Synthesizer Novice

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Synthesizer Novice

Post by creator » Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:53 pm

I am interested in purchasing a synthesizer, but I would like some advice because this is a new (and overwhelming) field for me. I used to rely on Garageband presets. I selected a synthesizer preset and adjusted parameters until I achieved a pleasant sound. Then I upgraded to Logic and tried the ES2 soft synth. I enjoyed the assortment of parameters, but I found it difficult to adjust them and play at the same time.

A few years ago I bought a Korg microKorg XL because it seemed like every band that I enjoyed had one or the earlier model. It's a nice, little synthesizer, but it reminds of Garageband because I have to select a preset, then go through a parameter bank to find the parameter I want to modify. I would prefer synthesizer that has physical knobs or switches.

I've recently discovered the artist Tycho. His sound is very refreshing - it has a warm feeling with lots of delay and reverb.



I've tried to achieve this type of sound, but I always end up with a sort of techno dance party sound. I'm not sure if it's just me or the synthesizer or the effects... but it's probably me because I cannot efficiently navigate through all of the parameters. :D

If anyone could recommend some synthesizers and effects that would allow me to experiment and create these sorts of sounds it would be appreciated. I heard that Tycho uses a lot of analog synthesizers (Moog Minimoog, Korg Mono/Poly) and tape effects (not really sure how these work). The Moog Minimoog looks perfect, but most places are selling them for $3000+. I don't mind paying around $1000 or a little more to get a really nice synthesizer, though.

Thanks!

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Re: Synthesizer Novice

Post by jeffrey1121 » Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:57 am

Welcome to VSE! 8-)

If you really really dig the MicroKORGs sound engine and simply wish to have a more user-friendly interface, consider the Korg MS2000. From what I've read it's basically the same thing. But it's not analog.

Most modern polyphonic (plays more than one note at a time) analog synthesizers are just a bit more expensive than what it sounds like you can afford. The Mopho x4 is just about the only one I can think of that might be close, but it only has four voices (4 notes at a time) and costs over $1,200! :o

Some people will disagree with me here--and they might be right--but I think you should consider either an 80's/90's analog polysynth or a modern virtual analog synth. These would be the most affordable & useful options for you. IMO the most popular & well designed modern virtual analog synthesizers within your price range are the Nord Lead, Access Virus, & Waldorf Q/Blofeld. You can check out demos for all of these synths on youtube.

I really can't say I know a lot about vintage or even 80's/90's analog polysynths. I once owned a Roland Juno-106. I wouldn't recommend it on account of it's well-known voice chip issues. Lots of people on here can give you better advice on vintage polys.

As for tape effects, all I can say is look into the roland RE-201 Space Echo. It's vintage but can do cool delays and stuff.

hope this helps. :mrgreen:

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Re: Synthesizer Novice

Post by code green » Wed Dec 19, 2012 9:42 pm

Given the clip you posted and the prevalence of pad sounds therein, I think a polysynth might be what you're after (rather than a monosynth like the Minimoog). Some good advice above. With processing (tape and otherwise), it may well not really matter (to start, at least) whether you go analog or virtual analog--and your budget would seem to dictate VA. I'd say the key for you, given what you've said, is knob/slider-per-parameter functionality. Others can speak to which VAs fit that bill; in terms of vintage polys in that budget range without menu diving the two that come first to mind are the Juno 6/60 and the SCI Prophet 600. Either can do the sounds in the video but I'm not sure they'd be the first I'd go to to recreate those sounds. In terms of what's in my arsenal, I'd go to my (very inexpensive) Crumar Performer (a limited string synth) for the pad sounds, and just about any synth, perhaps a ROMpler (a digital synth with preset, sampled sounds), or an electric piano for the lead sound--both with ample processing (delay, reverb, ring modulation).

I've rambled a bit but I guess my essential point is that there's a lot of processing and creative sound-sculpting going on in the track you've posted--there are multiple routes to get there, and if I were you, I'd try not to get bogged down with the details but find a synth that has a basic sound you like and that, most importantly, works with you rather than against you in terms of work-flow. A very basic synth and a few judiciously chosen FX (rack or pedal) may be your best route for the time being.

Check out YouTube demos of synths, and check ebay completed listings for a sense of price range of the ones you like...and feel free to continue to ask questions here.

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Re: Synthesizer Novice

Post by Stab Frenzy » Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:36 am

To do stuff like Tycho you just need to be good at production and using effects, the synth doesn't matter much at all.

You could easily recreate that sound in Logic Pro just using the built in synths and effects, have a play around with the Delay designer and Space Designer plugins. If you've got $1000 to spend then think about getting something like a Moog Little Phatty Stage II or Arturia Minibrute which you can use as a midi controller for Logic so you can use Logic for all your polyphonic sounds and then use that synth for your lead lines. It's good to have one main synth that you know inside out and use on everything, but buying a synth won't help you make music like that, spending time programming the patches and effects to get that sound will.

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Re: Synthesizer Novice

Post by creator » Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:38 am

Thank you for all of your responses!
jeffrey1121 wrote: As for tape effects, all I can say is look into the roland RE-201 Space Echo. It's vintage but can do cool delays and stuff.
I read in an interview that Tycho uses a Roland Space Echo. I understand that tape effects are mechanically different from guitar effects pedals, but are there any benefits to using them?
code green wrote: I'd say the key for you, given what you've said, is knob/slider-per-parameter functionality. Others can speak to which VAs fit that bill; in terms of vintage polys in that budget range without menu diving the two that come first to mind are the Juno 6/60 and the SCI Prophet 600. Either can do the sounds in the video but I'm not sure they'd be the first I'd go to to recreate those sounds.
I actually looked into the Roland Juno 60 because many of the bands that had microKorgs also had Juno 60's. They seem to go around $1000 on eBay, which (after digging through some of the posts on this forum) appears to be overpriced. They sound fantastic in some of the YouTube videos, though!
Stab Frenzy wrote:You could easily recreate that sound in Logic Pro just using the built in synths and effects, have a play around with the Delay designer and Space Designer plugins. If you've got $1000 to spend then think about getting something like a Moog Little Phatty Stage II or Arturia Minibrute which you can use as a midi controller for Logic so you can use Logic for all your polyphonic sounds and then use that synth for your lead lines. It's good to have one main synth that you know inside out and use on everything, but buying a synth won't help you make music like that, spending time programming the patches and effects to get that sound will.
I have also looked into the Moog Little Phatty Stage II. It sounds (and looks) awesome. Would you recommend it to an absolute beginner? I have attempted to create sounds with the ES2 in Logic, but I feel it would be more instructive to start with a basic sine wave and experiment with different parameters on a physical synthesizer.

Thanks again!

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Re: Synthesizer Novice

Post by Tiger Jackson » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:28 pm

TC, idk if you know this but at least on the microkorg original (assuming XL didn't remove this), you were able to initialize a patch the start fresh and work your way up, if that's the problem you were having

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Re: Synthesizer Novice

Post by creator » Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:03 pm

Tiger Jackson wrote:TC, idk if you know this but at least on the microkorg original (assuming XL didn't remove this), you were able to initialize a patch the start fresh and work your way up, if that's the problem you were having
There is a good chance that I am oblivious to many of the features on the microKORG XL. :mrgreen:

Here is what I have done, though:

http://www.sweetwater.com/images/items/ ... xlarge.jpg

I selected a patch using the two large knobs on the left side. Then I selected a row of parameters using the top knob on the right side. Then the three consecutive knobs on the right side controlled whichever parameter was above it in the active row. I found it slightly difficult to experiment because I had to constantly switch back and forth between the rows of parameters. Additionally, other parameters were available in the accompanying software.

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Re: Synthesizer Novice

Post by GuyaGuy » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:49 am

creator wrote:Thank you for all of your responses!
jeffrey1121 wrote: As for tape effects, all I can say is look into the roland RE-201 Space Echo. It's vintage but can do cool delays and stuff.
I read in an interview that Tycho uses a Roland Space Echo. I understand that tape effects are mechanically different from guitar effects pedals, but are there any benefits to using them?
code green wrote: I'd say the key for you, given what you've said, is knob/slider-per-parameter functionality. Others can speak to which VAs fit that bill; in terms of vintage polys in that budget range without menu diving the two that come first to mind are the Juno 6/60 and the SCI Prophet 600. Either can do the sounds in the video but I'm not sure they'd be the first I'd go to to recreate those sounds.
I actually looked into the Roland Juno 60 because many of the bands that had microKorgs also had Juno 60's. They seem to go around $1000 on eBay, which (after digging through some of the posts on this forum) appears to be overpriced. They sound fantastic in some of the YouTube videos, though!
Stab Frenzy wrote:You could easily recreate that sound in Logic Pro just using the built in synths and effects, have a play around with the Delay designer and Space Designer plugins. If you've got $1000 to spend then think about getting something like a Moog Little Phatty Stage II or Arturia Minibrute which you can use as a midi controller for Logic so you can use Logic for all your polyphonic sounds and then use that synth for your lead lines. It's good to have one main synth that you know inside out and use on everything, but buying a synth won't help you make music like that, spending time programming the patches and effects to get that sound will.
I have also looked into the Moog Little Phatty Stage II. It sounds (and looks) awesome. Would you recommend it to an absolute beginner? I have attempted to create sounds with the ES2 in Logic, but I feel it would be more instructive to start with a basic sine wave and experiment with different parameters on a physical synthesizer.

Thanks again!
Tape delays have benefits (tone, warble, etc) as well as disadvantages (hiss, warble, age).

The Roland 60, Minibrute, or Little Phatty would be great for a relative beginner because almost every function and parameter is clearly laid out in front of you. Plus the architecture is relatively simple. And once you can handle the architecture of one of those three you can apply it to any other, in addition almost any other synth, including the Microkorg, which can be a bit more challenging to program.
Stab Frenzy wrote:To do stuff like Tycho you just need to be good at production and using effects, the synth doesn't matter much at all.
A bit off topic, but...At first I was about to point out that Tycho actually has a huge arsenal of vintage synths. But then I recalled that I assumed they were all virtual analog when I first heard his stuff. Since I learned he mostly uses not only analog but old-a*s analog, I've listened listened in to hear those various synths. And I think you're right. There's not much that screams "I'm a Mono/Poly!" or "Hi! I'm an Oberheim!" Still mighty enjoyable stuff though.

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Re: Synthesizer Novice

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:33 am

creator wrote:Thank you for all of your responses!
jeffrey1121 wrote: As for tape effects, all I can say is look into the roland RE-201 Space Echo. It's vintage but can do cool delays and stuff.
I read in an interview that Tycho uses a Roland Space Echo. I understand that tape effects are mechanically different from guitar effects pedals, but are there any benefits to using them?
There are some very good emulations of tape delays out there like the Strymon Timeline and the Eventide Timefactor. Cost a lot less, don't need any maintenance and are more convenient, for example on my Timefactor I can choose the amount of tape warble I want for a particular track, with a Space Echo it would always be the same.
Stab Frenzy wrote:You could easily recreate that sound in Logic Pro just using the built in synths and effects, have a play around with the Delay designer and Space Designer plugins. If you've got $1000 to spend then think about getting something like a Moog Little Phatty Stage II or Arturia Minibrute which you can use as a midi controller for Logic so you can use Logic for all your polyphonic sounds and then use that synth for your lead lines. It's good to have one main synth that you know inside out and use on everything, but buying a synth won't help you make music like that, spending time programming the patches and effects to get that sound will.
I have also looked into the Moog Little Phatty Stage II. It sounds (and looks) awesome. Would you recommend it to an absolute beginner? I have attempted to create sounds with the ES2 in Logic, but I feel it would be more instructive to start with a basic sine wave and experiment with different parameters on a physical synthesizer.

Thanks again!
I think that while the interface of the LP is very good it's not quite perfect for the absolute beginner. I think a Juno 6 or a Minibrute would be perfect to learn with, because every parameter of the synth is right there in front of you and there are no saved sounds to use which forces you to make something new every time which makes you get good at making your own sounds.

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Re: Synthesizer Novice

Post by creator » Sat Dec 22, 2012 6:29 am

Stab Frenzy wrote: I think that while the interface of the LP is very good it's not quite perfect for the absolute beginner. I think a Juno 6 or a Minibrute would be perfect to learn with, because every parameter of the synth is right there in front of you and there are no saved sounds to use which forces you to make something new every time which makes you get good at making your own sounds.
Would it be possible to start from scratch on a Juno 60 or would I need to select a patch and turn everything off each time? I could not find any Juno 6s on eBay or craigslist, but there seem to be plenty of Juno 60s.

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Re: Synthesizer Novice

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:03 am

I haven't used a 60 recently enough to say for sure but yes if it works the same as the 106, when you turn one of those on the synth will just do whatever the sliders are set to. If not it takes two seconds to push everything down and start from scratch.

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