Red Dog Music | Oct 9, 2018 | 0
I can synthesis! The beginner’s guide to synth programming
Synthesisers have been around for a while, first analogue, then digital, virtual analogue, then analogue again; now it seems we’re more spoiled for choice when it comes to affordable, powerful synthesisers. If you want to go beyond preset browsing, you’re going to want to program your own patches, but, if you’re new to synthesisers, where do you start? Why not start here, with this handy introduction to analogue synthesis!
Beginning analogue synthesis
There are many types of synthesis around, but the most common is probably subtractive synthesis. As the name suggests, subtractive synthesis is about taking things away. In the case of analogue synthesiser programming, it’s about starting with a harmonically rich waveform, and taking away the bits you don’t want.
When you look at a synthesiser, particularly one with lots of knobs on it, such as the Novation Bass Station II and Korg MS-20 mini, it can look a bit overwhelming. Where do you start? Well, much in the same way you can break down the functions on a mixer to preamps, eqs, sends etc, you can break down the parts of a synth.
The first synths were ‘modular’ designs. A collection of different boxes was connected together using patch cables. They looked mightily impressive – and mightily complicated – but they present the synthesiser as being a collection of different units that each do a specific job. The self-contained ‘one-box’ synth is no different, it’s just that those modules have been put in the same box and connected together for you.
Now, the one-box synth has been hugely successful, and they are hugely powerful: just listen to some of the sounds you can get out of a modern beast such as the Nord Lead 4 or the Moog Sub 37, but modular is becoming ever more popular.
With the flexibility to choose all the component parts you want and wire them together in the way you want, putting together your own modular system is more affordable now than it ever has been, and more and more boutique and esoteric modules are appearing, letting you create an instrument that is entirely yours, and that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the planet…
All about analogue synthesis
The great thing about analogue subtractive synthesis, is that the principles of the techniques – and the topology of the synthesisers – hasn’t really changed since the sixties.
Because of that, tutorial videos that were made decades ago are still relevant today. Such as this fantastic one from the New York School of Synthesis.
Full of all the information you need to get started programming your own patches, these videos are a great guide to beginning analogue synthesis, despite the somewhat retro typefaces and graphics.
Go forth and synthesise!
Red Dog Music is the UK’s friendliest musical instrument and pro-audio dealer. Between our 5000 square foot Edinburgh shop filled with an incredible range of products, and our London showroom in Clapham specialising in high-end instruments, dj and pro-audio, Red Dog Music has you covered from north to south and from performance to playback.