The Art and Magic of Synthesizers, I seek the Grail

The Art and Magic of Synthesizers, I seek the Grail


I have had a long time interest in synthesizers, have owned a couple, but am now interested in really digesting and incorporating them into composing and songwriting using the Virtual Instrument path. I guess I had a basic knowledge about signal path in a synth - just enough to get by with - so I want to know more and dig deeper. I’d like to really understand the inner workings. I have already dug in reading up a bit, but figured I’d put this out there if anybody has anything they want to chime in with or dialog about.

May the synth be with you.

Goals for 2019?

I did find another thread, but it’s pretty old and long, so I started the new one. Here’s part of the old one:

This is kind of what I’m going for I think, a bit of the mechanics and also how to get particular sounds like horns or strings, organs, or really weird stuff too. Basically, how to know and use synths and employ them for sound design purposes.


Synthesisers are a deep black hole. I think you can spend a lifetime adjusting the controls of even a basic synth. Nowadays we have 4 oscillators, samplers, effects and modulations built into a sing synth. From time to time I open Alchemy in Logic Pro - which is a basic synth in comparison to others and I can happily sit there for hours just making minor adjustments to a sound. I tip my hat to those people who have rooms full of analogue vintage gear and create wonderful sounds with them.


Yes! Ditto that. Just skimming through the presets is all I can manage on Omnisphere. It’s a great synth and can do so much more but time is precious and I’m too easily distracted by cute toys and clever ideas that don’t get any songs written. :grimacing:


If you’re looking for extreme rabbit hole’ing… check out Softube Modular. I’ve always been kinda fascinated by modular synths and this not only scratched that itch, it pulverized it. They’re continually releasing new modules for it as well, which of course just makes that rabbit hole deeper :smiley:


Yes, I know what you mean. And I hope that by de-mystifying them a little bit perhaps I can be more direct with dialing something in when the occasion calls for it.

I have been intrigued, too, by seeing lots of photos on the web of pro’s and hobbyists with those roomfuls of analog vintage gear. Back in the day, early days of MIDI that is, it kind of made sense to see stacks of synths routed together. They could do incredible things by chaining MIDI devices together, and were exploring that to the fullest. I guess that hasn’t changed a lot really, and the “hands on” aspect plus being able to take and post awesome photos of that room must be irresistible. I think I’ll be quite happy with software synths though. The amount of room those things take up, trying to keep the dust off on a regular basis, and the electric bill may be compelling aversions as well.


Yeah, I got IK’s Syntronik and spent a day or two flipping through the options. Great fun. Now the learning curve. :roll_eyes: I felt like I was missing out on a musical element, and hope to stay focused on making usable tracks for composing. :sweat:


I used to be a synth kid in the early 80’s - loved everything about them. But somewhere along the way became a rock head and synths were forgotten. When Apple bundled Alchemy into Logic Pro, my old love came right back. The synth is beautiful and really usable by mere mortals. My friend then gifted me a copy of UVI Synth workstations, and that love turned into terror! The thing is an animal, 9GB or presets, and controls I have no sane idea what to do with!

They updated it recently and are promoting their Falcon synth, with some sample sounds thrown in for demo purposes. One of the samples is called The Dark Knight, and it pressing a single key on my keyboard results in an entire Hans Zimmer soundtrack playing out of my monitors! For somebody who plays 6 strings connected to a few pedals, hearing an orchestra is both awe inspiring and terrifying!


Thanks! It looks like they have a 20-day free demo. I got IK"s Syntronik so I already have my hands full I think, but the synth bug opened up a wide curiosity so I will probably expand once I have that one down.


Yeah, seeing all the controls reminded me I don’t have a great grasp on how these things function. So many options! It’s like Raiders of the Lost Ark where there’s these gleaming treasures at the back of the cave, but 10,000 snakes guarding the entrance! :exploding_head: Playing guitar seems like a picnic compared to this.


Add me to the list. When I use synthesizers, I just have to go off of presets. I think the problem is that I have too many synths and have never sat down long enough with just one of them to learn how to use it correctly. I get the underlying principle that is common with pretty much all synths, but when I’m staring at 100 knobs and I don’t know exactly what each one of them does, it becomes impossible to do anything.

“oh, this knob adjusts the attack. Let me change that… Oh, nope, it’s not adjusting the attack because I have another switch flipped over here that turns that knob into a low pass filter.”


It’s certainly frustrating … especially after watching video after video with somebody back in the 60’s or 70’s standing at an intimidating rack/wall of switches/knobs/jacks/patch-cables playing something, then they reach to this one particular knob and confidently tweak it - making this mind-blowing cool sound. Ahhhh! How do I figure out how to do THAT? :thinking: