Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Most Important Synth Tips Ever

1. Use modulation

Step sequencers and time sync-ed LFO are the most important parts of the synth. They connect the sound to the music in a rhythmic way. Modulation expresses the sound over time. Modulation re-shapes the wave and makes it talk. Modulate the filter. Modulate the pitch with a FM or OSC sync. The modulation alone can make a groove or just using the mod wheel can make your synth talk to the listener. You can even start with modulation during the creation of your patches. Modulating pulsewidth gives the sound an interesting texture. Synth sounds are not all about envelopes. Envelopes often trigger exactly the same at each note press. This makes it no better than a rompler. You get a static sound with envelopes. With a rhythmic modulation, step sequencer modulation etc. you can make the sound alive. Modulation can often make a sound unrealistic, but that is the point of using an analog synthesizer. Making realistic sounds often is a failure. If you synthesize a sound thats already been heard before, you could still create a modulation of it that's never been done. Modulation is an important area to explore. It might not make any sense at first, as to what is changing what. Some synths are very poor choices and have limited modulations. Always pick a synth that makes LFOs and step sequences easy, and make sure they are time synced.

2. Create sounds by playing along with music

This is important to getting your sound EQed and to match your song style-wise. Customizing a synth sound to your music just makes it more fluid. A lot of times you can fix a synth sound by adjusting the amount of bass or brightness (filter). Many digital synths are way too bright and must be adjusted, and pulled back to be less aggressive. Filters used for bass often aren't too bright. You can often make a better bass sound on a synth thats not too good at bass, by bumping up the EQ. Overrall you should think of yourself as mixing the sound with other sounds.  If you create sounds by themselves, you'll listen to them again later and they will be too loud, or won't work in your songs.

3. Learn how to use EFX.

Not all synths have effects. The ones that do are pretty special. Sometimes a boring patch can find life with some basic effects like chorus and reverb. Effects can add to the modulation-factor. Effects give atmosphere. Effects can make the synth sound talk. The patch you are making is either a voice or an effect sound with some type of subconscious emotion that effects can further bring out. Different effects can remind the listener of different periods of music when those effects were popular. They can make the sound generic or take it to a new level.

4. Learn how to adjust timing of every parameter

Timing of the envelopes, LFOs, and even reverbs / phasers can drastically change a sound. The timing of each parameter can align harmonics into a new layer of combined sound. At the end, everything will just feel right. Not everything needs to be synced, but you can try to achieve a subconscious harmony of waves (or dissonance if you prefer).  You can sweeten and tighten up sounds by playing a musical sequence. You can load up old patches and just re-tweak everything to fit a different speed of playback.

5. You don't need an analog synth to make music

Analogs can be great, but not all of them fit with music production needs. They are missing many modern features. The external connections can slow you down. Their limited nature can hold you back music wise. The modern computer can do everything that an analog synth can. It will just sound slightly different. Most listeners will never be able to tell if you are using an analog synth or not, especially with todays effects and recording process. There are good reasons to use analog synths, but there are just far more options with digital music creation. The cost is a lot less. Buying an analog synth will not turn you into a genius. It may not even make your music any better. You may want one for performing or experimentation, but in the end its not 100% necessary. In the end an analog instrument will never match the functions of a digital synth without a great cost to the user.


In a more basic review:

Make your synth sounds TALK.

Adjust the timing of everything to harmonize the sound

Add effects to add atmosphere

Adjust the EQ to match the song

Use effects to make your synth sound TALK

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