best synth for the total beginner
 
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09/08/08 5:27 PM

Hi all. I'm interested in buying my first synth this year, maybe by christmas. I'm after something with a built-in keyboard and smaller than a fullsize ideally (i.e. not 88 key) so I can use it more easily with my existing desk, PC, flat, etc. I will be using it in conjunction with PCs and possibly an aged mac, but I would like some standalone operation if possible.

I'm wanting to shortlist potential synths to use. The microkorg is currently the only thing on my list: I think I'd buy it second hand and my budget is up to about 200GBP with 100-150 being my preferred figure (I am a total beginner, after all). I'm a little concerned by the size of the keys: I do need it semi-portable but I do have big hands smiling smiley I listened to some youtube comparisons of the Korg to the minimoog, and I preferred the Korg's tone in all but the bass lines (I do not think I can afford a minimoog though so that's fairly moot).

Any advice is greatly appreciated. How important would trying out the synth in question be? It seems there arent' as many music shops around as there used to be!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/08/2008 04:28PM by jmtd.

 

09/08/08 6:46 PM

Get a microkorg. Especially if your on a budget. Plus you also get a cool vocoder. I'm more and more impressed with mine the more I use it. It's got narly distortion which your gonna want for super SICK basslines. I got mine second hand for $300. If you get deep into it and the small keys do prove to be a problem, you can always hook it up to an inexpensive midi controller later.

IMO people that trash the microkorg fit into one of two demographics.

1> They are the type that prefer presets

or

2> They don't understand synthesis enough to design their own patches.

The microkorg is sick for such a small package.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/18/2008 10:37AM by Observer.

 

09/08/08 6:52 PM

For the record I would say that your best bet if you are a total beginner is Reason. The Thor can destroy the microkorg.

 

09/08/08 6:57 PM

Akai AX-60

[www.vintagesynth.com]

it cost about as much as that micro-korg is going to cost you but it's the real deal.

the coolest thing about it is that it is polyphonic and analog and it has an arpeggiator, so you'll be able to do some pretty cool stuff with it. also, analog shit is hard to come by these days since more and more dip shits are using digital aka (analog modeling). you could probably find one online somewhere and around $300 is a good price. I'd be willing to go as high as $400 if i really wanted it, and truth be told, it would be worth it.

some of the best synths to own are:
the yamaha cs series e.g. yamaha cs-01 yamaha cs-10
Sequential Circuits Prophet 600
Roland Jupiter 6
Roland Jupiter 8
Roland Juno 106 - even though it has digital oscillators

I know a lot about synths, get at me if you have any more questions.

 

09/08/08 7:02 PM

ps don't listen to observer. all programs do is take the creativity factor out of things. think about what's harder to master: taking a pic with a digital camera and fixing it after wards, where you can undo and undo as many times as you want or; taking a picture with a film camera and either getting it right or fucking it up. one of them forces you to get good at something the other one allows any idiot with a memory card and a pirated version of photoshop to be called a "photographer".

 

09/08/08 7:08 PM

kunta kinte posted:
all programs do is take the creativity factor out of things. .
Rubbish I say.

Programs help humans accomplish tasks.

Nothing More, Nothing Less

 

09/08/08 10:02 PM

kunta kinte posted:
ps don't listen to observer. all programs do is take the creativity factor out of things. think about what's harder to master: taking a pic with a digital camera and fixing it after wards, where you can undo and undo as many times as you want or; taking a picture with a film camera and either getting it right or fucking it up. one of them forces you to get good at something the other one allows any idiot with a memory card and a pirated version of photoshop to be called a "photographer".

I don´t agree with that. Just because it makes things easier it doesn´t mean it´s worse. I mean you can get really cool things out of the synth softs. If someone is too lazy to do their own thinking and just choose the presets it´s a whole different story. If he´s a begginer (such as myself) it´s way batter to be able to undo things.

 

09/10/08 2:16 PM

my point exactly, Edit/undo, edit/undo...that's the mentality of everyone these days. Everyone plays it safe now and as a result the live and artistic element of something is taken out.

You can't learn to skateboard on nintendo wii, and you can't learn to play a synth by replacing it with software.

$5 bucks says if it came down to you doing something live on an actuall synth, you couldn't do all these "really cool things" you say you can do.

 

09/10/08 3:26 PM

I would try maybe an older synth but not vintage. By that i mean you can find some good stuff from the late 90s or early 00's for a good price. Try a Korg MS2000. Try a Roland JX305 (it has a sequencer) or something like that. The micro korg keys suck. The software route is fine but if your just starting it would be nice to get your hands on something. Turn, tweak and fiddle your way through. My first synth was a Roland MC-303. Its a groove box but it was a great first synth. The JX305 is the keyboard version of that. I dont know if that is really the best fit but its worth checking out. There is some good stuff out there but you'll be able to get some good prices on stuff from that era used.

Hope this helps a little!

 

09/10/08 4:58 PM

i found the microkorg wasnt the most comprehensive synth, for beginners. plus, the presets suck... so that will only make things more frustrating, if you dont know much to begin with. i realize this is out of your price range, but i recently bought a little phatty.. and id have to say this is the easiest synth ive ever used. im going to have to side with 'observer' on this, and suggest you head the route of a softsynth, along with a decent midi controller. software doesnt hinder creativity, unless youre useless with software. theres a reason why even the most respectable analog synths these days, are manufactured with midi/usb ports.... and usually, software.

 

09/10/08 9:38 PM

kunta kinte posted:
my point exactly, Edit/undo, edit/undo...that's the mentality of everyone these days. Everyone plays it safe now and as a result the live and artistic element of something is taken out.

You can't learn to skateboard on nintendo wii, and you can't learn to play a synth by replacing it with software.

$5 bucks says if it came down to you doing something live on an actuall synth, you couldn't do all these "really cool things" you say you can do.

Actually almost every sound that i did with my synth soft (i use reason) i made it by just experimenting and never undoing. i use live automation also.

You owe me 5 bucks?

 

09/13/08 5:57 AM

Off topic much?

Anyway, I'm also interested in getting a hardware synth, so anyone with any more suggestions?

I've been looking at the microkorg, as it's cheap, and looks like its a good starting point.

 

09/13/08 3:57 PM

like i said before, i like the sounds of the microkorg, quite a bit... but i wouldnt say it was the easiest synth for beginners....

give rolands sh-201 a try. its pretty easy to grasp... and all of the POTS are right on the panel, so theres basically NO menu diving. its not the most versitile synth on the planet, but it works well at what it does.

actually, if youre interested... click this: [media.roland.com] its a fully interactive demo! its very comprehensive.
damn... now im wishing i had one.

 

09/14/08 4:59 PM

I'll second evelynmachine in saying that programming the microkorg isn't the most fun thing in the world. If your a beginner and don't understand envelopes and LFOs and the basic building blocks, I could see how a beginner would be frustrated with it. And yes, the presets are pretty lame. But if your seasoned, you'll be amazed at what you can get out of that little beast.

Reason is great for beginners because you can reverse engineer the patches and see how the sounds are made.

If money isn't a factor, I'll recommend the Nord Lead 2X till the day I die. I never get tired of designing sounds with it. Dedicated knobs for every parameter. Velocity sensitivity on whatever you what. And a truly wicked morph feature that really puts the icing on the cake. No effects though. I run mine through a Boss MT-2 metal zone and a Line6 DL4 and I have all the effects I need for live applications.

I don't get kunta kinte's hate for the undo feature. How does it make people "Play it safe." confused smiley

If anything, I would think that it encourages more experimentation because if you fuck something up and want to get back to where you started you can just undo it, or make a copy of the synth module before you experiment.

He/She must be a jaded purist. grinning smiley



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/15/2008 12:36AM by Observer.

 

09/14/08 9:23 PM

I don't see how Soft Synths limit creativity? They are just software synths. Hook up a midi keyboard and guess what, it's having a rack mounted synth in your computer. Plus being VSTi's they need some kind of host usually, which also will house all of your effects and mastering VST's. So your getting a complete studio package which fits all on a desktop.

Music is about the delivery of art. The idea and execution. Let the artist decide how he wants to go about doing it.

Now for the actual topic at hand.

I played with the MicroKorg for quite a while. I wasn't impressed with it at all. It was neat, but I felt that it was lacking. Keep in mind that if your paying $300 for it, you'll be getting $300 worth of knowledge out of it. Like Observer said, playing with a Nord Lead will give you a lot more in depth knowledge of the various components of synthesis.

Sounds like budget is a concern. One thing I might suggest is picking up a cheap midi controller. Then Ebaying one of the older Electribes that Korg makes. The EA-1 mkII or whatever it is uses pretty much the same sound design as a MicroKorg. It'll teach you sequencing and Midi usage as well...

That setup wont have an arpeggiator or Vocoder (but the MicroKorg's vocoder is shit anyway, it's just a neat little novelty feature really).

Microkorgs keys are cheap also. Not full sized. If your just learning you need to learn on a full sized keyboard in my opinion, eventually your going to graduate from the MicroKorg.

Oh check your pawn shops to. I picked up a Roland XP-50 for $250. That my friend was a steal.

If your dead set on Korg products you can try out the R3. I think it's the current budget synth with full sized keys.

I could rant more but this is already long enough. *lol*

 

09/15/08 12:33 AM

Observer posted:
I'll second evelynmachine in saying that programming the microkorg isn't the most fun thing in the world. If your a beginner and don't understand envelopes and LFOs and the basic building blocks, I could see how a beginner would be frustrated with it. And yes, the presets are pretty lame. But if your seasoned, you'll be amazed at what you can get out of that little beast.

Reason is great for beginners because you can reverse engineer the patches and see how the sounds are made.

If money isn't a factor, I'll recommend the Nord Lead 2X till the day I die. I never get tired of designing sounds with it. Dedicated knobs for every parameter. Velocity sensitivity on whatever you what. And a truly wicked morph feature that really puts the icing on the cake. No effects though. I run mine through a Boss MT-2 metal zone and a Line6 DL4 and I have all the effects I need for live applications.

I don't get kunta kinte's hate for the undo feature. How does it make people "Play it safe." confused smiley

If anything, I would think that it encourages more experimentation because if you fuck something up and want to get back to where you started you can just undo it, or make a copy of the synth module before you experiment.

He/She must be a jaded purist. grinning smiley



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/15/2008 12:36AM by Observer.

 

09/15/08 12:35 AM

Whoops

I meant to edit the original.

Sorry bout the double post.

 

09/15/08 2:16 AM

so you love the nord huh? ive been eyeing them lately, mainly because EVERY goddamn musician i respect seems to have one, forefront, in their studio. i played with one in a music store by my house, the sounds are unreal.... mainly because they sound SOO real. the one i played with sounded like a hammer action piano, among various faithful string and brass sounds.. im curious though, how does this synth fair for industrial? everything i heard from the one i played sounded too 'real' or 'organic' for the style of music i make, but since every musician i like has one, im assuming theres more underneath it...

 

09/15/08 8:29 AM

Which Nord did you play?

 

09/15/08 6:52 PM

BleedingPixels posted:
Which Nord did you play?

Exactly. Which one? I can vouch for the Lead 2X all day. Great for industrial! Listen to Skinny Puppy "The Greater Wrong of the Right" I hear it all over that record. Plus they thank Clavia in the notes. I do wish the distortion was a bit dirtier though, kinda like on the microkorg. But I run it through a Boss MT-2 and I've got all the dirt I need, and then some. Sit down with a lead and activate the ring mod and play with the oscillator mix knob with distortion on and the notch + LP filter setting. You'll find some cool shit. Plus I can't comment enough how badass the morph function is.

Yeah, if you played a stage or the electro, I can see how you would say that. Check my myspace later tonight. I'll post a tune I'm working on with the working title "My Demise" You'll hear the lead all over it.

I was gonna get a G2 modular. But after downloading the free demo I realized that I wanted some limitations. The modular offered too much freedom. If I want limitless sonic options I'll build a combinator patch.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/15/2008 07:01PM by Observer.

 

09/15/08 10:40 PM

shit. looks like im heading back to the music store to check out this nord. thanks for the heads up.

so whats the deal with the wooden/stone pitch and mod? is there an actual point that? or is it just essentially an aesthetics thing? it seems a little gimmicky to me....



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/15/2008 10:19PM by evelynmachine.

 

09/15/08 10:58 PM

I'm assuming your asking about the wood paneling on the side. If not then ignore the rest of this post. I've been up a long time and I'm half awake.

The first modular and analog synths were made out of wood. Well the casing was I mean. Once the digitals hit in the 80's they moved to a plastic casing.

So then companies started revisiting the analog modular look and sound. So in design they brought back the wood paneling.

Aesthetics perhaps for the most part. Just makes it all look old school.

 

09/16/08 9:29 AM

evelynmachine posted:
so whats the deal with the wooden/stone pitch and mod? is there an actual point that? or is it just essentially an aesthetics thing? it seems a little gimmicky to me....
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=PJj5y3-1-xw
starting about 20 seconds in, he explains the benefit of the pitch stick over a wheel.


and back to the original question. it all comes down to what kind of sound you're after. look at the bands whose sound you like and see what they're using. don't buy something thats a bit easier to program if you think something else sounds better.

the micro korg is not the deepest synth out there, but it has a sound of its own, and if thats the sound you like then thats the synth you should get. the MS2000 is the exact same synth though, just in a bigger box, with full size keys, knobs for most of the parameters, and a sequencer. learning to program would be easier on that one.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/16/2008 10:19AM by Unreadable.

 

09/16/08 3:13 PM

evelynmachine posted:

so whats the deal with the wooden/stone pitch and mod? is there an actual point that? or is it just essentially an aesthetics thing? it seems a little gimmicky to me....

I believe it's something that clavia builds into their synths to give them a signature feel. Watch that above youtube video. That guy explains it well.

 

09/16/08 3:44 PM

A Microkorg Looks Great for me.

 

09/17/08 8:04 AM

GET A MAC!

But for synths.

I suggest a juno G...its easy to use, big screen, and even allows you to follow your composition while using it

AWESOMEEE

 

09/18/08 4:59 PM

kunta kinte posted:
ps don't listen to observer. all programs do is take the creativity factor out of things. think about what's harder to master: taking a pic with a digital camera and fixing it after wards, where you can undo and undo as many times as you want or; taking a picture with a film camera and either getting it right or fucking it up. one of them forces you to get good at something the other one allows any idiot with a memory card and a pirated version of photoshop to be called a "photographer".

I agree on your analysis of modern "photographers," but programs make it easier and or faster to produce desired results in somewhat decent quality. Just like in an mp3. BUT! If you want full experience of something (using a film camera, using an analog synth, listening to vinyl records as opposed to their digital counterparts) then analog is the way to go.

It all depends on what you like or even your current mood on which to use. Simple as that.

 

09/18/08 9:40 PM

kunta kinte posted:
my point exactly, Edit/undo, edit/undo...that's the mentality of everyone these days. Everyone plays it safe now and as a result the live and artistic element of something is taken out.

You can't learn to skateboard on nintendo wii, and you can't learn to play a synth by replacing it with software.

$5 bucks says if it came down to you doing something live on an actuall synth, you couldn't do all these "really cool things" you say you can do.

Ok, Then I want you to only use natural instruments, such as piano, trumpets, brass, etc, and then design your own modulation and frequency boxes (not using any factory or previously produced) and sythesize the natural signals yourself without using a keyboard or any electronic instrument for that matter.

 

10/03/08 12:05 PM

senateguard33 posted:
kunta kinte posted:
my point exactly, Edit/undo, edit/undo...that's the mentality of everyone these days. Everyone plays it safe now and as a result the live and artistic element of something is taken out.

You can't learn to skateboard on nintendo wii, and you can't learn to play a synth by replacing it with software.

$5 bucks says if it came down to you doing something live on an actuall synth, you couldn't do all these "really cool things" you say you can do.

Ok, Then I want you to only use natural instruments, such as piano, trumpets, brass, etc, and then design your own modulation and frequency boxes (not using any factory or previously produced) and sythesize the natural signals yourself without using a keyboard or any electronic instrument for that matter.

Owned. LOLtongue sticking out smiley

 

10/06/08 5:15 PM

Oops, so I basically narrowed it down to

Alesis Micron
[www.guitarcenter.com]

OR

Roland SH-201
[www.guitarcenter.com]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/06/2008 06:31PM by Chairbot.

 
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