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What do you look for in a synthesizer?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by rabid_granny, Apr 27, 2004.

  1. Saw the Killers at a local club...they have some rockin' tunes (http://www.thekillersmusic.com/). The lead singer played on a Clavia Nord Lead 2 synth. My drummer mentioned that we could use something like that in the studio.

    I'm good with guitars and bass guitars. Synthesizers are unfamiliar territory? What should you look for in a good, professional synthesizer?
  2. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    One that is about my height with a good sense of humour and likes the outdoors. :D

    You should probably check to see whether there are any keyboard forums around that might be able to help you out more than a bunch of bass players. Then again, a keyboard forum may talk you into some $20k synth that can double as a NASA Shuttle controller :meh:
  3. Against Will

    Against Will Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2003
    Big Sound Central
    I'm kind of partial to "analog" synths (in quotes because modern analog synths are really digital programmed to emulate analogs) with all the knobs, they're much more straight-forward than straight-out digital synths, though they're a little daunting at first, once you get understand what each thing does (not hard), you have a lot of flexibility and don't need to worry about messing up patches and such.

    I tried the new MicroKorg synth/vocoder and fell in love with it. It costs about $400 and has a whole lot of features for its size. "Analog"-digital mixed interface. A good amount of flexibility, lightweight, and can do enough for someone whose not looking to get into synths too heavily yet. Plus the vocoder is frickin' AWESOME!

    There are all sorts of features you can look for in synths. Weighted/pressure-sensitive keys, presets etc. I would reccommend checking out literature on synths and get a better idea of what you want your synth to do, do you want modules or a single system? etc. Kind of like buying a bass.

    Good luck.
  4. I'm pretty much a guitar/bass guy so I was just curious if anything major features jumped out. I was playing with a Clavia Nord Lead 2 during lunch today and it was making all sorts of weird noises. I'll read up some more. Thanks.
  5. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    One word: knobs. Lots of them. The higher the KPI (knobs per inch) the better. :p

    I think it's important to get a synth that you can understand easily. Don't get blown away by features you aren't going to use. It's more important that you can manipulate the sounds easily rather than have a bunch of ways to warp a sound that you don't understand. You can get great sounds out of a cheap synth provided you know what you're doing. Case in point: I dumped all my super expensive keyboards in lieu of using Reason. It sounds great, and is really easy to use.

    Are you going to use this mainly as a live keyboard, or at home? Do you have a recording program already, or will you need an onboard sequencer?
  6. I think our drummer wants to use it both live and in studio. I'm not sure what you mean when you ask about the recording program and sequencer. Why would we need that?
  7. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Nose hairs. They fall between the keys while you're playing.
  8. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002


    My brother has a Roland Jp-8080

    It's a totally awesome synth, I love that thing. It's a lot more fun to use than tritons and fantoms..etc. it's more hands-on and you feel a lot more connection with the synth than you would just pressing buttons.
  9. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    If you are planning on using it live, I would suggest getting a rackmount sound module, and controlling it with a cheap controller that you won't be afraid to break.

    What's your purpose for the synth? To create weird sounds and textures, or to create songs with? If you are wanting to create songs and loops, you will need something that has a built in sequencer. If you are using it primarily as a tone generator, then you won't need to spend the extra cash on one.

    I second that JP8080. It's great.
  10. I think my friend wants to use it for sonic textures. If I were to use it, I would play it as a piano with funky tones. I don't think we'd need a sequencer as we would have someone man it.

    With that Roland Jp-8080, is that it? Where are the keys? Or do you run it in the effects loop of a guitar amp?
  11. There are many different applications and preferences that will dicatate what kind of synthesizer you would enjoy.

    Keybed (the key mechanism that you are playing):
    -There are unweighted keys, which offer very little weight or resistance to the player. The Korg Triton Le 61 and Yamaha S03 would fit this description.
    -Next would be semi weighted keys, which offer a bit more tactile feel in terms of weight and resistance to your fingers. Examples - The Korg Trinity 61 and Triton Classic 61 , Yamaha Motif 61 and DX7, and Roland XP-60 and Fantom S61.
    -Fully weighted keys feel much like an acoustic piano. Many players insist on the feel of the weighted keys, as the potential dynamic resolution is greater to the player. Examples would be the Yamaha Motif 88, Korg Triton Classic 88, and Roland Fantom S88.

    User interface:
    - Some like using preset sounds and do verry little 'tweaking' of the synthesis parameters in order to achieve the sound they want. Digital (pushbutton, menu driven ) synths typically work well for the non-tweaker. If you like to tweak the sounds, a VA (virtual analog) is the hot setup. Knobs, galore. If you like to tweak, grab a VA and twist your sound into the delicious ear-candy you always dreamed of.

    Much can be learned from a forum such as Harmony Central 'Keys synths and samplers'. Also, a site called Vintage Synth ' has great info on all the synthesizers that have been used to create the sounds we've heard over the years.

    Before you buy a synth, do yourself a favor and learn first-hand what the keys feel like, and how digital vs. analog systems are edited. Only you can decide what feels right under your fingers when you play, and how the user interface will make your edits easy to learn and accomplish.

  12. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    There is a row of keys for rudimentary sequencing ,nothing fancy, but I have heard some amazing stuff done on just them, they are more for previewing sounds though.

    Other than that, it's a rack module so you plug a midi keyboard into it and you are good to go. (output to amp or headphones via 1/4")
  13. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Sounds like you don't need anything complex. Get something with a lot of knobs, like a Nord or a Roland JP8080.

    The JP8080 is what's called a synth module. Essentially it's the brains of the keyboard minus the keyboard part. You can rack it up, and control it with a cheap midi controller, without fear that you will break something expensive.
  14. Bass of Galt

    Bass of Galt Guest

    Mar 25, 2004
    Scrotillia Falls
    I just got back from an "audition" for a band that spent three hours fumbling with knobs and patches and footswitch dancing just to play 1 frigging song. :eek:

    Bring synths into the mix and plan on tripling your rehersal time.
  15. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    fixed it for you :meh:
  16. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I spend very little time programming synths. If you know what kind of sound you are after, it's very easy to nail it. I spent less than 5 minutes finding the synth sound in Sicarii, and I think it sounds fine.

    Finding a tone on a synth is like finding one on a bass amp. If you know what you are doing it should be pretty easy, but if you tweak and tweak and tweak you lose the sound in your head and you will never find it.
  17. baba

    baba Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2002
    3rd stone from the sun
    We just used the Nord Lead and a Moog for some psychedelic-Floyd-freak-out stuff between songs on our upcoming album. Cool toys if they are used minimally and tastefully.
  18. Bass of Galt

    Bass of Galt Guest

    Mar 25, 2004
    Scrotillia Falls
    Why did you do that?

    That's not "fixed" - it's a completely different meaning from what I intended. :confused:
  19. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    The "fixed it for you" thing is a long standing tradition in TB hijinks. You'll learn.
  20. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    What Triaxis said, but also, If you didn't get what I was saying it's that Synths in and of themselves will not triple your rehearsal time, someone who doesn't know what they are doing, or what sound they want, will triple your rehearsal time.