sound character

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KBD_TRACKER
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sound character

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:20 pm

i am always fascinated by the endless qualifiers used to describe the sound of a particular synth : harsh, creamy, analog, deep, crystaline, gritty, etc. knowing that many "serious" or commited users will nowadays use a synth in conjunction with an array of post-effects (equalization, compression , delay, reverb, filters, etc.) SO that the end result will be very or totally different from the raw instrument sound. and it is frequently this sound treatment which attracts notice and/or admiration (or sometimes repulsion ...).

sure it would be nice if a synth was the "end it all" in terms of sound, it would save money and space for equipment, but that's just not likely to be always the case depending on your composition or your mood. and unless you are playing the synth alone in your home studio for itself and by yourself, it seems that a synth "sound" is ONLY the raw/starting/ material for a whole chain of creative tweaking. so that the end result of the sound will bear little resemblance with the initial sound of the synth. i think that with correct sound "modifiers" any sound can be created with any synth.

and to me that is where creativity and personnality reside. who wants to sound like playing a typical voyager or juno 60 ( out of thousands others) or be recognized by the "specialists" as using a voyager or juno 60 ( out of thousands others), when the most important thing for me is to sound like YOU. and that's the problem with all the x0x boxes ... you want to sound like a tb303, then the result will be just that.
this attachment and reverence to a "sound" is highly respectable but to me seems suspect of having been fostered by clever industrial marketing.

and to me also that's probably where the future is : synths (hard or soft ) wired in such a way that they won't have a typical" personnality or cachet or watermark or texture, etc.. they won't be recognizable as synth X or Y because the palette of sound will be so large and fluid. it will necessitate marketing approaches based not on the difference in taste between cabernet vs merlot (or jupiter 8 vs juno 6) but the richness and malleability of the instrument.
so that in the end it is the musician who will provide to his or her music this personnality or cachet or watermark, or texture.

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Re: sound character

Post by RD9 » Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:35 pm

I think it all boils down to artistic confidence. Confident musicians who can think for themselves rely less on proven sounds and synths that have a legacy. But you have to remember that there are a lot of uninspired people who gravitate towards good old sounds like those produced by the 303, MS20, 808, Juno 60, Voyager, etc. and you have to treat those two groups of people differently.

Confident musicians do not necessarily need a super top notch classic synth sound to kick a*s. As long as they have good equipment, they can create good stuff. Insecure musicians however use gear as a crutch. After all, it's easy to blame the gear if you are unhappy with the music that you make.

Take for example fashion... people who have really good, independent fashion sense do not need to wear stuff that says Prada or Gucci on it. However, uninspired people absolutely need to wear stuff with Prada and Gucci written all over it. The same thing applies to musicians. The more insecure you are, the more you need to replicate old, proven sounds. Like you said, "the most important thing is to sound like YOU". But that requires self-confidence.

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Re: sound character

Post by Desecrated » Mon Jan 10, 2011 12:06 am

To RD9 :

I wish it was as simple as just being inspired or not, but often in a real life situation, you have to deal with real life people and they might have demands. Some clients might have an absolute love for the juno and then it's up to me to go and rent a juno. Most of these instruments are classics today because so many inspired musicians have made music on them.

----


But to the original poster, It would be great to have a all-in-one synth, but it would not be cost efficient to put a 2000 dollar tube preamp in a synth, or a pultec clone or something similar. It's just easier to have a stand alone high end preamp and then use it for all the instruments in the studio including synths and samplers.

The price of new synthesizers are high enough so I would rather see synths with as little 'extras' as possible and just have them concentrate on making good sounds. Sounds that can be taken to what ever level the user want's it to be.
I might like TL audio preamps and you might like focusrite, so instead of making a synth with 10 preamp models, 36 reverbs and 99 effects. Just leave that to the user.
At least for the synths made for musicians. Nobody buys a nord or a virus to play at home. Those who buy that sort of gear often knows how to use them or have the possibility to record in a studio or production rig.
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Re: sound character

Post by griffin avid » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:36 am

I find this to be a very thoughtful and interesting post. None the less I am inclined to disagree with most of it. You are lumping a whole assortment of synth-users under the categories of insecure and , well ...NOT. dressing on a sound to me is either a sound design or a 'fixing' issue. Those are the only two scenarios someone is likely to apply so much to a sound that it loses its original character.

A great sound doesn't need much help. An interesting sound doesn't need post effect gimmicks to make it stand out. I don't make music for other synth enthuiasts or the other owners of my same gear and I don't care if some person recognizes my synth. That's the same analogy to the fashion branding you just spoke out against. Doesn't make sense.

I buy quality so I won't have to spend time trying to make weak or average tones interesting. In the fashion sense, you buy quality clothes so they hold up after repeat washing or still look new much later. I Also disagree with the thought any synth can sound like any synth with clever/ skilled/ whatever processing. You can only work with what's there. Mathematically; anything that enhances a sound can only sound better with better source material. EQ, in particular, is an effect that behaves differently depending on the material. You can't EQ frequencies that don't exist.

A brand is built upon quality output and some of those pieces ending up holding their value sonically as well. I buy a brand because of confidence in the product and not insecurity with my music.

Brands are built upon a track record of quality output. Part of that quality lies in their older and proven pieces. If you're into driving a quality piece for whatever reason ( I don't how anyone can equate insecurity with a musician wanting a qualty instrument), I can't see how you'd be satisfied by using something of lesser qualty and dolling it up with a ton of makeup. Natural beauty doesn't need that.
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Re: sound character

Post by RD9 » Mon Jan 10, 2011 2:23 am

Desecrated wrote:To RD9 :

I wish it was as simple as just being inspired or not, but often in a real life situation, you have to deal with real life people and they might have demands. Some clients might have an absolute love for the juno and then it's up to me to go and rent a juno. Most of these instruments are classics today because so many inspired musicians have made music on them.
Yeah but in a real mix, it's arguable that a listener can even tell if you used a 60 or not. If you used something that sounds equally as good, it doesn't matter if you used a 60. You tell your client that you used one but the truth is, after all the mixing and post-processing is done, I don't think it will matter than much. It's the composition and engineering that counts at the end of the day. As KBD_TRACKER points out: "with correct sound modifiers any sound can be created with any synth".

Of course it's always nice to have the best equipment like a real Juno 60, Voyager, etc. but if you know what you're doing, you don't need vintage, expensive, or rare equipment to do good work. It's the musician that matters.
griffin avid wrote: I Also disagree with the thought any synth can sound like any synth with clever/ skilled/ whatever processing. You can only work with what's there. Mathematically; anything that enhances a sound can only sound better with better source material. EQ, in particular, is an effect that behaves differently depending on the material. You can't EQ frequencies that don't exist.
Of course not *any* synth can match a good synth. But many synths can do a decent enough job. For example, I've had problems with the Radias sounding too sterile or plastic, but I've since found other synths like the Supernova that can sufficiently substitute analog. Don't extrapolate too much by saying synth selection doesn't matter at all. What I mean is that if you can't get your hands on a Minimoog, you still have other cheaper options that can do a good enough job.

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Re: sound character

Post by tallowwaters » Mon Jan 10, 2011 2:52 am

RD9 wrote:
Desecrated wrote:To RD9 :

I wish it was as simple as just being inspired or not, but often in a real life situation, you have to deal with real life people and they might have demands. Some clients might have an absolute love for the juno and then it's up to me to go and rent a juno. Most of these instruments are classics today because so many inspired musicians have made music on them.
Yeah but in a real mix, it's arguable that a listener can even tell if you used a 60 or not. If you used something that sounds equally as good, it doesn't matter if you used a 60. You tell your client that you used one but the truth is, after all the mixing and post-processing is done, I don't think it will matter than much. It's the composition and engineering that counts at the end of the day. As KBD_TRACKER points out: "with correct sound modifiers any sound can be created with any synth".

I believe he is talking about a pro studio situation where people would expect an engineer to have certain well known synths, ones that the client is likely to play themselves.
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Re: sound character

Post by griffin avid » Mon Jan 10, 2011 2:54 am

you still have other cheaper options that can do a good enough job.
I think musicians start off with whatever is available. I don't see many threads about What was your first Synth?
Have answers beyond budget/entry.

I would say as you confidence grows, you feel your talent deserves the best instruments -and whatever that means as you see it.

I guess "good enough" becomes the point then. Can you do that on every part of the composition and/or sound design?
Where do you choose to apply 'close' or 'in the ballpark' or 'sounds like' or have an interest in always fooling them in the mix?

I'm going to say that a song can be saved by the difference between a minimoog and an Arturia soft synth emulation.
I'm not saying (and this is for Marc) a PHAT bassline can't come from an Evolver or S.E. or the VST version of Novation Bass-station. But you know a lot of junk floats around in the head of an artist and so much of that comes from their own inner voices, which in turn, is based on their experiences. When something works for you, you latch on to it and heap all sorts of praise including some of the opening adjectives.

When it comes to quality, I can't go backwards. I can scale downward when it comes to features, but sound quality is hard to forget or bypass. Who here can go back to their first soundcard/audio interface? Is it insecurity that keeps you from driving a car like your first one? I think not. That's all I'm saying.
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Re: sound character

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Mon Jan 10, 2011 3:26 am

The problem with this thread is that it assumes that all synth users are using synths for the same reasons. Heck, it's not only a problem with this thread, but perhaps a problem with the entire internet. Synth users are as varied as any other type of instrumentalist, but unlike most other instrumentalists, they labor under the misapprehension that all of them are the same and seeking the same thing.

In addition to this, MOST synth users don't use synths to synthesize. Most synth users use synths because they like sounds/presets that exist on synths. Most synth users buy a synth for the sound they think it has based upon the presets the manufacturer has placed on it. It's the difference between "sound" and "sounds." It's relatively uncommon, even on this site, that people buy or use a synth based upon its synthesis functionality or the character of sound that might occur when its synthesis functionality is used. Most people use synths as MIDI soundbanks.

I would have to say that if my goal was truly to design sound and possess all of the functionality I needed to do so, I would have a completely computer-based system with a wide variety of software synthesizers which afforded the most extensive functionality possible which was not designed to appease the preset-seekers or vintage-synth-hypists. If your goal is to actually build sounds from the ground up in a creative and unique way that isn't born of a desire to recreate anything, that's what you do. In that instance, you are responsible for your timbre, and inherent "tone" is unimportant, because you're inventing it.

If you're a person who loves effects and studio processing, it really doesn't matter which synth you have, as long as its functionality suits your needs. When you process a synth with effects, etc. you're creating its tone. You're inventing its "sound." It's a total waste of money to buy a "tone" synth if you're going to rewrite its tone.

Plenty of people buy famous synths, vintage and otherwise, and state that they're looking for its sound. Then, they immediately start recording music which in no way demonstrates any sort of interest in that sound... which shows you that what they're really looking for is some sort of misbegotten status. It's hard to ignore that many... perhaps even most... buy famous vintage analog synths simply because of what they are, who used them, and etc.

Buying a synth for its sound or tone is a challenging proposition because it's hard to record that synth and preserve its sound in the midst of the other instruments, various studio techniques, and the technology you use to record it. If you're going to buy a synth for its sound/tone, you simply have to work your a*s off to preserve it.
Reverence for sound is an instrumental reverence more than anything else. If you use synthesizers as a musical instrument (as opposed to a studio production device), you're much more likely to appreciate them for their unique tonal character (as opposed to the timbres they create). It isn't a crutch or lack of creativity, it's an aesthetic and expressive choice. Instrumentalists develop attractions to instruments which suit their creative needs as well as their ears. If an instrument sounds the way you want it to, you tend to go back to it.
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Re: sound character

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Mon Jan 10, 2011 3:27 am

griffin avid wrote:I'm not saying (and this is for Marc) a PHAT bassline can't come from an Evolver or S.E. or the VST version of Novation Bass-station.
:lol: You bastard.
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Re: sound character

Post by RD9 » Mon Jan 10, 2011 4:31 am

tallowwaters wrote:
I believe he is talking about a pro studio situation where people would expect an engineer to have certain well known synths, ones that the client is likely to play themselves.
Oh sorry, I thought he meant hiring someone to actually produce the music. My fault.
griffin avid wrote: When it comes to quality, I can't go backwards. I can scale downward when it comes to features, but sound quality is hard to forget or bypass. Who here can go back to their first soundcard/audio interface? Is it insecurity that keeps you from driving a car like your first one? I think not. That's all I'm saying.
Yeah, you're right. There are situations when a real experienced synth user knows exactly what he/she wants. In which case there is no substitute for the real thing. Like once you get your hands on a specific synth you like for very specific nuances, there's no turning back if you absolutely require that pure or preserved sound that AG is talking about.

I was just under the impression that the original post was a rant about general synth users who get superficially hung up on that "Juno 60 sound" or that "Moog sound" or "303 bassline" or whatever.

But I get that sense that some people do not get the fact that the idea behind using synthesizers extends beyond cliche sounds. Like for example, if you like to make 90's style hiphop beats and you like Ron Carter basslines, you shouldn't *always* sample Ron Carter no matter how amazing he is. It's just lame. Especially if you claim that no other jazz bass sample will do.

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Re: sound character

Post by GuyaGuy » Mon Jan 10, 2011 4:55 am

Steve Cropper, Bruce Springsteen, Daniel Ash, Frank Black, Keith Richards, and Syd Barret have all played Telecasters as their main instruments. While their tone is all recognizable as a Tele, the music they made is vastly different. And they even found their own signature sounds with the same instrument.

I'm all for creating unique sounds, but there are reasons the classic sounds are classic.

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Re: sound character

Post by maindeglorie » Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:07 am

This post made my ears water.
GuyaGuy wrote:Steve Cropper, Bruce Springsteen, Daniel Ash, Frank Black, Keith Richards, and Syd Barret have all played Telecasters as their main instruments. While their tone is all recognizable as a Tele, the music they made is vastly different. And they even found their own signature sounds with the same instrument.

I'm all for creating unique sounds, but there are reasons the classic sounds are classic.

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Re: sound character

Post by aeon » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:00 am

Automatic Gainsay wrote:If you're a person who loves effects and studio processing, it really doesn't matter which synth you have, as long as its functionality suits your needs. When you process a synth with effects, etc. you're creating its tone. You're inventing its "sound." It's a total waste of money to buy a "tone" synth if you're going to rewrite its tone.
Speaking as someone who loves effects and studio processing, this assertion is incorrect - as it concerns me. Others may differ, and likely will. That said, to categorically state what will and will not matter to a given group without knowing the contexts of their values, goals, tools, skills, and so on, seems presumptuous to me.

Effects processing isn’t always about rewriting a synth’s tone. In fact, I think the best post-process finds the sweet-spots of synergy between the source and the treatment, that magic place where together you create something not present in the source(s), and greater than their sum.

It should also be mentioned that there are effects that yield a definite effect, yet still allow the character of the source to come right through - the Roland SDD-320 Dimension D is but one example. The t.c. electronic VSS3 reverb algorithm is yet another.

There’s a time for mangling, but there’s also a time for just a kiss, and a time for all those timbres in-between. In my experience, anyway, and based on that, I’ll take the synth that works best for the song. Most often, that’s a “tone” synth, effects or not.


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Re: sound character

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:35 am

aeon wrote:There’s a time for mangling, but there’s also a time for just a kiss, and a time for all those timbres in-between. In my experience, anyway, and based on that, I’ll take the synth that works best for the song. Most often, that’s a “tone” synth, effects or not.
Within every generalization, there's an exception (or several). My generalization did not include "kissings," so I agree with what you're saying.
However, I was talking about those who use effects to alter the sound, not sweeten it. When someone's talking about the effects they use with their synth, they're usually talking about alteration. When they say "I use a lot of effects with my synth," they usually don't mean "I have a variety of mastering tools to subtley sweeten the sound and accent the tone."
The spirit of my comment was a response to the OP:
""sound" is ONLY the raw/starting/ material for a whole chain of creative tweaking. so that the end result of the sound will bear little resemblance with the initial sound of the synth. i think that with correct sound "modifiers" any sound can be created with any synth."
aeon wrote:to categorically state what will and will not matter to a given group without knowing the contexts of their values, goals, tools, skills, and so on, seems presumptuous to me.
I humbly apologize to anyone who might have felt stereotyped as a result of my cruel generalizations. I know every single one of us is completely different and not one single one of us has any aspects in common. No one's music, interests, production style, intent, practice, skills, etc. are ANYTHING alike... so I was totally out of line. I have not only presumed, but edged dangerously close to hate crime in my reckless categorization.
I seem to remember the crux of my essay being that everyone's intent is actually different. I merely listed some examples of different intents. Simply because you can come up with examples of exceptions does not mean that my generalizations are presumptuous, any more than the few guitarists on this forum prove that no one is a synth enthusiast.
I appreciate your experienced viewpoint, but I'm always baffled by why the sharing of that viewpoint always has to turn into a chiding.
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Re: sound character

Post by aeon » Mon Jan 10, 2011 10:15 pm

Automatic Gainsay wrote:I appreciate your experienced viewpoint, but I'm always baffled by why the sharing of that viewpoint always has to turn into a chiding.
When one speaks for others’ experience, such that one states what the others’ experience is, some people will experience an emotional reaction that can range from a slight annoyance to that of outright invalidation, depending on context and perceived intent. Such choices in behavior are often perceived and judged as boundary violations in communication, and perhaps rightly so - I don’t have access to the experience of another individual except as second-hand expression on their part.

As such, I choose to speak only from my own experience and/or sense of things, and I limit the applicability and “truth” of my statements to a context where it is valid - to me, and me alone. (well, I do the best I can with the resources available to me given the situation, anyway)

I find that asking another of their experience, and then engaging in discussion where I perhaps share of my own, such that each can compare and contrast, and remain focused on receiving the other’s expression without judgment, is the most productive means of communication as it regards the meeting of each other’s needs. My experience is that it is respectful of the other person and my own, and in that witness and receipt of other, there exists a chance for a deep and nourishing intimacy that creates bonds, and ultimately, community.

That’s my take on it. I could be wrong, and I might come to know other things that will modify, or change my perspective. Until then, the above is an overall framework of what informs my values, and why I chose to quote you and speak to the nature of your post, as I experienced it.

I didn’t mean to chide, and I apologize if that was your experience of my post. My intent was to let you know that your statement wasn’t true for me, and that I had a sense that it may have been based on a cognitive distortion. I didn’t know if it was or not, so I spoke to my sense of things. I value that you provided additional information that led to greater understanding. I did not intend to judge you personally in any way. I had, and have, no argument with your person - only what you asserted.


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