rhythmboy

Good synth to learn about synthesis?

17 posts in this topic

Sounds like I'm stating the bleeding obvious :P

But what I'm referring to is synth's that rather than have all the bells and whistles, just have a layout that clearly and logically shows the main principles of subtractive synthesis (or any other for that matter).

The intention is to find synths for school that students can see and hear the fundamentals, plus have cool presets they can use for quick and easy songwriting. Multitimbral a plus for bang-for -buck.

I keep coming back to the good old Nord Lead 2, it's layout is logical, not too cluttered with model-specific buttons and all the required info is printed on the panel.

c6_nr2x_1.jpg

The Virus is good but frankly has too many buttons and dependence on the LCD screen. I want 'turn this - hear that'.

access-music-virus-ti-desktop.jpg

Moog Voyager has a great front panel but maybe a bit pricey for a mono synth for a school :)

Music-Keys-Voyager.jpg

Any other suggestions? Go on, be totally biased. You don't have to supply specs, just say 'this one's awesome' and show us a pic of the panel cheers :P

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+1 on the Nord - God bless the Swedes - they bought us Nord and blondes...

In my opinion, another great 'learner' synth would have to be the Roland SH 201

sh201.jpg

Hell, it even has direction arrows telling you the signal path!

Are you looking to buy a pile for your school???

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Ill come in to bat for the Access Virus TI here :)

access-music-virus-ti-desktop.jpg

Actually, everything to the left hand side of the LCD panel is optional, they're effects and things like LFO modulation and Matrix, its very nice to have for when you nail your sound on the right hand side and you want to beef it up.

You dont need to rely on the screen, although its a massive help. The three knobs directly under the screen are called "soft" knobs that allow you to assign any parameter on the synth to these knobs, and typically when your tweaking live or in recording, you'll only use 2 or 3 different parameters to change the sound , ie , Filter cutoff , envelope attack etc, you can assign these to the knobs directly under the screen so you dont have to be moving all over the synth to make adjustments.

Another very useful feature of the screen is its display of previous values.

Say if you are recording or playing, and your getting into it , and you move the wrong knob, or you bump one, the LCD screen will tell you what parameter was last changed, what you've changed it to, and what the value was previously before you changed it, so you can easily revert it back.

The other huge benefit to the virus , is the virus control. A VST plugin that you drag into any MIDI track on your DAW and you can control the entire synthesizer through. it gives you a heads up display of where everything is, visual overlay of what the envelopes looks like and easy single click access to everyone of the 16 channels,

VirusControl-Filter-b83b7d3676bb81e934354492df4e22f1.jpg

It was a big help having everything to easily accessible and the Virus control software helped me understand a lot of things I previously was confused about, such as programming your own appegiator patterns with swing and step etc.

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This would actually be a good topic for an article ... where the best place to start with synthesis is ..

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Anything with heaps of buttons and menu driven operation is good for techo's, but IMHO as a techo, they're not easy to learn synthesis on. Yeah, great for lots of things and being distracted... but synthesis education? Nope.

Nord Lead is a great instrument without many distractions and a lot of flexibility. Logical layout, nicely spaced buttons and just the right amount of them not to seem daunting to a beginner. When i have mates over who're getting started, they really enjoy the Nord and i think those are some reasons why.

Another one i find most people pick up quickly is the Novation K-Station. Cheap as chips and another well laid out simple synth. Plenty of flexibility later but quite a distinct sound - a bit like the Nord, i guess. It's easy to get distracted with effects and arps on the K-Station though. Makes up for it quickly with a good smattering of dedicated knobs and no need to touch the menu controls.

Novation%20K-Station%20full.JPG

Novation Bass Station is also nice and simple but very much a one trick pony and you really need to be 'in' to midi to make the most of it long term. Soft version of it with a controller could be nice, though.

novation_bassstation.jpg

Moog Little Phatty could be a good price conscious intro to nice analogue subtractive synthesis.

MoogLP.jpg

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Great question, and in 2010, shouldn't we be spoilt for choice, well apparently not. And I take it you're looking into current items, rather than trawling pawn shops for older gear, yeah?

I agree that a logically laid out set of parameters makes 'getting it' that much easier.

I cut my subtractive synthesis teeth on a Roland HS-60 (essentially a Juno 106 with boring beige paintwork and on-board speakers), and really enjoyed learning and taking it into a variety of sonic directions. The multi-paramater modulation lever, when tweaked to the filter, made for some very funkified performance playing too, and even the shitty old speakers sounded alright when overdriven with bass, tho' streets away from the true, more reserved sound on the line outs.

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By the time I'd finally had enough of clearing the crud out of the keyboard contacts, and matching the filter tuning across the oscillators, I felt I was well equipped to delve into something a little more cryptic controller-wise, even if the concepts were essentially the same, enter the Yamaha AN1x.

an1x.jpg

And here's it's matrix style knob set, which while logically laid out in colour-coded parameter groups, can be a little daunting for the beginner battling to get one's head around the acronyms:

!BwZW7R!CGk~$(KGrHqN,!jkEv1%2B0BiC2BMIvzFyUkQ~~_3.JPG

And I'm not too sure the diagram on the right helps too much:

GarageSale_1257658658_4463.jpg

But both are too old?

So what would I pick today?

Yeah, Nord would do the trick, as would the new Rolands, such as the nicely detailed Gaia...

sh-01_top_gal.jpg

...but I can't say I get too excited about regurgitated Roland VA gear these days.

What else?

Keeping it real, along the lines of Jester's Phat, would be the Slimmer version, assuming one has access to a keyboard controller (and perhaps still a little too cryptic?)

slimphatty-moog-synthesizer.jpg

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Geez thanks for all the tips fellas :)

Moog Little Phatty, K-Station and the SH-201 are leading the pack so far. Some of them look tidy enough to run in multi-Mac lab workstations, altho looking more at small project studio setups.

But I encourage peeps to still add suggestions, as Cheyne said this thread could end up being a good resource for any noobie :P

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On the theme of the K Station , I also owned an X-Station for a while and it was very useful in teaching me a few things ...

I believe the XIO Synth is basically the same , with less controls now ... the same K Station synthesizer though

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^Yeah, same dsp and algorithms but with added soundcard. Catch is the reduction in knobbage. Advantage is the fact they're a useful USB midi controller, soundcard and reasonable synth. Just for learning synthesis, i think they're a little too techy again, though. Great all in one solution and the pricing of them lends itself to people starting out or looking for a mobile solution.

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Anything with 1 knob per parameter they can see and hear in real time, but it depends on the depth of the coarse, and how deep are they going to go?. Multi layered menu's are just gonna scare newby's away.

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Anything with 1 knob per parameter they can see and hear in real time, but it depends on the depth of the coarse, and how deep are they going to go?. Multi layered menu's are just gonna scare newby's away.

The first-year uber-newbies I think will go with a simple plug-in VI - it's enough to learn the basics of Logic or Tools and how to insert plugs etc, without getting into hardware MIDI I/O and all the rest.

I'm thinking the hardware synths are for 2nd and 3rd year students. I've got an advanced 3rd year subject 'Digital Audio Arts' that I expect the students to get into sound design, sound sculpting etc in the more experimental mode. In 2nd year they do 'Electronic Composition and Production' - more dance-music oriented filter sweeps and stuff.

Thanks for all the tips peeps, the quote requests are at the store now ( Im not saying who :mellow: ), we'll see what we end up with!

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On the software side I'd say Reason because of the very educational virtual rack layout, on the hardware side... why not the Korg MS-20 Mini? Affordable and easy to understand. :)

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