Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

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Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby Progbass44 » Wed Apr 08, 2015 11:20 pm

I'm going to college for music on bass guitar and am looking into starting screwing around with some synth stuff.

I'm looking into taking keyboard lessons to buff up my ears and get me ready for the keyboard classes in college and will be borrowing a piano from a friend, but I've also been digging more and more synth heavy music (most of the music I listen to is old Progressive rock, think Rush, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, ELP etc.) and have become more and more invested in the idea of getting a synth and a set of bass pedals to mess around with and potentially use in a band. That said, I'm not willing to drop 6000 dollars for a Minimoog and a set of Taurus pedals, which seems to be what most old school prog bands used. So, are there any cost effective synths/pedals that still give me all the experience of screwing around with a synth and recreating those old "classic synth" and bass pedal sounds on songs like Xanadu and La Villa Strangiato without making my parents remortgage their house? I was looking at a Korg MS20, but I really have no experience whatsoever in this field and would appreciate some advice.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby commodorejohn » Thu Apr 09, 2015 12:17 am

The MS-20 Mini is a great deal for the price and a solid way to learn your way around subtractive monosynths, but make sure to listen to some demos before you go shelling out for one - it's got a very characteristic sound with only some overlap with the traditional "proggy monosynth lead" turf defined by the Minimoog and Odyssey. (Great for synth bass, though.) That said, I've managed to coax some satisfactory traditional-type sounds out of it with some experimentation.

If you're not satisfied with that, you could go for the Korg Odyssey - it's pricier, but on the other hand, the Odyssey is right up there with the Minimoog for "classic lead synth" status, and the switchable modulation routings mean there's a lot of room for weirdo effects experimentation as well.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby lowerlightsmusic » Thu Apr 09, 2015 3:50 am

The MS-20 is a cool synth, but if you are new to the world of analog synths the learning curve might be a little steep. The Arturia Minibrute would be good "gateway drug" to analog synthesis, and would set you back $300-400. For a few more dollars, you could keep your eyes open for a Moog Rogue or Realistic MG-1 (basically a Rogue in Radio Shack clothing). Either of those synths are fun, and you would get the vintage Moog filter. None of these are a MiniMoog, but they will be decent synths that will help you understand basic synthesis. If it were my money, I'd actually get the Arturia, as it has an arpeggiator and would be cheaper than the other ones.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby commodorejohn » Thu Apr 09, 2015 3:54 am

I wouldn't go for the Minibrute if learning is the goal - it's simpler, but there's fewer features to learn. And the MS-20 really isn't hard to figure out, anyway.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby Ashe37 » Thu Apr 09, 2015 4:19 am

wouldn't go with a vintage with known problems for messing around with, and a Rogue or MG-1 in operating condition is going to cost you pretty much the same as the MS-20 Mini and not have one of them warranty things.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby max badwan » Thu Apr 09, 2015 11:56 pm

If I was in your situation, I'd be looking at something new, rather than vintage.
In addition to the above mentioned, you should have a look at Korg MicroKorg XL and MiniKorg, Novation BassStation 2, and the UltraNova and MiniNova, and Roland Gaia and the JD-Xi. Spend a couple of hours in a music shop, and check them out. They're all roughly at the same price point.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:07 am

I wouldn't bother with the MicroKorg unless your budget constraints are pretty severe; it sounds alright (certainly orders of magnitude better than the Gaia!) but the "four knobs and a handful of buttons" interface is pretty suboptimal for experimentation and learning (though still better than full-fledged parameter-access synthesizers.)
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby Stab Frenzy » Fri Apr 10, 2015 1:18 am

commodorejohn wrote:I wouldn't go for the Minibrute if learning is the goal - it's simpler, but there's fewer features to learn. And the MS-20 really isn't hard to figure out, anyway.

You should spend some time with a minibrute, it's got a much broader tonal palette than the MS20. It seems like a lot of people turn up the brute factor knob and do a few filter sweeps and then dismiss the brute, but it's capable of a huge range of sounds. The oscillator is probably the most complex of any consumer keyboard synth made, and the filter has four different modes and goes from soft and subtle to brutal. I got some really nice gentle recorder-like tones out of mine on a session I did a while back with this indie band. It's a fantastic synth.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:04 am

I'm not saying it's a bad synthesizer (though I owned one for a while and found it not particularly to my taste.) I'm just talking about potential as an introductory/learning synthesizer - certainly most of the basics are there, but the MS-20 Mini has a second oscillator, ring modulation, and semi-modular capabilities, for only a little more money. That's a whole bunch of additional tools for learning synthesis with.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby max badwan » Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:26 am

commodorejohn wrote:I'm not saying it's a bad synthesizer (though I owned one for a while and found it not particularly to my taste.) I'm just talking about potential as an introductory/learning synthesizer - certainly most of the basics are there, but the MS-20 Mini has a second oscillator, ring modulation, and semi-modular capabilities, for only a little more money. That's a whole bunch of additional tools for learning synthesis with.


One of the basic principles of learning is to start with simple tasks/systems, and to increase the complexity and difficulty over time - the MS-20 may not be the best learning tool for that reason.

IMHO, the GAIA would be a much better platform for the OPs' needs - from a single line "Juno-esque" to a multi line "JP/JX-like" architecture, sporting a dedicated control surface, and as they're going to college to study music, they may find the 64 voice GM side of things useful for composition classes. Throw in the audio input for their bass, and a simple sequencer and effects, I think they'd get a lot of milage from it. Plus it's got a full sized key-bed. But that's just my opinion.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:33 am

I really don't understand why people think the MS-20 is so complicated. It's got a perfectly standard monosynth architecture pre-patched right into it, which means you can start simple and work your way up from there.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby max badwan » Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:41 am

And I forgot to mention the Moog MiniTaur.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby Stab Frenzy » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:54 am

commodorejohn wrote:I'm not saying it's a bad synthesizer (though I owned one for a while and found it not particularly to my taste.) I'm just talking about potential as an introductory/learning synthesizer - certainly most of the basics are there, but the MS-20 Mini has a second oscillator, ring modulation, and semi-modular capabilities, for only a little more money. That's a whole bunch of additional tools for learning synthesis with.

commodorejohn wrote:I really don't understand why people think the MS-20 is so complicated. It's got a perfectly standard monosynth architecture pre-patched right into it, which means you can start simple and work your way up from there.

The MS20 isn't more complicated than the Minibrute, it just has more features. The Minibrute has less features but is more capable, and is both easier to learn initially and capable of going further as you learn more about synthesis.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:59 am

The Minibrute is more capable? I'm afraid I'll have to disagree.
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Re: Cost Effective Synth for messing around with

Postby Stab Frenzy » Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:46 am

commodorejohn wrote:The Minibrute is more capable? I'm afraid I'll have to disagree.

By all means do. :D
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