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Synths and Similar - an electronic music gear thread


Rowan Morrison
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On 04/05/2021 at 21:36, chris on the moon said:

I've realised my main synth's arpeggiator doesn't go when you're using midi. Is this normal, do you think?

 So I'm just programming it in midi instead, but it's not all quite keeping up. Can you think of any settings I should be looking at to reduce lag?

 

What kind of synth is it and what are you controlling it with that's introducing lag?

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Well, my daw is reaper. I'm using a focus rite scarlett's midi output and connecting it to my Roland sh201. Neither that or my volca fm are quite keeping time when I'm sending quite fast repetitive stuff. I didn't check if the volca's arpeggiator gets triggered when I send it midi though, come to think of it 

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On 16/05/2021 at 21:52, DeciderVT said:

Apparently Steve Davis is into Eurorack.

 

Yes, that Steve Davis.

 

He is indeed, and he has a band called The Utopia Strong with Kavus Torabi, the frontman of the current incarnation of Gong...

 

Steve's a top bloke, had the pleasure of hanging out talking synths with him a couple of times.

 

He's a great DJ too.. :-)

 

image0.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

So I decided that the midi lag was probably mostly the synthesiser. I tried doing the same thing with the volca FM and that fared much better. I also found that midi input does trigger the arpeggiator on that.  So that led to me feeling a bit let down with my main synth that I'd been using for the past 14 or so years. Then I watched a video about why it isn't good, and realised it wasn't just my lack of talent that stopped it from sounding great.

So I decided to buy a new bigger desk. Then I had to buy a minilogue XD to put on it. I'm pretty excited by it, I've been playing that and my new e-bow most of today. Totally baffled by all the preprogrammed sequences and how they've been created. Really impressive stuff.

 

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Caved and bought a Polyend Tracker. I know I should probably just have tried one of the software trackers, but sitting at a monitor to make music just doesn't inspire me.

 

First thought after a few hours use: fuck me what was I doing years ago trying to make D&B on any other type of sequencer. It almost feels like cheating it's so easy to manipulate breaks.

 

Second thought: it's pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to use samples, something I've done very little of for a long time. 

 

Need to put some more time in and learn the shortcuts a bit better and also work out how I'm going to fit it into the larger setup. Very pleased with it so far though.

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14 hours ago, Blunted said:

Caved and bought a Polyend Tracker. I know I should probably just have tried one of the software trackers, but sitting at a monitor to make music just doesn't inspire me.

 

First thought after a few hours use: fuck me what was I doing years ago trying to make D&B on any other type of sequencer. It almost feels like cheating it's so easy to manipulate breaks.

 

Second thought: it's pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to use samples, something I've done very little of for a long time. 

 

Need to put some more time in and learn the shortcuts a bit better and also work out how I'm going to fit it into the larger setup. Very pleased with it so far though.

 

Trackers are awesome eh? Bought Renoise years ago and bounced off the initial steep learning curve, but I'd encourage you to give it a whirl. It's the least "softwarey" music software I've ever used as the keyboard is a fantastic control interface for many of the most important features, just need to make sure you've got a comfortable, old school keyboard with numpad and function keys. Plus maybe an old synth or drum machine to sample and splice, though I'm sure the Polyend does the same job there.

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@MagooI've done the DAW thing in the past (and I'm sure I will again at some point in the future), but for now I don't really have a PC/Mac involved in the process at all. I found myself all too easily in an endless loop of downloading VSTs/presets/sample packs etc and ended up with crippling analysis paralysis where I flick between effects etc for days on end instead of actually just committing to something.

 

Just put together this wee companion for the Tracker though which is good fun and gives me the drones/pads that aren't really what Trackers are good at:

 

Screenshot_2021-07-18-18-06-57-17.thumb.jpg.42d6c3c536abfbb6e9ca11daea553793.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

Music night. My Livingroom is basically unlivable when I decide to make some squelches. I'll be pissed off in the morning, hungover tripping over wires. Wouldn't mind if I could make something half decent. The fun is in the fiddling though, really.

 

 

20210526_225935 (1).jpg

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@Lovelyman

 

My 2 cents. This selection is focused on getting a software based solution set up first, as I think you get serious bang for buck for about £350-400.

 

Get a Midi keyboard.

These ones have knobs which multiply your enjoyments of synths by about 1000% and are essential: https://www.native-instruments.com/en/catalog/komplete/keyboards/

M32 is £110, but the A49 is a nice one to stretch to at £180.

 

Get some sounds.

Native have this for £179: https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/bundles/komplete-13-select/ and includes a ton of sounds and effects above and beyond they few free synths you get with the above keyboards. Native also have some sound packs for about 40-50 and there will be several synth pop ones you can choose from, e.g. https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/play-series/analog-dreams/

 

Get something to allow you to compose.

This will allow you to put it all together, such as Ableton. https://www.ableton.com/en/shop/live/ Get the Intro version as you are just starting out and it's only £70

 

Sub-total: ~£350

 

That leaves you £650 to budget for some additional hardware, but being a NI fan, I would consider https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/maschine/production-systems/maschine/. It doesn't make sounds itself, but it would be useful for creating drum beats and composition. But it does mean everything is tied to your computer, albeit much more tactile than playing around with a mouse and keyboard. I do think it's important to have a things you can press, turn, twist, stab, and noodle around with.

 

Alternatively, £650 would get you a pretty decent synth like say a Korg Minilogue? https://www.korg.com/uk/products/synthesizers/minilogue/ Others here will have a much better list of suggestions I'm sure.

 

Finally, consider secondhand, although be careful about software licenses: https://reverb.com/uk/

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Nothing really does a style of music out of the box. That's down to you! However, if you want to quickly assemble music that sounds vaguely like current music then there are all sorts of bits of software (like Ableton) that you can run on a PC and basically cut and paste snippets of music together into tracks. It's a quick and easy way to getting output which feels like you're getting somewhere. A lot of these bits of software have a free (e.g. Bandlab Cakewalk, ABleton Lite) version that you can explore before committing to the more expensive versions. The PC is a great platform as you can get loads of free stuff and it has almost limitless potential, but it is a complex thing to start doing (as there are a myriad of options), will require a lot of research and ultimately you are still writing music on a PC, which can feel a bit like a grind if you use one for work too. 

 

If you want to step away from the PC then you're looking at some sort of all in one box, or at least a setup that isn't too hard to put together. 

 

An MPC Live 1 (or 2) or Force is a good, relatively cheap option. Software updates have made it incredibly feature rich, but by the same token they can have quite a steep learning curve. You also have stuff like the Deluge, Digitakt range and even the OP-1 (don't buy the OP-1). Or, as others have said, you can buy a little keyboard and a synth or two and connect them up and start fiddling. This will allow you to slowly learn the basics, while gradually adding to the setup as you go as you realise you have missing stuff. 

 

Ultimately, if you're not going to go with an all in one solution (like the MPC Live) then you're looking at something to play the notes (a keyboard of some sort), something to generate the sounds (some sort of synthesiser, that's either specialised at one thing, or can do multiple things) and some way of mixing and recording the output. This will be very tactile, but will also take some planning to work out what you want. You can do this sort of thing incredibly cheaply (£40 keyboard, couple of £70 synths, e.g. Volcas and a cheap Berhinger mixer) but bear in mind nothing you do will sound even remotely like pro stuff. And that'll be the balance you'll face - anyone in Ableton can think they're a genius after about an hour of dropping samples in. Working from scratch is a bit like learning any instrument. But will give you a better foundation for whatever route you take in the future. 

 

You have to decide really how much time you have and what your expectations are tbh. 

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1 hour ago, hub2 said:

@Lovelyman

 

My 2 cents. This selection is focused on getting a software based solution set up first, as I think you get serious bang for buck for about £350-400.

 

Get a Midi keyboard.

These ones have knobs which multiply your enjoyments of synths by about 1000% and are essential: https://www.native-instruments.com/en/catalog/komplete/keyboards/

M32 is £110, but the A49 is a nice one to stretch to at £180.

 

Get some sounds.

Native have this for £179: https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/bundles/komplete-13-select/ and includes a ton of sounds and effects above and beyond they few free synths you get with the above keyboards. Native also have some sound packs for about 40-50 and there will be several synth pop ones you can choose from, e.g. https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/play-series/analog-dreams/

 

Get something to allow you to compose.

This will allow you to put it all together, such as Ableton. https://www.ableton.com/en/shop/live/ Get the Intro version as you are just starting out and it's only £70

 

Sub-total: ~£350

 

That leaves you £650 to budget for some additional hardware, but being a NI fan, I would consider https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/maschine/production-systems/maschine/. It doesn't make sounds itself, but it would be useful for creating drum beats and composition. But it does mean everything is tied to your computer, albeit much more tactile than playing around with a mouse and keyboard. I do think it's important to have a things you can press, turn, twist, stab, and noodle around with.

 

Alternatively, £650 would get you a pretty decent synth like say a Korg Minilogue? https://www.korg.com/uk/products/synthesizers/minilogue/ Others here will have a much better list of suggestions I'm sure.

 

Finally, consider secondhand, although be careful about software licenses: https://reverb.com/uk/

Hey - thanks for that. 

 

I have been looking at the Native Instruments stuff. 

 

I was wondering if I could get away with a MK3 plus my laptop, or do I still need external software etc?

 

TBH the workflow is the thing that is worrying me, if I buy into something and dislike it then I am stuffed.

 

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Maschine MK3 comes with Komplete Select, so to start off with I doubt you would need any additional software to make sounds. If you like it, you can always upgrade to Komplete and get more. Wait for the sale - your upgrade price will be half price. I think I got Komplete 13 for £180 which is ridiculous value IMO.

 

The Maschine software itself will allow you to compose and makes tracks but it's not a complete DAW, so  you will run into issues when you want to do something a little more complex, mix it, etc. But it's  good starting point and is less complex than other tools. You can always start with Ableton Live lite while you are getting up to speed and that is free as @cavalcade mentioned, and has several pricing tiers.

 

I would also recommend a midi keyboard on top of the MK3 - get a cheap 2nd hand one. With knobs. ;)

 

Bottom line from me however is just get something and play around with it. There is a lot of analysis paralysis when it comes to music gear - you can create music on a 5 year old lap top that sounds great, or walk into million dollar aladdin's cave of hardware and sound shit. Keep your number instruments, effects and tools very small for now, while you learn the ropes.

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I'm not sure I'd recommend a Deluge to a total beginner. It has a "painting a hallway through a letterbox" level of interaction, similar to programming on rack mounted Wavestations of old. Yes, the light grid helps, but only if you're familiar with what it's showing you (as often it's abstracted and is relying on a general memory of how that particular function would work on a synth with a detailed LCD display). I think it's a tremendous machine, and probably best in class, but I still think an Akai Force would be a far more understandable entry point. 

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2 hours ago, cavalcade said:

I'm not sure I'd recommend a Deluge to a total beginner. It has a "painting a hallway through a letterbox" level of interaction, similar to programming on rack mounted Wavestations of old. Yes, the light grid helps, but only if you're familiar with what it's showing you (as often it's abstracted and is relying on a general memory of how that particular function would work on a synth with a detailed LCD display). I think it's a tremendous machine, and probably best in class, but I still think an Akai Force would be a far more understandable entry point. 

 

I haven't used an Akai Force so can't comment on that (its RRP at launch and a few grumbles about it early days put me off after my initial excitement over the thought of Ableton in a box - has it had some good firmware updates since?). Batting for the Deluge, I'd say that it can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Just getting a tune going is incredibly easy. Using everything the hardware can do is much more complicated.

 

But your 'painting a hallway through a letterbox' analogy is an interesting one... in terms of live jamming there are certainly options that feel more alive (though some of these are very complex, such as the Octatrack), and maybe setting up a MIDI keyboard to work with the Deluge would make it more simple to be immediately musical. I have to say that I find the keyboard mode on the device itself to be a lot of fun, mind. Thinking about the 'synth pop with psychedelic sounds and that also has drums and bass' initial post, the Deluge's grid seems like a very quick and easy method to compose the bones of such a song, and then you can get deeper into the functionality to work on it from there.

 

I must confess that I jam on the Deluge and come up with one section of a song way more than I actually finish anything on there. But every time I use it, it's so much fun. It's just me and my proclivity for jumping quickly between ideas rather than sticking to one, I suppose. I've been terrible at actually making finished music since lockdown started, which is pretty criminal really.

 

@Lovelyman I suggest a lot of YouTube research. The likes of Loopop, Red Means Recording, True Cuckoo and Bobeats have reviewed such a huge bunch of hardware over the years. You're bound to find something you're interested in by looking at their channels.

 

(EDIT: Just looked at the Akai Force updates since it launched. Wow, seems brilliant now!)

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If you're determined to buy hardware, buy second hand, if you bounce off it you'll lose next to nothing.

 

Novation Circuit may be worth considering, a cheap little groovebox that'll let you make basic tracks and if you enjoy that and are making use of it, add another synth or upgrade to a Live/Force/Deluge/MC707. I'm sure I saw an original Circuit on Facebook for £150 earlier today.

 

This brief overview will show you what it's capable of: https://youtu.be/suTjvwluYPw

 

Personally, I wouldn't be rushing out to spend a grand on something complex immediately, chances of being totally overwhelmed and the gear just collecting dust are massive.

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My vote would be for software, low resale value but it's hard to think of anything easier to start on than FL Studio for £76, £150 if you'd like some decent instruments with it. Reason is available on a £20 per month description too. Both of these have a lot of the immediate fun of putting values in a step sequencer and pressing play, Reason has simply incredible instruments in it too.

 

The bad news is both suffer from the joy crushing headache that is 20+ years of crap from updates dumped on top of a great fundamental idea. That's part of the reason why you hear so much about the hardware revival, as much as the hardware itself getting better. All software suffers from this though, and coming in cold it's no steeper a learning curve than something like an Elektron box.

 

FL Studio still fundamentally works around a step sequencer like hardware, and Reason can too though you will have to engage with its godawful sequencer at some point to finish a song (it may have improved since I last used it). You could try both and get change from £100, personally I wouldn't even bother with a MIDI controller if your synth pop is quite rigid, robotic 4/4 and you get FL Studio as it's keyboard note editor is peerless.

 

I'd go along with the Novation Circuit as the recommendation for hardware. That thing is really smartly designed and pretty cheap.

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8 hours ago, hub2 said:

Maschine MK3 comes with Komplete Select, so to start off with I doubt you would need any additional software to make sounds. If you like it, you can always upgrade to Komplete and get more. Wait for the sale - your upgrade price will be half price. I think I got Komplete 13 for £180 which is ridiculous value IMO.

 

The Maschine software itself will allow you to compose and makes tracks but it's not a complete DAW, so  you will run into issues when you want to do something a little more complex, mix it, etc. But it's  good starting point and is less complex than other tools. You can always start with Ableton Live lite while you are getting up to speed and that is free as @cavalcade mentioned, and has several pricing tiers.

 

I would also recommend a midi keyboard on top of the MK3 - get a cheap 2nd hand one. With knobs. ;)

 

Bottom line from me however is just get something and play around with it. There is a lot of analysis paralysis when it comes to music gear - you can create music on a 5 year old lap top that sounds great, or walk into million dollar aladdin's cave of hardware and sound shit. Keep your number instruments, effects and tools very small for now, while you learn the ropes.

Looking at the Maschine MK3 a lot. It looks like a good workflow and a nice piece of kit. 

 

Does it come with nice synths in the software? If I wanted to make some minimal techno or something would I be fine?

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@Lovelyman You get this with it:

 

https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/maschine/production-systems/maschine/sound-details/

 

You're sorted. Massive and Monark will do you just fine to begin with. Actually, not just to begin with, they're professional class. Actual minimal techno you hear in a club will use sounds from one of those. Massive is also incredibly popular in DnB.

 

Also: https://www.producertech.com/staff-picks/139/complete-guide-to-maschine-mk3 might come in handy.

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