New computer, new gear and all that jazz.
Wishing you all a great and creative year!
New computer, new gear and all that jazz.
Wishing you all a great and creative year!
It’s that time of the year with numerous sales going on, while you look over your existing tools. Streamlining is a very good approach to focus on creating a “basic” (and hopefully not limiting) setup for yourself.
Choosing the right synthesizers or instruments for that matter can be a crucial and difficult task. I would like to share my recommendations and explain different ways of approaching your selection. It might be that I just got hit by yet another addiction too…
Light ones are synthesizers that you can easily run on your computer. Your CPU meter is barely moving and you can stack up 100 instances. So, why would that be any good for serious music production?
Once in a project, I like to do some kind of remixing the original idea, somewhere at a bar in my arrangement view where nothing else is going on, but that new remixing approach. Spice things up, slow it down, turn your dance track into some relaxed, jazzy tune for example. With light synthesizers you will always have that “freedom” and most of my recommendations are streamlined in features and perfect for sketching out new ideas.
I also like to layer sounds and bus them together for processing. Light ones can be a nice way of building yourself some unique and rich sounds out of 2 or 3 other sounds, hitting your CPU only slightly.
impOSCar 1 - Yea, I do mean the older version. I never got attracted by the newer version. Even this older emulation of the OSCar has a great sound, is easy to tweak and super-light even on older CPUs.
FM8 – This one is a true beast and a light one at the same time. Very versatile. Not that easy to program, but with a superb sound collection available.
Free Alpha – one of the few freebies I really adore. There is just something about the envelopes and the punch this one is able to produce. Including factory sounds by BigTone.
A “Go-to” synthesizer is, more or less, your favorite. The one you want to use all over the place. The one where you want to patch and tweak for hours. Getting a little esoteric here – one that you can relate to, that makes “sense” to you at a deeper level and that you really enjoy. We are talking software here, but music software, where being able to create a “relationship” to your tools is welcome.
Everyone is different here. Some may like it simple, some may like it complex and vast. It comes down to experiencing the same “flow” or “zone” feeling you get, just like with creating music itself.
Personally, I like my go-to to be easy and fun to tweak, semi-light on CPU, creating a smile on my face immediately after I fire it up and turn some knobs.
For some, a “go-to” and “complex” are the same thing. Thinking about Zebra, which is as complex as you like, I feel like it became the go-to for many people.
Complex to me means loads of options. Different synthesis types, filer types, routing options and maybe some unique gadgets. You may even have some kind of randomizer inside, that can turn a complex one into an endless resource for new sounds.
I don’t say you can’t get into “flow” with these. My approach here is to actually force a more conceived way of sound creation and experimenting with new and interesting sounds.
Alchemy - This one can be easy, once you get your head around the different pages and how things like modulation assignment work. Once you done that, there is an open world of sound for you to explore, with granular and spectral modes, combined with traditional subtractive and additive synthesis.
Absynth – I admit it, I love it for the Mutator. There is a lot going on here for you to dive in and explore. Not as appealing as Alchemy is to me, but appealing enough to put it on my list.
Would there be a maximum number of synthesizers one should have? Well, I don’t know about you guys, but combining one out of each category I named is clearly enough for my synthesis needs. I lost myself already in too many choices in the past and this might happen to you. Tempting deals, shiny demos. Only you can really know what you like and need, but I felt that this could be helpful.
Go check the synthgeek pages, for a decent article about how to get started with music production, without the need of illegal actions.
… yourself as an artist. One of the more difficult aims to accomplish being a music producer.
In the beginning, we follow our heroes and favorite artists, to get close to their sounds and output. The current soundware market is offering numerous products, like specific sample and preset packs, even full construction kits, allowing upcoming producers to get a certain sound quicker, as the “regular” way of learning individual steps and taking years of practice. You can even look for content that is made by one of your favorite artists. Cool, eh?
Well, as much as this seems very beneficial, there is more to it, especially when people get lazy and rather prefer these shortcuts, as dealing with learning and creating things on their own. If we look back on the history of electronic music, we notice certain things that remind us on what this music was originally about. Personally, music is the greatest discovery of mankind (oke… spicy food and beer are also awesome!). Nowadays spirit seems to be about, as much as we want, as quick as we want, with the least amount of effort possible. Stolen software copies, with some presets and samples and there you go. This doesn’t stop with the unknown guy, producing in his bedroom, unfortunately.
One of the most, if not the most, famous little synthesizers, the TB-303, was primarily aimed on recreating real bass guitar sound. A huge miss for Roland when it came out, leading to a lot of bargain 303s. The electronic music / Techno community took this device and made it into one of the most desirable pieces of gear to acquire. By using it beyond the intended purpose.
I don’t wanna bash on presets and samples. I use them all the time, but I don’t base all my work on them. You can build your average, generic song with these easily and be one of the millions of people, having a release on Beatport or wherever. But what is the memory you want to trigger, if people think about you? What is the difference between a producer that is an inspiration for you and one that just made a good track, that you won’t listen to anymore in 2 or 3 weeks?
Keep a good balance! Find gear and samples that give you a decent set of essential tools. Get yourself a book or watch some online tutorials, but don’t overdo it. Follow your favorite artists, but learn how to make things your way. Notice when the time is right to practice and experiment with the things you know, to discover your own techniques and your way of doing things, the way you feel is right, not how some other dude somewhere else thinks how you should do it.
This idea originally started in the Summer. I rather call it finish, before I keep tweaking on it forever. Download enabled. Enjoy.
Today, I would like to talk about limitations and how helpful they can be.
I like to think about myself as someone with a minimal setup. I mainly use Reason 6.5 and rarely add more content to my production arsenal, like new samples, ReFills or Rack Extensions.
I believe, that once your collection grows you loose track of what you already own. A good example for this is Reason’s own Factory Sound Bank. First of all, it has way too much to offer to remember everything in there. Secondly, some of those effect Combinators can spice up a boring sound easily. If you checked the FSB in the past, you should get back to keep rediscovering new goodies.
Same goes for any other ReFill or sample pack I own. In a new content or in a different mind state or mood, some sounds may attract you more than others. A sound that you not liked before, could be the inspiring spark this time.
You can try to reconstruct Combinators into pieces and learn from there. Once separated, you can use those pieces to craft new sounds and textures. Another reason why most of my current sound comes from NN19/XT sounds is because my collection of sampled instruments for both samplers and I enjoy mix and matching them for my own creations, but this can be done with any device in Reason and is one way of working with some creations of other artists and designers.
I like to clean and delete stuff, even more so when checking several numbers. Who seriously could ever need 2.000 snare samples? This is one of the questions I ask myself, but I also know that some people really can deal with a lot of options and content. I’m not one of them and I learnt my lesson the hard way (that G.A.S. thing), but these tips may help other people with minds working like mine.
A place to share music, thoughts and nonsense, mostly.