Synth grouping

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griffin avid
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Re: Synth grouping

Post by griffin avid » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:36 am

I only blinked at the term "limited" being used and realized some of you (lot) don't understand what limited means.

A) I don't believe a self-imposed limitation is a limitation. It's like the difference between being hungry because you skipped a meal and being hungry because you're broke.

B) Many of the pieces in your 'minimal' set ups are all someone else needs as their end all, be all.

C) Making music is about focus and has NOTHING to do with your gear list or lust. If you want to make music, you will. If you want to be a studio owner and suss and fuss over gear, ergonomics,options,looks and collecting then yeah, there a re a lot of mental distractions. "I can't do this, until I get this." The self-delusion of "I need XYZ piece so I can..." Or when someone says "This (rare) feature is important to my music, so I had to buy a..."

D) If you played your finished music for someone, anyone- another musician, whatever- and asked what they think the set up was that you used to create it with- they would never suggest a studio as filled/packed/loaded as any of ours. I think that says it all between Needs and Wants. Limitations and luxury.


I can honestly admit that 'The Making OF Music' is not the sole interest and I am guilty of obsessing over the numerous HOWS and with WHAT. I also admit a huge inspiration is simply getting something NEW. Synths are toys for musicians. Your studio is your Toy Chest. Forums like these are the sandbox out in the backyard.
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Re: Synth grouping

Post by Pro5 » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:55 am

It's true, i hate having too many synths yet I got obsessed with buying them, trying to find the 'one' that I gelled with. I still have trouble :lol:

I DO make music and i get good feedback but I've slowed down over the last year due, mainly, to synth 'collecting'. I can't help being AS interested in synths (going way back to my childhood) as I am in making music. Yet the former definitely distracts me from the latter. I have fun doing both and neither is a proper 'job' as such so why not?

well, there comes a time when enough is enough and the clutter has to go - which in my case means buying MORE untried synths to see if they are the 'one' that can help me reduce my setup.

One positive from this 'obsession' is that I have definitely written some of my best songs inspired from a new synth, those songs probably wouldn't have come about without that new synth, that sound, that inspiration. For that the synth buying has been priceless.

As I can't get a Jupiter 8 or Prophet 5 or whatever (nor would I for the price they go for, can't validate it in my head sorry) I try out loads of cheaper ones until one or two of them just work, inspire me, get into most of my music etc.

I really only want 2 synths (at this time if forced it would be the Juno 60 and JD-800 as all round work horses from the digital and analog worlds) yet I still crave the power of keeping my SY77... and I like my others too.

I know however that when i finally get it down to 2/3 synths (and I have done well btw, at one time I had 15? synths at once, all stacked up along a wall on their sides, continually swapping them onto the stands to use them - just because I felt I had to :lol: ) and have had over 40 synths now and honestly only a handful of them would be synths I love/want to own.

4 synths max - pref 2 (a digi and an analog) -quite easy really for me with my 'cheaper' synths, but for those that own real beauties like JP-8s, P5s, Obies, Moogs, Modulars etc it must be very hard deciding what to let go, probably why I don't actually ever want to get into those synths! Cheap synths are easy to let go (if you don't really use them).

One day very soon I'll have my 'final' minimal setup, and also only 1/2 soft synths (FM8 being one of them) and get back to thinking about songs, albums, lyrics instead of oscillators and filters :mrgreen:

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Re: Synth grouping

Post by Kenneth » Mon Mar 18, 2013 2:01 pm

Stab Frenzy wrote:
GuyaGuy wrote:I love how everyone in this thread defines 5-7 synths as "pared down." :lol:
Yeah same. :lol:

I think that the reason people who think they need to have a 'minimal setup' of 5 synths to make music 'just like the old school electronic guys did' don't get any music done is because they think synths are pokemon and don't realise that one synth and one drum machine (or one laptop and one controller) is all you need to make an album. You just need something that can make sound, the skills to make the sound you want on it and a way to record it. Anything more than that is an indulgence, not the 'normal' way of doing things. I have a rather indulgent modular system so I'm not saying that the hair-shirt minimal setups are the only way to make music, but I think that too many people who post here think that some rig with stands of synths stacked so high you can't play them is the normal way of doing things.
I totally agree with this. When I'm working on a song, I often find that I end up using only one synth, because creating a patch on one synth requires me to get into the mindset of using that synth. Creating a patch on another would force me out of that mindset, which has become the mindset for this new song, and dig into another. This is what I also call "losing my focus". Once I force myself to spread out and use multiple synths, most of the time my concentration is gone and I can't remember where I was going with the song. So, having a huge amount of synths will never benefit me, and I probably wouldn't write a lot of good music (probably just scatter-brained synth-noodling stuff like so-and-so and that one fella). So I keep my Moog around, because I have liked every sound that has ever come out of it; and my Polysix, because I love those lush analog pads and strings. A few others: Casiotone, for making cool Casiotone sounds; Monotron, because why the h**l not; and a few hardware effects pedals. That's it. That may be all it ever is from this point on. That is, unless I get into Eurorack... :lol:
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Re: Synth grouping

Post by zoomtheline » Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:15 pm

Sticking with a few synths for a project is the perfect way to get "your sound". I have to stop myself getting excited about new synths and stop myself looking on ebay as I don't need any more synths. I'm happy with what I have got and it's so much more productive.

And as much as i'm interested in Modular synths I don't think I would ever buy into it. It sounds way too counter productive a way for me.

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Re: Synth grouping

Post by bluntedcircuit » Mon Mar 18, 2013 7:13 pm

I feel like my stuff is pretty complimentary. Machinedrum and an MPC are a good pairing. Ha my girlfriend thinks I'm bullshitting when I tell her that I'm about done buying gear - I use vinyl samples more heavy then I use synths so my mopho really keeps me satisfied. If I do buy another synth it'll be a simple digital poly like a micro korg, maybe an r3, but if I'm being honest even two synths is an indulgence for the type of music I'm into. Right now for poly synth sounds I'm using uhe ace which sounds great but it can be pretty power hungry even with one instance.

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Re: Synth grouping

Post by Rick N Boogie » Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:18 pm

I got into all of this rather late in life, and went completely mental buying synthesizers for several years. When I finally came around to the understanding that it's not about the machines, but rather, making music, I began selling/trading/dumping those that were unnecessary. It left me with one digital polysynth, one analog monosynth, and a hybrid with onboard sequencer- iow, everything I need and nothing I don't. Been much more creative, and far less obsessed ever since.
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Re: Synth grouping

Post by balma » Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:30 pm

The better you know your synths, the less of them you need.
Knowing very very well your synths, makes yoyu realize wich functions they do better and wich are their lacks, and then, you become more efficient at the moment of using more than one at the same time, because, you specialize their functions to serve into a multi synth environment.

Having a lot of gear can´t be bad. The problem is not having the time or the willing to know them very well, one by one, and not knowing how each one of them can serve your purposes in the best ways, according to their potential.
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Re: Synth grouping

Post by ninja6485 » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:18 am

Wow... I must be from another planet or something. I think Griffin Avid has the right idea, that you're talking about focus, not limitation, and that the focus has nothing to do with your gearlist. All this talk of necessity is bullshit. And it seems there's something cyclical happening here, or at least a slew of common opinions which look like they revolve around each other. The general consensus tends toward minimalist setups, at least in word. In deed it tends toward obsession and hording. Never mind the hypocrisy, because the general consensus also tends toward creative stagnation and dissatisfaction. It's slamming it's collective head against the wall because quite frankly it doesn't know what it's doing. It leaves what it's doing unexamined because it falsely thinks it can apply the same methodology it uses to do other non-music, non-art related things to make songs. Practicality, efficiency, necessity, economy, prolific production. These are the boats you build to escape your desert prisons.

:idea: Warning: The following is philosophy. I'm writing against the tendency toward minimalist setups by making a case for maximalism, and at the same time taking on some glib value judgments that don't charitably consider non-minimalist philosophies. You don't have to agree, what's important is having an examined position. If you're going to disagree, at least be willing to disagree via an examined view of your own. Otherwise, be content to keep paddling sand.

Basically, the way we've been talking about necessity puts the cart before the horse. Necessity follows from the song, and every song has unique necessities. It's not wrong to say that you can do an album with only one synth: I’ve done it on more than one occasion, and there are numerous examples that I'm sure we could cite. But just because some songs only require a minimalist setup doesn't mean that all songs require only a minimalist setup.
First of all, not all of us are multitracking in a DAW, I for one occasionally like to fill up my mixers and improvise, but lets set aside that obvious example because it really doesn't uncover the conceptual mistake of looking at the song in terms of necessity. Fundamentally, let's say we're talking about a multitracked recording, since it's so popular. All you have are a bunch of sound files arranged horizontally and vertically within a segment of time. Speaking only in terms of the craft, this is what they all are. If it were nothing more than this, you could just record whatever and throw it all together and mix it down. BUT that's not really satisfying, is it? That doesn't really make a song outside of maybe something like a minimalist art-song.

The minute you begin to discriminate and make choices where the content of the audio files has meaning, the minute you take control of a timbrel variation for a specific, intentional, and thus artistic purpose, you necessarily include the possibility for all options, and significance of all creative choices, regardless of how fine of a distinction you're willing to make. In other words; if you're song is anything other than a segment of unorganized noise, or is going to be in any way satisfying, you're already beyond the fundamental technical criteria of the craft. This version of necessity (attempting to arrive at a reduction to only the fundamental technical criteria of the craft) is thus an unintelligible category mistake.

If there's a necessity that you begin with, it's a necessity to trigger a free-play of the imagination, or the necessity that's logically prior to your creative choice. Given that we all know the parts you add to a song depend on the parts you already have, which depend on the part you started with, which depends on free-play of the imagination, either accident or vision of the song-maker, the creative choice as logically prior to and also dependent on the individuality of the song in question must necessarily be unique in each instance, otherwise every song would be the same exact song, which is absurd. Thus necessity follows from the song, and every song has unique necessities.

Now that the “why” is laid down, we're in a better position to look at whether having more than a few synths is indulgent. Does having a plurality of instruments offer more and diverse stimulation for the free-play of the imagination leading to creative choices in song-making? It's a personal question! Obviously most of you are not only bogged down, but confused and obsessed with too much gear, so much so that simply possessing it and acquiring it prevents you from using it, so obviously the answer is no. But is that about having a lot of gear, or about personal shortcomings? I've never experienced anything like that, and in fact, I thrive on having tons of hardware options. Unlike Balma, I don't want to know a few pieces really well: I want some things that are well known, but I also want the unknown. I know when I want my D50 and when I want my M1, because the song will take me there, and more importantly, I will know why I want one and not the other. Creative decisions are completely enmeshed with the instruments within the context of the song as occasions for free-play of the imagination or vision of the song-maker. As such they have reciprocal individuality (include here every discussion we've ever had about work-flow). That reciprocal individuality is why I want one and not the other.

So let's take Stabby's phrase: “You just need something that can make sound, the skills to make the sound you want on it and a way to record it.” Let's say you have something that makes sound, and a way to record it. Now we're left with having the skills to make the sound you want. Let's grant that you have them. That; however, requires you have an idea of the sound you want. How do you know what sound you want? The sound you want either comes from a free-play of the imagination or by vision of the song-maker; and as such is a creative decision enmeshed with the instrument within the context of the song. Think about it. “What sound do you want” is asking you to make a creative choice. At this point, we should remember that not all questions are good questions. Is my synth setup indulgent doesn't look like it's a very good question largely because the answer is entirely personal and subject to change depending on the habits of the individual, but beyond that; it's born out of a fundamental misconception of the roll that instruments play in relation to song-making, and also a category mistake in applying the concept of necessity. This is no insult to stab frenzy, it's just an unexamined view. Sadly, the air of the original comment at least seems appropriate considering how many people apparently just buy these things and sit on them as if they were Pokemon.
This looks like a psychotropic reaction. No wonder it's so popular...

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Re: Synth grouping

Post by zoomtheline » Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:08 pm

I think the difference is that if you have little gear you are going to know them inside out so all there is to do is use tham to make music. If you have loads of gear or keep buying gear then you are constantly learning re-learing different interfaces which distracts from recording music. If that's what you are doing it for then that's fair enough.

Probably just repeated someone else but I just skimmed the last page hehe

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Re: Synth grouping

Post by vicd » Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:35 pm

A nice tractate this one above!

However, left me with questions and some more philosophy :D

Having a "song" in mind implies going top-down: we have an idea of song that dictates what arrangement, what sound etc. to be used. That is, analytical approach.
Now, the synthetical approach. Like, "I have these, these, and these kinds of bricks. Let's see what kind of house I can build of these?"

And then you can merge both approaches to enter the new level: there's no "song", there's no "building blocks" - it's all one, the sound that is not artificially separated into "parts", "tracks", "beats".
Like, it's a common thing to build rhythms using rhythm-boxes with several discrete samples of several discrete instruments - this leads you to splitting your idea into tracks, bars, beats, patterns etc. However, you can build nice rhythms by applying rhythmic modulations to a continuously evolving base (like you do in Massive e.g.).

I don't like the drums, but the drums like me!

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Re: Synth grouping

Post by zoomtheline » Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:53 pm

yeah, I'm not talking limiting yourself to one synth and one type of rhythm box. I'd say my setup is limited and I have various ways of creating rhythms and more than a few synths of different ilks. They all work nicely together though and that is what's important I think.
having a bunch of stuff that you can work with to get the sound in your head out easily is really nice and of course the happy accidents you get are icing on the cake.

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Re: Synth grouping

Post by bluntedcircuit » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:16 pm

I think its funny the people getting on a soap box about "focus not limitations", are just completely oblivious that just about every one has made the point that obsessive collecting got in the way of their focus. That they regained their focus by getting a grip on compulsive acquisitions.

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Re: Synth grouping

Post by bluntedcircuit » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:18 pm

zoomtheline wrote: They all work nicely together though and that is what's important I think.
having a bunch of stuff that you can work with to get the sound in your head out easily is really nice and of course the happy accidents you get are icing on the cake.

I think this is most peoples point right here

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Re: Synth grouping

Post by Romannis1972 » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:52 pm

bluntedcircuit wrote:
zoomtheline wrote: They all work nicely together though and that is what's important I think.
having a bunch of stuff that you can work with to get the sound in your head out easily is really nice and of course the happy accidents you get are icing on the cake.

I think this is most peoples point right here
Yes. The "focus not limitations" idea to me is untrue. When I had massive amounts of gear I had focus, but I was also overwhelmed. The focus to get an idea was there and once the idea was sketched out, then the problem of "what synth to use" came into play. Sifting through my gear to find the "right" synth to use became the problem, as I had so many. Then the problem turned into a lack of drive because of the overwhelming feeling that "why didn't I, I could have used, I should go back and use..."

So now, the gear I have I know inside out, and I am 100% back on track.

I'm not saying it works for everyone, just saying it worked for me.

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Re: Synth grouping

Post by griffin avid » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:59 pm

I think it's funny that people think people are just completely oblivious that just about every one has made the point that obsessive collecting got in the way of their focus ....

I think you are oblivious to the the notion that this thread is about more than one thing.
It started with the premise that an artist/band might have a more cohesive/signature sound by using A SMALL NUMBER OF PIECES TO MAKE THEIR MUSIC. And so you album has tracks that sound very similar and gives off a narrow sonic stamp.

Then there's the idea that a minimal set up leads to more productivity and thus a larger set up hampers it.

It looks to me like the area of contention is the definition of minimal and what it means in a modern context.
I remember when Red One (Lady Gaga producer) upset the apple cart when he said he only uses Logic to make her music. Well, the reaction was OMG HE ONLY USES LOGIC???!?!?! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE????!!?!??

And then when you consider what LOGIC is and HAS, it's not hard to imagine.
But what stings is that WITH ALL THOSE CHOICE$, how can he choo$e to be so ...minimal?
1) It bothers those with the excuse of needing more (and expensive) gear to get 'their sound' out. A lot of somedays on that list....
2) It shows how level the playing field actually is and how much talent can separate [drive,determination,luck and all the other often thrown around terms] some.
3) The fantasy shatters of 'what you would do in his place' - if your big dream is to own and use a lot of gear to make the same music you make now.
4) It makes you current set up instant overkill and makes you question $ome of your own deci$ions.

There's always justifications to be made.
Maybe he sucks and only people that create just like you {in your genre} are any good.
Maybe an artist can pick a narrow palette of sounds across numerous synths/bits and his signature is not tied to any one unit.
Maybe his signature is something he does with sound and not the sound itself.
You can insert any number of people doing a lot with a little or vice versa.
Or the specifics of what you must do to be you and how tied that is to whatever set up you have chosen to work with.

Who knows?
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