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Newbie questions and the return of Bob Moog

Discussion in 'Recording' started by BarilkoLives, Oct 1, 2002.

  1. BarilkoLives

    BarilkoLives Guest

    I'm just starting to dip my feet in the waters of MIDI sound modules and I wanted to know people's opinions on what is hot and what is not in the world of modules. We have a Yamaha SY-99 connected to a Roland JV1080 at our school and it's pretty sweet...but I want to know what else is out there, good and why.

    I've got a Roland PC-70 master keyboard but nothing to control except my virtual instuments.
    I checked out Roland's site and saw the XV5050 which looks pretty sweet. What do you guys have to say? :tu:
  2. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member

    Feb 28, 2001
    Hi Daniel

    It all depends on what you want to do. The SY99 is a powerful synth in terms of its FM engine. It was the most sophisticated and advanced of all the FM platforms. However, by the time it came out, sample based synthesis was the new kid on the block so everyone was flocking from pure waveforms as oscillators to samples.

    The 1080 is capable but any synth whose engine is technology driven will make its way to digital landfill sooner or later. The main reason is as computer components become cheaper, manufacturers can keep escalating their specifications and offer twice as much "stuff" this year for cheaper than they did last year.

    Enter the ROMpler. Basically, a sample based synth with lots of instrument waveforms in its ROM. You can run said waveforms through various synthesizer functions, mainly subtractive in nature. They're great for playing live and having something around with lotsa sounds that are quick to get it but as pure "synthesizers" they're rather limited.

    If you want to get into synthesis, get a basic analog synth like a Minimoog or a Juno-106. You can learn what all modulation sources (typically, filter, amplitude and pitch) do to the oscillator. You can learn about pulse width modulation, all that stuff. Then, check out something like the Nord Modular...a truly fantastic instrument that you program by patching virtual modules together.

    If you want to get into other methods of synthesis, check out an FM box like the SY you have or NI's FM7. Do a little sampling, you can put samples into an SY99 and run them as operators in the FM stack. Get a sampler or soft sampler like Gigastudio or HALion.

    There's lotsa stuff out there...check it out...let us know what you discover.
  3. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    I'd like to vote for the JV1080.

    I have more than a few of them.
    This has been a main stay of the industry for some time. Heard on many adds and promo's etc. A great workhorse.

    True some sounds have dated but you do get that with synths. The expansion cards can help here as many are much newer than the machine itself. For a preset sound base this is a good buy. It has a fair GM section so all bases are covered.

    And speaking of buy these machines have dropped in price as they are now not part of the current Roland stable and you won't find downloads on their site. This works to your advantage and you should push this point when haggling for price.

    There are many JV1080 user groups out there so help is not far away.

    I recommend this machine for the price.

    Once you have the preset machine sorted you can then go looking for the machine you want to program. The Moog thing. Perhaps a Virus. :D
  4. BarilkoLives

    BarilkoLives Guest

    That's some good advice about the 1080, Kev. I'll definitely be keeping that in mind next time I go shopping. There is one thing about the 1080 that I haven't quite figured out yet: the 1080 has its drum patches on a dedicated Channel 10, only allowing one Drumset to be accessed at a time...Is there a way around this? Is there a way to use the PowerKit and the RaveKit simultaneously in a song?
    I'd would like to see some opinions on some other modules - Korg for example. What are the main advantages in functionality between a Triton module and a Roland XV5050 on a practical, "in-the-studio" level? Are there any "quirks" to be aware of that might create issues in day-to-day operations?
    Nate, I'm not exactly familiar with the inner technology of FM synthesis (I think we did about 30 minutes on it during one of my analog synth classes), so I'm not quite sure what you meant by "running a sample as an operator in an FM stack."
    If you could clarify this for me or recommend some other sites that cover this type of material, that would be most-righteous and I would be forever grateful :D
  5. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    this is part of the reason I have multiple 1080's

    Yes there is a work-around .... sort of.
    But NO you can not have use both the PowerKit and the RaveKit simultaneously in a song from one 1080.
    The work around will involve breaking away from the General Midi approach of drums on 10. You will end up with a drum sound on separate midi tracks. If it is just one sound from the other kit than try tracking that one sound to audio.
    later on this one.

    oh wow ... a can of worms here. I think it best to not ask this question yet. I am taking your first statement,
    "I'm just starting to dip my feet in the waters of DI sound modules "
    literally. There is too much to learn to ask this question and really understand the answers that will come.
    again more later.

    sorry Nate,
    I'm taking over the thread :eek:

    Nate said,
    This means exactly that. Instead of a machine having an analog circuit to run an oscillator in Amplitude Modulation(AM) or Frequency Modulation(FM) and then build on that ...... it is possible to start with a pre recorded waveform and go from there.

    ... now I think it is time to back up and break your original post into sections.
    section 1 is just the midi and it's protocols
    section 2 is the modules and the bang for the buck
    section 3 is the programming of a sound from first principles

    I hope I haven't overstepped the mark and I'm not trying to be patronising.

    I don't know how much Midi experience you have but there is so much that can be done and learned without spending money. There is QT instruments for a General Midi set and there are a few FREE soft synths to play with and learn.

    Please go back and read Nate's post again.
    It is all in there and we are saying the same thing but from a different angle. Midi and Synths is such an enourmous subject and to say FM, Moog, Drum kit, Nord, 1080 and presets ... all in the same thread is going to leave too much out. Identify the bits of your music that you want the synths to handle and then go looking. Even a work station like the new ones from Korg may not do every thing you want to the standard you think you want. New technology costs and old technology can be re-born

    Buying a synth , a preset machine or a machine for programming a sound is a very important decision, do not rush this choice.

    sorry Nate
    should I go on?
  6. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member

    Feb 28, 2001

    Well...I might've got a little ahead of myself and there simply isn't the time and space for a detailed overview of FM synthesis. i was trying to make a general overview of various synthesis techniques and what one should know if one wants to be a synth programmer.

    The first thing to learn is subtractive synthesis. This is a method where you start with a sound (called an "oscillator") and you take away parts of it, typically by using a filter. This is how most analog synthesizers work. There is a synthetically generated oscillator waveform which is typically a sawtooth, square and/or triangle whose pitch, amplitude (volume) and timbre you can alter.

    Strangely, modern sample based synths are conceptually the same as a Minimoog. You have an oscillator of sampled waveforms that you run through a filter. This is why its good to learn subtractive synthesis as its used on the majority of synths today.

    FM synthesis is "additive" in nature. In FM, you have several very simple waveforms (sine waves) configured in a variety of ways (algorithms) and by changing (modulating) their frequency (that's the "FM" part) you generate a complex sound. The SY99 allows the simple waveforms to be replaced by complex waveforms (samples) and some other goodies but that's the just of it.

    You can do a Google search of "FM Synthesis" and lock yourself up in a cabin for a few months while you check it all out. I wonder if I could get my old friend Gary Luenberger to stop by and give a nice little post about it.

    My advice still stands, get an old analog synth and figure out what everything does and why it does that. Even a soft synth like the Model-E or Pro-53 will teach you a lot about subtractive synthesis. Once you have a smattering of the basics, check out a few other things like Absynth, FM7, etc.

    Then, if you ever want to feel like a newbie after you're familiar with this stuff, check out the Yamaha VL editor. The first time I had to program up some VL patches for Yamaha I felt like I knew NOTHING about synths. Plus, the editor has the benefit of being able to go so far in one direction with a sound that you can't get back to where you started from! Very humbling!

    That's a butcher's tour of techniques.

    What to buy? Its impossible for us to tell you. What kind of music or sound design do you want to do? For example, I'd recommend some sort of "GrooveBox" to a dance musician but not to a gigging keyboard player. Let us know _what_ you're going to do with it and, most importantly, how much you can spend.

    Hi Kev! The more, the merrier!
  7. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    Great stuff Nate, it certainly was a quick tour of techniques.

    Soundforum is free from NI and there is an article in Keyboard mag that will teach month by month. Koblo is free and a friend must be able to give you an old copy of Pro52 or the B4. Cubase has a couple of freebies and so too Logic.

    Midi is an enormous subject and totally different for different people. You must learn some of the language and then narrow down your subject matter. There are so many ways to solve problems and stumbling blocks ... like the drums and rhythm patches of the 1080. Many machines work in this GM drums on 10 sort of way and I think it is best to work with it rather than fight it.

    Midi is at it's best when the files are standardised and you can email them to you friends etc.

    If I hadn't said it before SoundDiver is great but difficult to get your head around. It is the best and has been for a while so start learning it asap. I hope Apple don't destroy it in the buy up.

    Anyway before we go on let us know your set-up and what direction you are going in.
  8. BarilkoLives

    BarilkoLives Guest

    You guys are fantastic. :) You are so right about this being a serious purchase and it's one of the reasons I posted in the first place :D

    It would probably be more accurate to call me a "gear-newbie" than a "MIDI-newbie" but in no way do I comprehend all of the MIDI possibilites. I'm kosher with "note on/note off" type stuff - velocity, aftertouch, sysex, that kind of stuff. I am also familliar with the concept of subtractive analog synthesis and the manipulation of harmonics to create sounds, mostly as it pertains to filters and voltages. I understand the LFO concept and phase-shift modulation, but not some (read: the rest ;) ) of the subtler details. I want to build on this knowledge in order to fully explore the developments in synthesis and sound creation over the last 40-odd years. Not only would this allow me to understand the principles and theories but also to allow for a more fluid understanding of particular pieces of gear, like the JV1080. Any books you could recommend would be extremely helpful.

    All that being said (and boy it was a lot), I need something to apply those theories on. My current needs only require a preset sound module with editable envelope characteristics and some drums (you're totally right about porting MIDI to audio, Kev.)

    Here's a synopsis of my current vision and its status:
    I already own a Roland PC-70 MIDI control keyboard and a MOTU 1224 interface for my PC. For monitoring I use headphones.
    I have no intentions to gig with my stuff, I want a small, cheap-but-powerful DAW system for a composition suite; ideal for demos or near-professional quality recordings on software like Logic and Cubase.

    Now, when I say small, I mean one small or medium rack of gear including an analog console for the preamps.

    I guess the questions I was trying to ask were:
    -What preset sound modules have the highest quality/most realistic sounds?
    -What modules have the most friendly user-interface(front-panel editing characteristics, information layout) and the most tonal editing functions?
    -What modules effectively combine both characteristics for a reasonable/justifiable price new, or a better price used?

    All truely subjective questions with equally subjective answers I know, but I like to know what everybody has had success with and why. It's always very intriguing and informative to hear gear praised or dissed by those who use it most.

    I'm really leaning towards a 1080 because that's what we use at my school and I like the presets. I'd love to hear some of the expansion cards for it. Does Roland still make cards for the 1080?

    Sorry for the long posts but I thank you for taking the time to respond the way you did. It has helped me gain a clearer focus on my needs. I look forward to your and anyone elses feedback. (Ha Ha Ha) :p
  9. BarilkoLives

    BarilkoLives Guest

    He, he
    after all that I forget to mention any styles of music....d'oh! :D
  10. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member

    Feb 28, 2001
    Like you said, very subjective. i can only answer what I think and my answer is none of them sound realistic. This is because manufacturers never set out to make anything that sounds "real". Rather, they tend to make caricatures of the sound they're imitating.

    As far as highest quality goes, I find them all to be "OK" but all ROM-based sample playback devices pale in comparison to big memory, non-looped software samplers like Gigastudio and HALion. Think about it...let's be generous and say the hottest ROMpler has 256 megs of sample ROM. That ROM is divided amongst hundreds of instruments. Now, pick an instrument like strings. The strings will get "X" percentage of the ROM. Even if its, say 5%, that's 12.5 megs for one sound. In reality, they're sampled in stereo so you're really looking at 6.25 megs actual length.

    Compare this to the big string libraries for Giga/HALion that come on 11 CD, roughly 7 gigs (3.5 in stereo). Now you can have samples that don't need loops, have multiple articulations and ensemble sizes....there's no comparison.

    I dunno, I'm so jaded about this. I think they all suck but I've become used to how they work. Looking at endless pages of cryptic abreviations will drive you to drink. My favorite instruments have a single control per function. The Minimoog, the MAM ADX-1, Hammond B-3, etc...

    So, you have to work with various instruments and decide which one works for you. It sounds like already dig the 1080 so check out other Roland stuff because it will work in a similar manner.

    Since you said you aren't going to gig with this stuff, seriously consider software synths. You'll be able to buy more synth for your money.

    I have a bunch of friends who are all excited to take a computer out on a gig. I simply shudder at the thought. Its only a matter of when it ^#$%s you up rather than if it ^#$%s. Not only that, but all computers scream "steal me!". Its easier to slip out the back with a Titanium G4 than an S80.

    I _do_ want the power of the computer running softsynths. I want a husk of a keyboard controller that has a quick start OS. This OS can load up a bunch of VST instruments and I can rock out.

    Sorry for the "computers on stage" rant.

    Take a day and go out to a music store. Sit and play all the instruments they have. Take notes and figure out the ones you like based on all the criteria you posted here. Come back and let us know what you found out.

    Based on what you asked, I'd still check out a Nord modular or Access Virus. Get a newer, rather than older Roland like the 5080 or whatever it is they're up to now. Get as many softsynth demos as you can. You can get a lot of them from kvr-vst.com
  11. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    Yes Roland does have many cards for the 1080 BUT the production of NEW cards must be nearly over.

    I still think, at the second hand price, it is a great box for "Preset" sounds". Not so easy to program but not impossible. Get a copy of SoundDiver.

    As a Midi and Gear Newbie take it slow. Nate likes to program and loves the analog stuff. This doesn't come cheap and the old classics like the ones he mentioned and things like the OB expander do have a cost of maintenance and need love and care.

    Computer software like logic or cubase is cool and will probably be ok for a few years. Logic may be dropped in favour of the Apple thing if it arrives ... even so logic may live on. Apple bought Emagic.

    The only problem I have in dropping a stack of money into soft synths is the same as for any software. Will it be supported and will it survive the next OS upgrade. I have a few applications andplug-insthat went AWAL after a few upgrades. It can be a never ending merry-go-round.

    There is enough free and demo soft synths out there to keep you busy, while you learn things.

    I use Pro Tools .... in all forms.
    I vote for the virus for a new machine.
    The Virus is Hardware and a Plug-in. I hope it soon will be seamless between the two and for the plug to go native. Then I'll buy.

    BUT programming is so personal and you need to be sure.

    As Nate said , go to the shop and touch and feel and make noise. Don't be rushed and don't be told to shut up. Ask questions and then go home and jump on the net and check out the user groups dedicated to the synth that you liked. You don't have to sign up .... just read and learn.

    more later.

    Hey Nate,
    There are two things that cause fear in the eyes of a live sound engineer
    1/ The drummer sings and not only that , he is the lead singer.
    2/ It's ok, they have a computer to run the click track.

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