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Minimoog : Learning Subtractive Synthesis :: [??] : Learning FM Synthesis Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 9th September 2011
  #1
Minimoog : Learning Subtractive Synthesis :: [??] : Learning FM Synthesis

I hope that title made sense.

I want to learn FM synthesis via an easy to use hardware instrument, what would you recommend?
Old 9th September 2011
  #2
Gear Head
 

In my opinion, there is no such thing as an "easy to use hardware instrument" that synthesizes with FM. Yamaha owned the FM market for more than a decade, and while I love their boards (like the SY77), I wouldn't call any of them easy. This was partially a design/workflow choice on Yamaha's part (big knobs were out, buttons and crappy little LCD screens were in), but it also reflects the fact that subtractive synthesis is a helluva lot easier to execute with a fixed control set than FM is.

In short, there is a reason why professional, full time Yamaha DX7 programmers worked in top studios around the world during the 1980s. Very few people could understand how to operate (pun intended) the things!

Software is another story, however. The more plugin-savvy people on this board might have other ideas, but I think that Ableton's "Operator" plugin is the most intuitive FM synthesizer ever designed...
Old 9th September 2011
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by ditabeardmemo View Post
In my opinion, there is no such thing as an "easy to use hardware instrument" that synthesizes with FM. Yamaha owned the FM market for more than a decade, and while I love their boards (like the SY77), I wouldn't call any of them easy. This was partially a design/workflow choice on Yamaha's part (big knobs were out, buttons and crappy little LCD screens were in), but it also reflects the fact that subtractive synthesis is a helluva lot easier to execute with a fixed control set than FM is.

In short, there is a reason why professional, full time Yamaha DX7 programmers worked in top studios around the world during the 1980s. Very few people could understand how to operate (pun intended) the things!

Software is another story, however. The more plugin-savvy people on this board might have other ideas, but I think that Ableton's "Operator" plugin is the most intuitive FM synthesizer ever designed...
Hrm I had a feeling that was the case. I have operator (part of suite 8) but I was wondering if there was any hardware counterpart with lots of real time controls. I just prefer learning on hardware.
Old 9th September 2011
  #4
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Rogue Ai's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ditabeardmemo View Post
In short, there is a reason why professional, full time Yamaha DX7 programmers worked in top studios around the world during the 1980s. Very few people could understand how to operate (pun intended) the things

I don't see what there problem was. I find it fairly easy to program my DX9. I know it isn't as complex as the DX7. Maybe that is why it is so much easier to program.

You should check out the DX200 it was the only DX synth that has knobs. It also has a sequencer.
http://www.vintagesynth.com/yamaha/dx200.php
Old 9th September 2011
  #5
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I found the title a bit confusing...I'm still not sure where the Minimoog subtractive thing fits in. They are very different in many regards. A Minimoog is a very intuitive tactile instrument. A hardware FM synth such as a DX 7 or a DX9 (I have a DX9),, is far less intuitive or instantly gratifying. If you are interested in diving into FM synthesis in a hardware environment,, I reccomend finding a copy of Sound Diver. it has an excellent interface for exploring that technology. I will admit that most of my FM sounds resulted in blind tweaking without any understanding of the Fm concepts.
Old 9th September 2011
  #6
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I could never get Sound Diver to work properly. Had it twice and tried with various computers/MIDI interfaces but it was always really buggy.
I'm now using DX Manager available here FM-Alive for Classic Yamaha Synthesisers , for all my DX programming and patch storage needs, which works great and is still supported. It Makes progamming the DX synths pretty easy.

Why is MiniMoog in the title of the thread ?
Old 9th September 2011
  #7
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krushing's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Acid Mitch View Post
Why is MiniMoog in the title of the thread ?
The intent was probably to find the equivalent of what Minimoog is to subtractive in the FM side of things.

I'd probably just stick with software for now - Operator, as mentioned, is indeed very good. Or consider NI's FM8, which has a very nice interface as well.
Old 9th September 2011
  #8
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FM is not "easy" to learn compared subtractiv synthesis. But it is not too hard to learn. The easiest way is not hardware but software such FM8. After that you will understand the DX7 and after that the ultimate FM monster TX816 would be on your list (I love mine). I suggest you youtube for "learning FM synthesis" etc.

And yes, you can use FM synthesis on the Minimoog. One oscillator is modulating another and creates overtones. But honestly, it does not sound good...
Old 9th September 2011
  #9
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Yoozer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Acid Mitch View Post
Why is MiniMoog in the title of the thread ?
Car : bike :: chainsaw : axe.

There are no easy FM synthesizers. The DX200 has several parameters hidden so you need the editor anyway; with a generic control surface it's still going to suck.

A Nord Modular / G2 can do DX-style FM - configured properly it's probably the most knobby FM synthesizer in existence. With the G2 you can make variations of a single patch - allowing you to instantly zap to different settings while the wiring remains the same, which is ideal for FM synthesis. However, it translates badly to traditional FM synths with fixed algos, so you need to exercise self-discipline in patching.

The best way to learn is to start with 2 operators, then expand to 4. 6 is just 4+2 or 3+3. You have to learn to think in layers where one pair does bass and the other adds treble accents. Learn how keytracking affects the patch - it's often underrated.
Old 9th September 2011
  #10
Here for the gear
 

To learn FM, I'd suggest geting the DX7 keyboard and The Complete DX7 book by Howard Massey. Connect the synth, do some reading (it's an easy reader) and start cracking straight from the front panel. There's no easier and faster way to understand FM.

Starting with a software editor is a mistake because you can see everything on the screen at once which can be daunting at first. Just follow the real world examples in the book for the DX7 and learn FM in small steps. Then expand, experiment, try out a software editor, try a softsynth, etc.

I learned in the following steps:

1. Got the DX7 and read everything about it that I could find on the web including the keyboard user manual (not about FM programming, just operating the DX7 in general).

2. Experimented with whatever little knowledge I had for a couple of months to get the feel of what the synth can do.

3. Bought the book by H. Massey. Read it while on holiday.

4. Came back from holiday and put everything I've read about into practice.

5. Experimented with all the knowledge I had and gradually started creating my own patches of commercial quality.

Did it take a lot of time? Yes, it did. Was it worth it? Absolutely. FM is addictive, you won't want to get rid of it once you've tasted what it can do. For me the DX synths have the same mojo as the Minimoog. Very low level synthesis that can take you anywhere. It sounds great and it's cheap heh
Old 9th September 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ambientbirch View Post
To learn FM, I'd suggest geting the DX7 keyboard and The Complete DX7 book by Howard Massey. Connect the synth, do some reading (it's an easy reader) and start cracking straight from the front panel. There's no easier and faster way to understand FM.

Starting with a software editor is a mistake because you can see everything on the screen at once which can be daunting at first. Just follow the real world examples in the book for the DX7 and learn FM in small steps. Then expand, experiment, try out a software editor, try a softsynth, etc.

I learned in the following steps:

1. Got the DX7 and read everything about it that I could find on the web including the keyboard user manual (not about FM programming, just operating the DX7 in general).

2. Experimented with whatever little knowledge I had for a couple of months to get the feel of what the synth can do.

3. Bought the book by H. Massey. Read it while on holiday.

4. Came back from holiday and put everything I've read about into practice.

5. Experimented with all the knowledge I had and gradually started creating my own patches of commercial quality.

Did it take a lot of time? Yes, it did. Was it worth it? Absolutely. FM is addictive, you won't want to get rid of it once you've tasted what it can do. For me the DX synths have the same mojo as the Minimoog. Very low level synthesis that can take you anywhere. It sounds great and it's cheap heh
can you get a lot of different sounds you couldn't get with subtractive synthesis, like are the sounds actually new and a lot different?
Old 9th September 2011
  #12
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Yoozer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by realist22 View Post
can you get a lot of different sounds you couldn't get with subtractive synthesis
Yes.

Quote:
like are the sounds actually new and a lot different?
FM synthesis dates from the late 70s in the practical realtime application (Yamaha GS1/GS2) but the bombshell for the grand public dropped with the DX7 in 1983.

Before that time all you had was subtractive analog.

Now, if you think to buy an FM synth and hope you get all kinds of hot new sounds, you may be disappointed. There's a reason those sounds aren't as common.
Old 9th September 2011
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
Yes.


FM synthesis dates from the late 70s in the practical realtime application (Yamaha GS1/GS2) but the bombshell for the grand public dropped with the DX7 in 1983.

Before that time all you had was subtractive analog.

Now, if you think to buy an FM synth and hope you get all kinds of hot new sounds, you may be disappointed. There's a reason those sounds aren't as common.
because they are extremely hard to program?? so i have read fm is MUCH more difficult than subtractive. go on the other thread with the calvin harris song and see if you can tell if there is any fm synthesis in that song.
Old 9th September 2011
  #14
Registered User
 

When most people think of an FM Synth, they usually think either Native Instruments FM7/FM8, or the Yamaha DX series of hardware synths, on which they are based. DX FM synthsized sounds just have 'a sound'. I don't know quite how describe it, other than to recommend you listen to a lot of 80s pop music. I'd best describe the sound as brittle or clinical. Pretty much every instrument sound on the Stock Aitkin Waterman tracks (Bananarama, Kylie Minogue etc) came from a Yamaha DX 7. Essentially it works by one (or several) oscillators (the modulator), modulating the pitch of another oscillator (the carrier)...The sound produced is the carrier, modulated by the modulators. Programming DX FM synths and producing musically useful patches is significantly more difficult than programming an analogue substractive synth.
Old 9th September 2011
  #15
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from an old thread^^^^^
Old 9th September 2011
  #16
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Spectral Climax's Avatar
 

Get Max MSP and practice on this patch:



You can't find an easier way to learn FM synthesis than MAX MSP.
Old 9th September 2011
  #17
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Yoozer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by realist22 View Post
go on the other thread with the calvin harris song and see if you can tell if there is any fm synthesis in that song.
Pretty sure there isn't, or if it is, it's not distinguishable, so you might as well be using subtractive.

It's not that it's hard, it's just that there are several ways to end up at an end result and FM is usually seen as a last resort when other methods can't help you out.

edit: here, go read http://www.dubbhism.com/search/label/tao%20of%20fm and start with #1.
Old 9th September 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
Pretty sure there isn't, or if it is, it's not distinguishable, so you might as well be using subtractive.

It's not that it's hard, it's just that there are several ways to end up at an end result and FM is usually seen as a last resort when other methods can't help you out.

edit: here, go read ~ DUBBHISM ~: tao of fm and start with #1.

was waiting for your reply so i could pounce. interesting response. this is from a kvr thread from 2008.

Does FM synthesis not get used at all now, aside from retro-sounding stuff?

Well, it's not really as cut and dry as FM synthesis isn't used now, except for 80s stuff. It's is a good way of immediately conjouring an image of the 80s. For example Acceptable in the 80s by Calvin Harris is full of FM synth sounds.


someone is wrong here!!!!!! i have no idea I know little about fm synthesis. that guy said the song is FULL of fm.
Old 9th September 2011
  #19
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nice link on fm cheers.
Old 9th September 2011
  #20
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Most people say that you need a computer editor for the SY77 or 99, but I much prefer to program it from the keyboard itself. They are the easiest hardware synths to learn FM on IMO. You get graphical representations of the envelopes, and while there is a lot of nested menus and windows to learn, it's logically planned out, and you can always jump page to where you want to be at an instant.

Use the onboard pattern sequencer to loop the notes/rhythm that you want your sound to fit, and then start editing the voice with the sequencer running. That way you will get feedback with what your changes are doing without having to keep playing notes manually. This behaves better when using the onboard sequencer and editing, than when you are sending it data through sysex.
Old 9th September 2011
  #21
Registered User
 

any thoughts yoozer? i have tracked down the gear that calvin harris used when he made the album that song was on. he was running octamed on an amiga with a korg n5. now this does not have fm capabilities. however he was also seen jamming with a roland sh201 and yamaha dx7 so there is the possibility of fm however i think your right, it is just subtractive. strange how that other person said it was full of fm.
Old 9th September 2011
  #22
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"I noticed Calvin's keyboard player had a Yamaha DX7 and a Roland SH-201 stacked up to conquer the audience with patches that haven't been played in twenty years."
Old 9th September 2011
  #23
Here for the gear
 

I learned FM on a DX9 with no reference materials beyond a couple of magazine articles in the 90s. It was good fun, and I'd definitely recommend a cheap 4-op synth as a good starting ground (probably one of the smaller models, as the DX9 is a bit of a tank).

Of course it depends on how you prefer to learn, but I contend that working with that limited interface was a blessing - being forced to focus on one element at a time, rather than the distractions of a flexible app interface where you can hop around the soft knobs in an undisciplined and undignified manner. I will cheerfully admit that I am easily distracted.

But I was soon getting nice smooth pads, chunky bass and wonderful random noise out of that DX9, and the gruelling menu-driven experience prepared me well for gear like the Mopho. And it was one of my earliest synths, so I was also learning more about modulation routing, envelopes, LFOs etc. at the same time. Of course I wasn't learning anything about velocity sensitivity or filters, but you can't have everything.
Old 9th September 2011
  #24
Registered User
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cantozero View Post
I learned FM on a DX9 with no reference materials beyond a couple of magazine articles in the 90s. It was good fun, and I'd definitely recommend a cheap 4-op synth as a good starting ground (probably one of the smaller models, as the DX9 is a bit of a tank).

Of course it depends on how you prefer to learn, but I contend that working with that limited interface was a blessing - being forced to focus on one element at a time, rather than the distractions of a flexible app interface where you can hop around the soft knobs in an undisciplined and undignified manner. I will cheerfully admit that I am easily distracted.

But I was soon getting nice smooth pads, chunky bass and wonderful random noise out of that DX9, and the gruelling menu-driven experience prepared me well for gear like the Mopho. And it was one of my earliest synths, so I was also learning more about modulation routing, envelopes, LFOs etc. at the same time. Of course I wasn't learning anything about velocity sensitivity or filters, but you can't have everything.
you know fm? then is there any in this song:

Calvin Harris - Acceptable In The 80s - YouTube
Old 9th September 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teknobeam View Post
I found the title a bit confusing...
i bet you didn't get a 1600 on your SAT's

is to as is.

i second getting your hands on the DX-7 Bible.
Old 9th September 2011
  #26
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Also, having knobs and sliders for every parameter does not make programming good FM patches any easier. Understanding how FM works, thinking ahead, and implementing an idea methodically does.
Old 9th September 2011
  #27
Registered User
 

i like the idea of software when i start learning fm such as fm8 or the one that comes with the dcam synth squad. because of the fact i have heard it is hard and software should be able to lay it out well.
Old 9th September 2011
  #28
Registered User
 

holy sh*** just got tweeted by calvin harris!! he just told me he only used a korg n5. i know what I'm buying now!
Old 9th September 2011
  #29
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no korg n5's on ebay! this is a disaster.
Old 9th September 2011
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by realist22 View Post
no korg n5's on ebay! this is a disaster.
the price of n5's just doubled to 100 dollars
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