Guitar player looking to get into Synths
Old 20th July 2013
  #1
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Guitar player looking to get into Synths

Hello everyone,

I am a guitarist and have been for around 8 years. Recently I've got very interested in Synthesizers and the new musical possibilities that they would have to offer me. I listen to everything from fusion type music like Allan Holdsworth and Miles Davis to experimental electronic music like Shpongle and doomish/black metal type music. Hence, getting and learning to play a snyth would be good for me as I want to make experimental type music of my own.

I'm very new to the whole thing though. At the moment I'm thinking I might want a Polyphonic Analog synth of some sort (I'm interested in the Russian type ones). What advice would the experienced synth users on this site have for me?

Regards.
William.
Old 20th July 2013
  #2
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The Roland GR-55 guitar synth would give you some immediate satisfaction. If you got a cheap USB controller keyboard you could start downloading hundreds of software synths that are extremely powerful these days. Many modern genres are pretty much created with software, and most of the vintage synth stuff has been pretty much nailed in software too.

Just dive in and get something - you can't go too far wrong. It's all a matter of taste and opinion ... a good player can make magic happen with just about any synth. Getting something rare or old or cheap/unappreciated can be a way of getting unique sounds. But getting something good and popular might give you more satisfaction. Ultimately you will want a whole room full of them anyway ...

What is your budget?

I'm loving my Roland Intergra-7 module - that's my desert island synth of today ...
Old 20th July 2013
  #3
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Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
The Roland GR-55 guitar synth would give you some immediate satisfaction. If you got a cheap USB controller keyboard you could start downloading hundreds of software synths that are extremely powerful these days. Many modern genres are pretty much created with software, and most of the vintage synth stuff has been pretty much nailed in software too.

Just dive in and get something - you can't go too far wrong. It's all a matter of taste and opinion ... a good player can make magic happen with just about any synth. Getting something rare or old or cheap/unappreciated can be a way of getting unique sounds. But getting something good and popular might give you more satisfaction. Ultimately you will want a whole room full of them anyway ...

What is your budget?

I'm loving my Roland Intergra-7 module - that's my desert island synth of today ...
I've listened to demos of the GR-55 and VG-99 and didn't really find much to like in all honestly. I wouldn't want something for guitar/amp modelling as I'm happy with the sounds I get out of my tube amp for that. I haven't heard a huge amount of the other stuff it can do but I feel like adding one of these in could complicate my guitar rig a lot more.

The USB controller option is a really good thought though, thanks for mentioning it, I'll do some research into that straight away.

Given that I'm in debt to my parents, its hard for me to say what my budget would be. I might be able to negotiate something with them though.

Being in New Zealand means I don't have a fantastic selection to 'try before I buy' so I need to take the time to do thorough research.

By the way, if I got a Russian synth would it be possible for me to hook it up to Mooger Foogers at all?
Old 20th July 2013
  #4
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Old 20th July 2013
  #5
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I think maybe you should consider getting a polyphonic synth as your first synth, the MiniBrute is monophonic although it's a really good synth and easy to learn synthesis on.

My advice is just keep looking in the small ads for something cheap. You can always sell it on for something better if you feel you want to get into electronic music more.

Have you heard 'Horse the Band'? They're quite cool, metal band that use gameboy 8 bit chip tunes in the mix.
Old 20th July 2013
  #6
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Originally Posted by junipersuction View Post
I think maybe you should consider getting a polyphonic synth as your first synth, the MiniBrute is monophonic although it's a really good synth and easy to learn synthesis on.

My advice is just keep looking in the small ads for something cheap. You can always sell it on for something better if you feel you want to get into electronic music more.

Have you heard 'Horse the Band'? They're quite cool, metal band that use gameboy 8 bit chip tunes in the mix.
I was initially looking for something Polyphonic but I can't seem to find anything that sounds particularly inspiring to me in online demos. In that demo with the Portishead guy, he seems to get all these sounds out of the Minibrute that are exactly what I'm after in a snyth.

Living in New Zealand means I don't really have much chance of finding things through small ads, Trademe (our equivalent of Craigslist) seems to have little to nothing. All that's available to me is Ebay aside from places like Sweetwater (which I think I will be ordering the Minibrute from at some point.

I haven't heard that band. Will give them a listen in a bit.

Thanks.
Old 20th July 2013
  #7
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Yes that it is a really nice demo of the minibrute, but remember that he has it running through a vintage echo unit, which really adds to the tone you hear.
It is a great little synth at a very good price though, if you are happy with a monophonic.
Old 20th July 2013
  #8
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If virtual analog is acceptable for you, the Roland GAIA has a really good layout for people new to analog subtractive synthesis, along with loads of polyphony if you like large sustaining sounds. Plus it's pretty inexpensive.

If you want vintage, well there isn't a boatload of vintage poly-analog synths to choose from, and the reliable models that sound good fetch some hefty prices nowadays (Roland, Oberhiem, Sequential etc..)

Seems like all the modern synths that are true analog are monophonic, or use digital oscillators or something. I think virtual analog might be a good start. Something inexpensive like the Roland GAIA isn't bad, or more pricey VA synths like the Clavia Nord or Access Virus models. Lots of real time controls, simple layout and good performance features... and most importantly they sound good!

My opinions of course.
Old 20th July 2013
  #9
Ham
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was going to recommend the minibrute as soon as I saw this thread. i personally love the interface and the size/feel of the synth. But if you are really into that video, please note, it's all that echo unit.
Old 21st July 2013
  #10
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Originally Posted by noi_max View Post
If virtual analog is acceptable for you, the Roland GAIA has a really good layout for people new to analog subtractive synthesis, along with loads of polyphony if you like large sustaining sounds. Plus it's pretty inexpensive.

If you want vintage, well there isn't a boatload of vintage poly-analog synths to choose from, and the reliable models that sound good fetch some hefty prices nowadays (Roland, Oberhiem, Sequential etc..)

Seems like all the modern synths that are true analog are monophonic, or use digital oscillators or something. I think virtual analog might be a good start. Something inexpensive like the Roland GAIA isn't bad, or more pricey VA synths like the Clavia Nord or Access Virus models. Lots of real time controls, simple layout and good performance features... and most importantly they sound good!

My opinions of course.
Thanks, will checkout a demo of the Roland Gaia now. I listened to a few demos of the Access Virus TI2 but strangely enough felt kind of underwhelmed by what I heard. Will check out the Clavia Nord as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ham View Post
was going to recommend the minibrute as soon as I saw this thread. i personally love the interface and the size/feel of the synth. But if you are really into that video, please note, it's all that echo unit.
True that but I heard a Sweetwater demo of the Minibrute as well without any echo unit and really liked it as well. Is there any type of any echo unit you'd recommend in particular?

Cheers,
William.
Old 21st July 2013
  #11
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I'm in NZ too if it wasn't obvious ... i've dabbled with synths for a long time so it's hard to recommend any particular one. I think the GAIA is a good first choice out of what is available now. Get something polyphonic to start with - you are going to have to learn keyboard chops and it will frustrate you just being mono.

You have to remember that most synths are so versatile that whatever demos you hear are going to reflect the personal tastes and choices of the player.

It's a lot like electric guitar - depending on how you play and process the sounds, you can sound like country, jazz, pop, rock,metal, whatever ... you wouldn't judge a Fender strat based on one single artist, and neither should you judge a synth that way.

You can use all your guitar pedals and amps too ... a synth is putty in your hands if you have the skills to tweak.

I have no idea what direction you want to take this, and possibly you don't either yet. There is a lot to learn, and I think they layout of a GAIA makes it ideal. I wouldn't mind one myself, although the Integra has me very well covered. But hands on knobs are excellent for learning - I grew up with Juno 60 type synths, just before all the knobs disappeared ... nice to see them back again.
Old 21st July 2013
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonelands View Post


True that but I heard a Sweetwater demo of the Minibrute as well without any echo unit and really liked it as well. Is there any type of any echo unit you'd recommend in particular?

Cheers,
William.
The old Roland Space Echo's sound great, but they are probably a similar price to the Minibrute.
Old 21st July 2013
  #13
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Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
I have no idea what direction you want to take this, and possibly you don't either yet. There is a lot to learn, and I think they layout of a GAIA makes it ideal. I wouldn't mind one myself, although the Integra has me very well covered. But hands on knobs are excellent for learning - I grew up with Juno 60 type synths, just before all the knobs disappeared ... nice to see them back again.
Listening to demos of the Roland Juno 60 is leaving me wondering if it would be worthwhile to save up for one.
Old 21st July 2013
  #14
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The Juno 60 is a classic that is adored by many - but they are getting really old, which means they can be a bit of a liability. They will be expensive - highly sought after.

They were actually a very simple synth, and a lot of the magic was in the lush analog chorus. You can get rather similar sounds with a modern digital synth or software, if you then route them through a good analog chorus. Digital chorus is great, but not quite the warm syrupy goo-iness of an analog bucket brigade delay chorus. And for that matter, if you want a nice delay sound the analog BBD pedals are great too.

The modern synths can do so much more - In your shoes today I would probably grab a GAIA. The quest for your sound is a journey - just start somewhere and keep looking.

I don't know your budget - the Access stuff is freakin fantastic - if you can afford it ...
Old 21st July 2013
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonelands View Post
Listening to demos of the Roland Juno 60 is leaving me wondering if it would be worthwhile to save up for one.
I own a Juno, and they do sound pretty nice. It's funny how they are once again popular. If it's been serviced and cared for, they are pretty darn reliable and just plain fun to play on.
For a synth as simple as the old Juno-60, it sure does deliver on sound. The arpeggiator is fun to mess with. Not a bad choice as a first synthesizer at all. Really good introduction to analog subtractive synthesis. Maybe that's why they are popular? :D
Old 21st July 2013
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ham View Post
i personally love the interface and the size/feel of the synth. But if you are really into that video, please note, it's all that echo unit.


I really think that that video showcases the synth, and the Echoplex is rather secondary to the sounds he's using; that is of course when he has the Echoplex turned on at all.
Old 21st July 2013
  #17
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Quote:
I'm very new to the whole thing though. At the moment I'm thinking I might want a Polyphonic Analog synth of some sort (I'm interested in the Russian type ones). What advice would the experienced synth users on this site have for me?
Turn back now before its too late....
Old 21st July 2013
  #18
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Novation Ultranova for 3 reasons.
1. It's a cheap, comprehensive synthesizer with plenty of waveforms, LFOs, effects, tweakability, and very good filter for the money.
2. It has great chord and arpeggiator functionality which is important for a guitar player who might not be quite so key-savvy to start out with, but will still have good possibilities that will sound good.
3. It doubles as a USB audio interface, so you can team it up right into your guitar rig and integrate all kinds of computer-based effects for your guitar stuff.
Old 21st July 2013
  #19
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One thing I should have mentioned is that we have a a Yamaha DGX-305 at my house. So I could learn the keyboard basics on that and maybe be fine with a monophonic synth like the Minibrute?
Old 21st July 2013
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonelands View Post
One thing I should have mentioned is that we have a a Yamaha DGX-305 at my house. So I could learn the keyboard basics on that and maybe be fine with a monophonic synth like the Minibrute?
Those good old yamaha home keyboards are a lot of fun. If it's along the same lines as the one I had, you can learn some decent keyboard coordination with the song tutor modes, but its not a professional instrument. I would only recommend the Ultranova over the Minibrute because of the broader scope of what it can accomplish for you. But then, what do I know?
Old 21st July 2013
  #21
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I think the answer is just get anything and get playing. At this stage you don't know what you don't know. After a while you will get more of an idea about what you don't know.

The Juno 60 does not have midi. These days a lack of USB port is as bit of a drag. Depends on whether you plan to learn sequencing and recording etc .. if you just want to play sloppy timing live stuff it won't matter so much.

I guess you come from the typical guitar player mind set that analog can do no wrong and digital sucks. In time you will probably get over this. But if you want a mono analog synth, sure - why not.

There is a place for every synth ... there are no wrong answers. Just get one. A guitar player usually doesn't stop at one guitar or one amp or pedal ... be prepared for an expensive fun time ahead.
Old 21st July 2013
  #22
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Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
I think the answer is just get anything and get playing. At this stage you don't know what you don't know. After a while you will get more of an idea about what you don't know.

The Juno 60 does not have midi. These days a lack of USB port is as bit of a drag. Depends on whether you plan to learn sequencing and recording etc .. if you just want to play sloppy timing live stuff it won't matter so much.

I guess you come from the typical guitar player mind set that analog can do no wrong and digital sucks. In time you will probably get over this. But if you want a mono analog synth, sure - why not.

There is a place for every synth ... there are no wrong answers. Just get one. A guitar player usually doesn't stop at one guitar or one amp or pedal ... be prepared for an expensive fun time ahead.
Yeah, I agree, the important thing is start building up experience with a synth and getting a firm feel of what I want from it.

My Strymon Bluesky is digital and I have switched on pretty much 100% of the time, I don't really take too much notice of the analog versus digital thing, if a pedal sounds good then I will play it.

I'm thinking I'm just going to go with what inspires me soundwise and from everything I'm hearing, its the Minibrute.

Thanks Kiwi and everyone else in this thread.
Old 21st July 2013
  #23
bry
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The minibrute is awesome, great analog sound, no presets, it feels just like learning an instrument, and you'll be comfortable with it in no time.
If you want a polyphonic one, you can't go wrong with a Juno 106, good MIDI support and hands on controls.
Old 21st July 2013
  #24
OP: been in your shoes. Played guitar for years before coming over to the dark side 3 years ago & haven't looked back. I started in the way suggested by Kiwi: cheap midi controller + free VSTs. And I had an old Yamaha home keyboard (some PSR thing) around for a while too - just run it through some pedals (delay & phase) & you'll have something you can work with for now. I also have an old Russian Poly Analogue (Junost 21) - great fun but not really a good first synth; plus the weight of these means your shipping costs are going to be extremely high. Haven't tried running it through my Moogerfooger (MF-101) though.

Anyway, I am not going to recommend any specific synth. Instead, I'd say simply find something in your price range that is locally available, play it to see if you like it & go from there. Lots of good modern affordable gear out there (Minibrute, Korg R3, Akai Miniak, Gaia, Blofeld, etc.) so you are likely to find something that appeals.

I would recommend avoiding Youtube demos until you are focused - each one will set you off on a different tangent. The tyranny of choice.

Good luck.
Old 21st July 2013
  #25
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I am also a guitarist who likes to create using synths.

I don't think you'll be happy for long with a mono synth. At least not for an 'only' synth. You will tire of only being able to play one note.

I know its not a great analogy, but would you buy a guitar with one string?


A Minibrute is only a two octave keyboard. So, it is not great for use as a MIDI controller for soft-synths (my opinion).

I'm not sure what to recommend. There are a lot of good poly keyboards. I currently have a Virus. I also like Nord Lead 2. For analog, a Mopho x4 is 4 voice analog poly and 44 keys. Prophet 08.
I think the Blofeld keyboard sounds good, but it doesn't have many knobs.

Must it have lots of knobs?

Can you give a ballpark budget? US$500, 1000, 1500 ?

Good Luck.
Old 21st July 2013
  #26
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Originally Posted by bluesmoose View Post
I am also a guitarist who likes to create using synths.

I don't think you'll be happy for long with a mono synth. At least not for an 'only' synth. You will tire of only being able to play one note.

I know its not a great analogy, but would you buy a guitar with one string?


A Minibrute is only a two octave keyboard. So, it is not great for use as a MIDI controller for soft-synths (my opinion).

I'm not sure what to recommend. There are a lot of good poly keyboards. I currently have a Virus. I also like Nord Lead 2. For analog, a Mopho x4 is 4 voice analog poly and 44 keys. Prophet 08.
I think the Blofeld keyboard sounds good, but it doesn't have many knobs.

Must it have lots of knobs?

Can you give a ballpark budget? US$500, 1000, 1500 ?

Good Luck.
Well currently I need to sell an 87' MIJ Strat and some Texas Special pickups in order to get out of debt to my parents and maybe have a bit of money left over. Also have an MIA standard Strat that I wouldn't mind selling for the cash, I just don't seem to like Strats much these days, spend all my time with the ES-335.

I could probably be persuaded to take my time and save up for a really high end synth though.

I've only listened to one or two demos of a Virus and been somewhat underwhelmed by both. Of course its hard to gauge what a synth is really capable of from youtube videos but the Minibrute has left me very inspired in most videos I've seen of it.

I'll checkout some of those other synths you've mentioned and also listen to some more of the Virus demos and get back to this thread.

Cheers.
Old 21st July 2013
  #27
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Welcome to the club. I was in your position 2 years ago and did't own one synth. Haven't played my guitar rig in a serious way since save for lessons I give and a gig or two!
Old 21st July 2013
  #28
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Old 21st July 2013
  #29
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The Acces Virus is basically a plugin in a hardware case. Considering most synths are digital these days, software is pretty much as good as it gets. The advantage of the Access is that the software can run with or without a computer - and once you get into the computer DAW workflow, that's a huge bonus.

You can do it all with software if you want, and sound quality is not the issue at all. In many ways software is going beyond where hardware left off ... much of modern music is being created in the box now, and i'm liking a lot of what i'm hearing.

I've dabbled with analog synths since the 80's, and there is something special about them. I have a Minitaur and Mooger Fooger filter, because there is something about what they do that I struggle to emulate with software .. although the bass capabilities of my Integra 7 are so good I wonder if I need the Minitaur ... and my old Korg Z1 which is all digital can outperform many modern synths and is fantastic on bass too.

I guess the only way is for you to buy a few synths and find out for yourself.

Get yourself out of debt and stay out of debt. It's far cheaper that way.

Maybe post some examples of some sounds in utube songs that you want to emulate, and we can suggest what synths can recreate them. You'll probably be surprised at how many different answers you get - because a lot of synth sounds can be achieved with many different types of synth. They all share a lot of basics.

Soft synths are a great way to find out what kind of sounds you like. It's hard to push the limits of experimental music with basic analog synths ... you can go further with software.
Old 21st July 2013
  #30
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there is much good advice in this thread.. I was in the same position years ago and bought my first synth, a Roland JP-8000, in 1998. Over the years I've owned and played a lot of synths and today you have so many great options available to you. With my years of obsessive synth geekery, were I now forced to part with everything and start over with a minimal budget with something to add texture and compliment guitar for more experimental ends I would definitely begin with software.

my first recommendation to you is to look into Reason- Reason - Complete music making, music production and recording studio software - Propellerhead ...this is an incredible environment that offers you a suite of synths and effects and it works just like hardware. When comparing cost vs. features you would be hard pressed to find anything better and paired with their Balance interface you have a very easy to use and intuitive system that would be great for full productions in the studio and would also be suitable for live use.

however if you can afford it; my second recommendation is my personal favorite, the Ableton Live Suite- https://www.ableton.com/en/live/new-in-9/ ...if I were being honest with myself, I could sell everything I own while keeping only my laptop and this program with several MIDI controllers (Ableton's Push, KMI SoftStep and a set of AudioCubes) and still be completely content. The included instruments, effects and MAX environment are incredibly powerful and flexible and I find nothing else more inspirational to work with than Live.

when you have a moment take some time and watch the videos on both of these sites. Either of these options (or both together) will provide you with everything you are presently looking for and features and uses far beyond.

one final and somewhat long shot suggestion for your consideration is perhaps an iPad. with synth apps like those from Korg, Moog's Animoog, Waldorf's Nave and Samplr the iPad is itself a very powerful and versatile instrument and when paired with a device like the Alesis iO Dock you have all of the audio and MIDI ports that you need to use it in a live or studio setting. It would have been amazing to have something like this when I was starting out.
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