On using synths with FX processors

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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by GuyaGuy » Tue Dec 24, 2013 9:07 pm

commodorejohn wrote: You know, there's not much point in having a discussion with you when you insist on being deliberately obtuse.
He's not just being obtuse; he's making a point, which is that synthesizers are full of effects--usually a filter or two, LFOs, envelope generators, possibly some chorus or panning, maybe ring modulation, etc.

Furthermore, synthesizers by definition are a menagerie of electronic components that together make a sound. If you think about a modular system, a ring modulator or phaser isn't really separate from the synthesizer; those are just part of the synthesizer in the same way that the LFO and filter are. In fact it has been said that the name comes not from the notion that the device synthesizes sound but rather that individual components (oscillators and ring mods and so on) are combined into a whole. In that sense you can see your outboard effects as part of a modular system.
commodorejohn wrote: Again, nobody thinks this is pointless and irrelevant when it's acoustic/acoustic-electric instruments under this type of scrutiny, so I'm not sure why some people are reacting so strongly to the idea when it's synths we're talking about.
Because acoustic instruments are autonomous. Synthesizers are by definition a collection of parts. And their uniqueness is the ability to produce a huge array of sounds, not one very specific sound like a piano, guitar, or nose harp.

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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by CS_TBL » Tue Dec 24, 2013 9:28 pm

commodorejohn wrote:"Integral," not so much. You can quite easily create synth sounds without using effects processing (unless you're being really anal about filters being an effect, which I'm not, and anyway you can still create sounds without filters.) They may be crucial to your methodology, and there's nothing wrong with that, but they're not a requirement.
There are sounds (sound being a term in the broadest sense) which you can't make without effects. If you apply an endless reverb to a short sound impulse, you get a pad-like sound. A static flanger can be used to add a piercing comb to a sound, a multi-band EQ can be used to shape frequency areas in a way a filter can't. I mean, these are all effects which can have a fundamental influence on sounds. Effects give you more sounds!

And yes, call me anal if you wish, but EQ, filter, reverb, delay, chorus, phaser, and delay are all based on the same code-algorithm; sometimes one, someones an array of 'm. If you think a filter is 'legal' in a pure synth, then the other effects should be as well.

If we are to get of everything in life which is not a requirement, then we'll end up becoming Neanderthals.

It's a bit like having a painter's palette where oscillators/operators are red, filters are green and effects are blue. You can claim you can leave out the effects, but then you'll be without blue. And for what reason? Let's use 'm, screw the reds and the greens, they're not worth more than the blues!
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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by salwa » Tue Dec 24, 2013 10:19 pm

I blame early classic synths. They rarely have effects like reverb, delay and phaser and people tend to think of them as of Sèvres prototype of synthesiser. Hence everything more = bells and whistles. But in fact it's true - filter or envelope generator are FX. It's just a fact, that they "always were there".
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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by commodorejohn » Wed Dec 25, 2013 12:51 am

GuyaGuy wrote:Because acoustic instruments are autonomous. Synthesizers are by definition a collection of parts. And their uniqueness is the ability to produce a huge array of sounds, not one very specific sound like a piano, guitar, or nose harp.
But that's complete bupkis. Every instrument is a collection of parts. A violin is a set of strings played over a resonant chamber with particular properties; both strings and resonant chambers are components used in other and very different instruments (guitar, piano,) yet we consider the violin to be a specific thing with a specific sound (or range of sound,) because it is. Same goes for, say, a pipe organ and other pipe instruments. The fact that a synthesizer's components are (in pure form) more freely interchangeable doesn't mean that a given synthesizer isn't just as much a discrete instrument with a characteristic sound.
CS_TBL wrote:There are sounds (sound being a term in the broadest sense) which you can't make without effects. If you apply an endless reverb to a short sound impulse, you get a pad-like sound. A static flanger can be used to add a piercing comb to a sound, a multi-band EQ can be used to shape frequency areas in a way a filter can't. I mean, these are all effects which can have a fundamental influence on sounds. Effects give you more sounds!
Again, nobody is bad-mouthing effects, and nobody is saying they don't provide possibilities which are difficult or impossible to achieve without - but they're not integral, they're not necessary. You don't have to use the kind of sounds you can get with effects if you don't feel like it.
And yes, call me anal if you wish, but EQ, filter, reverb, delay, chorus, phaser, and delay are all based on the same code-algorithm; sometimes one, someones an array of 'm. If you think a filter is 'legal' in a pure synth, then the other effects should be as well.
I think we're getting off on a tangent with the question of whether effects are "legal." The OP was talking about burying a synth's characteristic sound under too many external effects, but I think you could easily say that the effects are a characteristic part of many synths which do include them. For example, the ensemble/chorus effects are a notable part of the sound on synths like the Polysix and Juno...
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Neanderthals get a lot of unfair abuse. They could create their own tools from scratch, hunt, butcher, and cook their own food, make clothes from the skin, and avoid eating poison. I'd put money on the average Neanderthal being smarter than the average YouTube commenter.
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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by GuyaGuy » Wed Dec 25, 2013 2:49 am

commodorejohn wrote:
GuyaGuy wrote:Because acoustic instruments are autonomous. Synthesizers are by definition a collection of parts. And their uniqueness is the ability to produce a huge array of sounds, not one very specific sound like a piano, guitar, or nose harp.
But that's complete bupkis. Every instrument is a collection of parts. A violin is a set of strings played over a resonant chamber with particular properties; both strings and resonant chambers are components used in other and very different instruments (guitar, piano,) yet we consider the violin to be a specific thing with a specific sound (or range of sound,) because it is. Same goes for, say, a pipe organ and other pipe instruments. The fact that a synthesizer's components are (in pure form) more freely interchangeable doesn't mean that a given synthesizer isn't just as much a discrete instrument with a characteristic sound.
The difference is that with most instruments the parts are static components generating a tone which will, generally speaking, always be the same. The only way to affect the tone is for the player to do something in real time, like finger vibrato. With a synthesizer the core tone is the electronic tone generator, whether a VCO or a sample. Everything else is a component affecting the core tone generators.

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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by Kenneth » Wed Dec 25, 2013 3:06 am

Stab Frenzy wrote:Synths are effects. Unless you're just composing drones with raw unmodulated oscillators you're using effects, so why limit yourself to just filters and amplitude modulation and say that reverb or delay or chorus are bad?
Great post. +1 from me.
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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by commodorejohn » Wed Dec 25, 2013 8:22 am

GuyaGuy wrote:The difference is that with most instruments the parts are static components generating a tone which will, generally speaking, always be the same. The only way to affect the tone is for the player to do something in real time, like finger vibrato. With a synthesizer the core tone is the electronic tone generator, whether a VCO or a sample. Everything else is a component affecting the core tone generators.
Semantics, pure semantics - and not really true, either. A piano note varies in tone over time, as vibrations run up and down the string, interact with the resonant chamber of the piano body (a component affecting the core tone generator, to use your terminology,) and lose energy in the higher harmonics as it fades out. Granted, this variation is not as significant as the variation in tone with key velocity, but it is a real variation over time.

Again, there's just no sensible argument for synths not being discrete instruments in the same way that acoustic instruments are. The fact that you can more easily wire different components together doesn't make a particular assemblage of particular components not a definable, distinct thing.
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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by GuyaGuy » Wed Dec 25, 2013 8:59 am

commodorejohn wrote: Semantics, pure semantics - and not really true, either. A piano note varies in tone over time, as vibrations run up and down the string, interact with the resonant chamber of the piano body (a component affecting the core tone generator, to use your terminology,) and lose energy in the higher harmonics as it fades out. Granted, this variation is not as significant as the variation in tone with key velocity, but it is a real variation over time.

Again, there's just no sensible argument for synths not being discrete instruments in the same way that acoustic instruments are. The fact that you can more easily wire different components together doesn't make a particular assemblage of particular components not a definable, distinct thing.
Oscillators can change over time too so I'm not sure what your point is there.

As far synths being discrete instruments, they are definitely viewed that way by many of their players. But really they're there to create a wide range of sounds beyond the limitations of a more traditional that has a very limited range. And, again, when you think of modular synths, there is no one discrete instrument. Electronic music is all about exploring sonic possibilities that weren't there previously so defining an on-board effect as good and an outboard effect as bad ("drowned") is just artificially limiting those possibilities.

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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by commodorejohn » Wed Dec 25, 2013 9:25 am

My point is that there is no point - a given synthesizer (modulars excepted, sort of) is every bit as much a discrete, defined instrument as acoustic/acoustic-electric stuff, and nobody gets this snooty about people who prefer the sound of a Les Paul to a Stratocaster; I strongly suspect that the people smarming about "nerds" who talk about oscillators using (horrors!) oscilliscopes are just trying to distance themselves so that they can rest assured that they're so very cool and above-it-all because they don't care what their synthesizer sounds like.

And again, nobody is saying effects are bad. What we're talking about is the possibility of using effects to an extent that buries the characteristic sound of the synth effected, and whether and to what extent that's a problem or shortsighted.
GuyaGuy wrote:But really they're there to create a wide range of sounds beyond the limitations of a more traditional that has a very limited range. Electronic music is all about exploring sonic possibilities that weren't there previously
A. says who? And B. even taking that as a given, the dry sound of a particular synth is no less a "sonic possibility that wasn't there previously" than a synth run through effects processing, so why is it so bad to eschew effects?
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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by GuyaGuy » Wed Dec 25, 2013 9:35 am

commodorejohn wrote:
And again, nobody is saying effects are bad. What we're talking about is the possibility of using effects to an extent that buries the characteristic sound of the synth effected, and whether and to what extent that's a problem or shortsighted.
Being a problem or shortsighted is generally thought of as being bad.
commodorejohn wrote: A. says who? And B. even taking that as a given, the dry sound of a particular synth is no less a "sonic possibility that wasn't there previously" than a synth run through effects processing, so why is it so bad to eschew effects?
A. Me, that's who!
B. It's not bad. You were saying it's bad to drown a synth in fx.
We're saying it's fine cuz, hey, who gives a s**t if it sounds good, right?

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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by commodorejohn » Wed Dec 25, 2013 9:38 am

GuyaGuy wrote:Being a problem or shortsighted is generally thought of as being bad.
We're talking about the overuse of effects, not effects in general. Nobody is saying effects are bad; people are suggesting that it can be bad to overuse them.
A. Me, that's who!
And who died and made you king?
We're saying it's fine cuz, hey, who gives a s**t if it sounds good, right?
Yes, that is definitely your position; it's just not one that everybody agrees with.
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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by GuyaGuy » Wed Dec 25, 2013 9:46 am

commodorejohn wrote: We're talking about the overuse of effects, not effects in general. Nobody is saying effects are bad; people are suggesting that it can be bad to overuse them.
Perfectly clear. In context I was referring to heavy use of effects, which you are defining as bad. I figure if Tangerine Dream, Boards of Canada, Tycho, and Cluster can get away with burying almost every track in reverb, we'll be OK with it as a society.
commodorejohn wrote: And who died and made you king?
Jesus.
Yes, that is definitely your position; it's just not one that everybody agrees with.
That's fine. I'll drown my sorrows in effects. ;)

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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by CS_TBL » Wed Dec 25, 2013 10:02 am

commodorejohn wrote:We're talking about the overuse of effects, not effects in general. Nobody is saying effects are bad; people are suggesting that it can be bad to overuse them.
There's no such thing as 'overuse of effects', because no one can define what 'overuse of effects' is. You think a 100% wet 20 sec reverb is bad? Tell that to producers who are into ambient/new age. The use or non-use of effects is always related to the particular musical genre. Of course, some producers can be a bit too enthusiastic, but then common sense should be leading (and that should be obvious to everyone), not an idea of 'this and that is bad by definition'. And then there are cases where an instrument or voice appears to be heavy on (reverb/delay) effects, and at the same time it kinda becomes a signature sound. Prince's voice in Purple Rain springs to mind.

So, again, it's the end result that counts, what people use to get there isn't of any relevance. And yes: if you know your effects and how to use them, they simply become part of sound design, and thus become an integral part of sound design because e.g. a reverb may lead to a sound designer adjusting oscillators, filters, LFOs etc.
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Re: On using synths with FX processors-- OP poster

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Wed Dec 25, 2013 1:54 pm

I see that the discussion is somehow taking the direction that everything inside a synth that's affecting the signal is already an FX.
This reasoning to me leads to: since inboard circuits are "similar" to what external circuits coupled to the synth do, then external circuits are similar to those of the synth and so there is no defining limit or "membrane" between what the synth does BY ITSELF and what it does WITH OTHER gear (such as FX processors).

In that case, since there is a hazy continuum between what the synth does/is alone and what it does/is coupled with all kind of external processors and devices, this would lead to saying a little phatty is undefinable vague, constantly evolving, in fact polymorphous, as one adds or changes external FX.
I doubt that the many synth owners here are ready to acknowledge that their cherished instrument is largely about whatever outboard processing is hooked to those OUT terminals.

My point was that one can see a synth as a coherent all, as a concept, a project from somebody(ies) (so to be pedant: a teleological entity). Just as a guitar made with rosewood or mahogany, or other woods is a distinct concept as compared to another guitar made differently by somebody else, so I have trouble seeing that processing that raw sound is NOT altering that concept, or project (again for "good" or "bad" as may be the case).

Applying external FX may enhance, enrich or simply render usable the original synth sound but at the end can we still speak of the final sound as being for example a little phatty's ??
Last edited by KBD_TRACKER on Wed Dec 25, 2013 8:31 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: On using synths with FX processors

Post by danbroad » Wed Dec 25, 2013 3:17 pm

does how the final sound is created matter? Not to the average listener. As long as it sounds good and fits together..
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