: Wavetable synthesis, Sample import, unique PPG and Comb filters.

Absynth: Additive synthesis, the ability to create your own oscillator and envelope waveshapes.


Just a few examples.
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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by druzz » Sun Dec 06, 2009 8:00 am

take time to experiment. do some reasearch

try to build an idea of the sound you want in your head than try to dial it on your synth.
or the opposite:
tweak erratically the parameters on your machine like if you were making a contemporary painting until you find something interesting then let it inspire you and refine it.

synths with a manual interface exclusively (knobs) and no preset memory forces you to do your sound every time

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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by griffin avid » Sun Dec 06, 2009 2:34 pm

"...there seems a major drawback to using synths for making original music."

I think Original Music comes from the Artist and NOT the synths.

I think Synths are just a tool in the toolset and there's a small measure in using a tool in a new way to build something original and unique. An original voice is a huge factor, which was tapped by the idea of making original sounds.

I think the understanding (or studying) of what's been done before and even knowing the rules of the system- if only to break or bend them is key for avoiding well defined paths or repeating the works of others.

Synths are the perfect tool for creating original sounds.
Original sounds don't always equal original music.
Original ideas are main ingredient in Original Music.

Great topic, BTW.
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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by meatballfulton » Sun Dec 06, 2009 2:58 pm

The greatest obstacle to true originality is the incredible amount of music we have already been exposed to.

The most important part of being original is having a unique vision. Very few people will ever have that (I never will).
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by tallowwaters » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:30 pm

Everyonceinawhile, do the opposite of what you normally would. I/we used to always just plonk around and a song happened. Recently I/we sat down and thought what overall sound we wanted, which parts should go where, how long it should be, what should happen, etc. It was particularly odd for me to build a song around a plan rather than a vibe, but the end result (I felt) was particularly strong.

Also, worry less about the destination and enjoy the journey.
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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by th0mas » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:39 pm

In regards to synthesizer programming, the day I stopped just tweaking presets was the day I found (or built on some synths) an "init patch" to build from.

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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by TauVoyager » Sun Dec 06, 2009 6:29 pm

This is an interesting thread, any more individual takes on originality?

I don't think my music is very original at this stage but I believe it's on the way to become different from most of the electronic music we hear these days. I have come to a conclusion that programming new timbres is worthwhile but even more important is searching for unique ways of playing the new and old sounds.

A completely new sound is just a gimmick unless you find an evocative context for it. In my quest for originality, I bear in mind that musical styles tend to be derivative and it's very hard to make a big impact with something totally new and unrelated to the listener's previous experience. Add innovation in moderation or you'll risk creating extremely niche genres. For me, making music just for myself or a handful of people is not good enough anymore.

Currently, I listen to a lot of classical music - it's full of great ideas that are just waiting to be used in the synthesizer music. I think the idea of synth music is original enough. It's old actually, but can anyone direct me to a source of modern synth music, so I can play it on my keyboard? I think we need to develop ways of transcribing electronic music on paper. Musicians used to come up with amazing ways of notation but they don't do it anymore. Or rather I've heard nothing about it. Without it, the music will be very temporary.

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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by Synthazaiser » Sun Dec 06, 2009 9:25 pm

To standardize the notation of synthesizer music, you need to standardize the synthesizer. In other words, not every synth can play, because of differences in instrument design, a piece written for another synth. Also, you can't play all synth music on a keyboard. And coming up with new notation is not dead. I had to write out a score that used Atari 2600 synthcart. The pitches are not standard and so new notation was necessary. The new notation better reflected the controller of the Atari and the switches.
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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by TauVoyager » Sun Dec 06, 2009 10:31 pm

I agree, with the gazillions of synh designs we have, writing a synth score is a bit more complicated. But there are certain standards in synthesis. It doesn't really matter how a sound is made. You could use descriptions of each instrument in the score and leave it to the sythesist to come up with the sounds on the synths they have. For example, a mellow brass sound with a throaty attack, played monophonically with portamento. Now it doesn't matter what synths you have. You come up with your own vision of that sound using gear you've got and I'm excited to hear that interpretation.

The notation could use special symbols for filter, resonance, envelope settings, lfo, effects, etc. If someone thinks it cannot be played on a keyboard - sequence it, sample and trigger it, play it on hakken continuum, theremin or whatever :-) If your synth doesn't have a filter - so be it - you can still play it to some extent by using a different effect to pronounce the change of timbre or even plug an external filter. :geek:

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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Sun Dec 06, 2009 10:37 pm

The current electronic music culture has no need or purpose for notation. Notation used to be primarily a means of recording a piece in a fashion that allows it to be recreated. With the advent of recording technology, the need for notation has vastly decreased. Traditional orchestral instruments and piano still implement it because music for those instruments is music that people want to recreate and perform for themselves. Electronic musicians are usually composers who want to make their own music, produce it, and record it, and therefore lack the need to recreate it. In addition to this, a person who might want to (for whatever reason) recreate the electronic music recording of composer would need a great deal of technology in addition to the paper the notation would sit on. Whereas it used to be that most homes had a piano or a violin, etc... most homes do NOT have [insert several synths here], [insert recording technology here], or the knowledge to use them. Primarily, as the music is recorded and able to be reproduced by anyone with a radio, computer, mp3 player, etc., there is no need to notate it.
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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by TauVoyager » Sun Dec 06, 2009 11:13 pm

Traditional orchestral instruments and piano still implement it because music for those instruments is music that people want to recreate and perform for themselves. Electronic musicians are usually composers who want to make their own music, produce it, and record it, and therefore lack the need to recreate it.
I really hope it is not true for every electronic musician. It intrigues me why you think someone would want to recreate a piano piece but not synth music. Is it not worth recreating? I love listening to people's takes on different electronic pieces by Vangelis or Kraftwerk, even if (or perhaps just because) they sound different.

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Re: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by shaft9000 » Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:37 am

how to be original: don't listen to any of us

how to be creative: get laid, get in a fight, get drunk, keep a journal and/or sketchbook, carry a digicam everywhere you go, jump out of an airplane, backpack across a continent, crash your car....not necessarily in that order
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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: Tips for making original and creative music with synths

Post by tallowwaters » Mon Dec 07, 2009 4:05 am

Mild amounts of brain damage scatter out over a life time help as well.
Brains can be used like a "stress ball," but only once.

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