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paul_c2

First synth

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I am thinking about getting into synths, mainly as a supplement and variety to bass playing. Its a new world to me! I don't want to spend too much but obviously I don't want to end up with a toy, or restricted features, etc. So, here's some really basic questions:

- Everyone seems to be into analogue synth, is it better to start here? I note that there's the Novation Ultranova which is digital, but "models" the synth sounds in the way an analogue one would do - which seems to make sense. I am guessing it can still sound good, etc

- Some of the cheaper ones have a 2 octave keyboard, I am guessing this would end up being a restriction pretty soon. I know I'd mainly be using it for bass stuff but....all the same....I can see it being a restriction (so Novation Bass Station II and Korg Monologue are out)

- And for me, I can see myself putting it in a live situation, so for me some way of saving and recalling synth sounds (or the presets, if I'm happy with them) is essential. I think a few of the cheaper ones don't have this facility?

- I see you can get one without a keyboard (pretty useless for me; and if I added a keyboard its another thing to lug round and have a power supply for - but if I had other keyboards....can see how you'd use it there instead), so I need a keyboard, and I'd prefer full size (so Mininova and Korg Monologue are out).

 

Any decent recommendations? So far, the Novation Ultranova appeals and seems to fit the bill?

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23 hours ago, paul_c2 said:

- And for me, I can see myself putting it in a live situation, so for me some way of saving and recalling synth sounds (or the presets, if I'm happy with them) is essential. I think a few of the cheaper ones don't have this facility?

Likewise, I thought this would be a big deal when I bought my first hardware synth... However if you spend a bit of time getting to know the instrument and the basics of synthesis, I reckon you can make a preset-less synth work in live situations. I just finished doing a run of musical theatre shows using my Minibrute- I had three patches that I used, which took about 5-10 seconds to dial in. I do the same thing on most other synth bass gigs- just set up the patch on the fly! Do you play in situations which require a lot of patch changes/ very specific sounds? 

On 01/12/2018 at 12:37, paul_c2 said:

- Some of the cheaper ones have a 2 octave keyboard, I am guessing this would end up being a restriction pretty soon. I know I'd mainly be using it for bass stuff but....all the same....I can see it being a restriction (so Novation Bass Station II and Korg Monologue are out)

I honestly wouldn't let this put you off the above! I only ever play 25 key synths for bass duties (and quite often as part of my 'proper' keyboard rig). There have been occasions when it would have been nice to have a couple of extra pitches... but it's pretty rare (and usually when I'm playing too many notes).

The Ultranova sounds pretty mega though. 

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Went to look at a Novation Ultranova today, amongst others. Was also shown the Moog Sub Phatty - only 16 patch memories and 2 octave keyboard; and a Roland synth, I think it was the JD-Xi). I can see myself 90% of the time using it for just bass stuff, but also I occasionally arrange music, so for that, more octaves and polyphony is really handy. So at least now, I know the features I'm seeking: 3+ octaves, full size keys, store/retrieve patches, polyphony. They're still very confusing (to me) but in the 10-15 mins or so I tried it, I was able to at least get past the total bewilderment and random button-pressing, and actually find the buttons and controls to some basic features I half-understood.

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The JD-Xi can make great sounds, and is probably the most versatile as it has the analogue part, the 2 digital parts and the drum machine (as well as vocoder and all that stuff), but it is a pain in the a**e with all the red text on a black background. Do they really believe anyone can read any of that?

So what sort of sound do you want? I have a bass station which is great for bass sounds and mono stuff, but small keyboard and limiting. I have the GAIA which is very versatile as a synth sounding thing, but with presets and everything, and I also have a Roland Juno DS, which is big but does actual instruments on presets with not much editing. They all make very different sounds. If I wanted to play keys for a coverband, the DS is perfect, you have any sound you need easily from a menu. If I wanted to do organs and the like for rock I would have bought the roland VR-09 instead. The GAIA is great if I wanted to do synth sounds or for pads and washes. If I wanted anything really synthy I would use a waldorf blofeld I have, much more digital sounding. If I wanted just bass, the bass station would probably be the chap.

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I'm not too worried about drum machine or "emulating" real instrument sounds, obviously its hard to describe but I'm after a good variety of unmistakably synthesised tones but which are usable. I'll have to think over whether I really need 3 octaves, or just want it, since there's a number of 2 octave machines also.

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I would say, as someone that owns a number of 2 octave keyboards, they are always frustrating when you try and use them for anything other than simple lines. Only go for a 2 octave if you are sure you don't want to do much with it.

Bearing in mind it gives the flexibility of playing on a 1 string bass!

 

Edited by Woodinblack

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My first synth (Roland JD-Xi), picked up used for £300 a month or so ago.

Can't say I've begun to more than scratch the surface of what it's capable of yet!

Roland JD-Xi II.jpg

Edited by Al Krow

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Thanks - I was watching that one closely (and in fact bid on it too) but it went at £245 which is high compared to many of the others and completed listings. Since I'm in no hurry I'll try other eBay auctions until I win one.

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I've not found 2 octaves to really be a restriction for basslines.  There's usually a transpose button to let you shift octaves easily enough.  I use a Roli Rise 25 for synth bass duties (it's just a controller, so it gets used with a macbook) & can't reccomend it enough, though it's probably a bit over your budget.  I went from an 88 key to the 25 key & use the Rise more than the S88 could have ever been used by me.

The Moog Phatty (& the variants of it) are fantastic for bass.  I have a friend with one & it's one amazing bit of kit.  Just does synth bass like a synth bass should do & sounds fantastic doing it.

You might well find that whatever synth you get,  your requirements may change once you get to know what you can do with a synth.

This is my set up (the amp & cab are not part of my rig, I DI'd for this gig).

Bass creation

 

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For I beginner I couldn't recommend a synth that doesn't have a dedicated control for at least 90% of the parameters. Menu access if if you have a page with 5 or 6 parameters at a time gets very tedious very quickly, and will get in the way of seeing properly how the various parameters affect the sound.

Analog or digital doesn't really matter. It's all about whether you like the sound or not. However beware of big impressive sounds when trying out synths in the shop. You quickly find that you have to thin them down in a band situation to allow sonic space for the other musicians. 

I'll recommend my personal favourite the Nord Lead. A second hand MK1 version should around the price you want to pay.

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1 hour ago, BigRedX said:

I'll recommend my personal favourite the Nord Lead. A second hand MK1 version should around the price you want to pay.

£200? I would think a bit more than that. Also they are not small things are they?

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For transparency, I work for Novation.

You might find that a polyphonic keyboard synth with over 2 octaves is a bit of a stretch (for something quality) for £200.
FWIW, I've never felt restricted by 2 octaves for key-bass parts, if anything it focuses what you're doing. You're essentially losing 1 octave compared to a 22 fret bass, ask yourself how often you genuinely play in that third octave. Bear in mind that all synths will have buttons that allow you up and down octaves, actually making their range a great deal more than a bass. My buddy Shawn doesn't seem to feel restricted:

Polyphony will almost certainly up your budget, a used Ultranova would be great, but whilst it's awesome, bear in mind that it's probably not going to teach you a great deal about synthesis by just using the presets on the hardware, you need to use it in conjunction with the Ultranova editor on your computer. As opposed to the BSII where each feature has a hardware control on the actual unit, much more hands on. They both can also be used as midi controllers though, so for your production work, if you don't want to use the sounds on the synth, just use the hardware to control sounds on your computer.

Anyway, just some food for thought, other brands and products are obviously available :)
Most important thing is to have fun!

Si

 

 

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1 hour ago, Woodinblack said:

£200? I would think a bit more than that. Also they are not small things are they?

Last time I looked they were under £250 second hand if you were prepared to wait for one to come up on eBay for collection only in your area. 

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There must be different models, the ones I find on a normal search (for "Nord Lead") and completed listings shows £374-900, and a broken one went for £276.

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2 hours ago, paul_c2 said:

There must be different models, the ones I find on a normal search (for "Nord Lead") and completed listings shows £374-900, and a broken one went for £276.

It looks as though the prices have gone up quite a lot since I sold mine a couple of years ago. Having said that a quick scan through the sold listings only brings up a couple of original Nord Leads and one of those sold for more than a Nord Lead 2 which is a better synth with more features, so there is no real pattern to the prices. I still think that you could get one for £250 max if you were prepared to wait for the right deal to come along.

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Ultranova for £200 is a great deal. The last keys player I was in a band with has every synth you can imagine and it was the Ultranova he recommended I get as my first synth.

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