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AuthorTopic: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie  (Read 3762 times)

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Offline marcfrick2112

Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« on: September 23, 2006, 03:53:57 AM »
Hello all, first nice to see an audio forum ;)

OK, I have OctaMED SS and several MIDI interfaces,
I really would like to get into making
music with my Amiga, but am pretty clueless.
I am wondering which synthesizer would work best/easiest
for an Amiga/OSS setup. There's a store here in Milwaukee that
sells older synths supposedly cheap....
There seem to be only a handful of patch editors/librarian
prgs. for Amiga, mostly for really old synths. Do I really
need one?


What do you guys use?



---------------
Marc Frick
---------------
A1200T / \'060, 256MB, CD-R, OS3.9
A4000 w/ WarpEngine / 82MB , OS3.1
A4000 16MB, OS 3.9
A1200 , \'030 / 10MB
A1200 (stock)

CD32 :)

...And a very sick 4000T
 

Offline Oliver

Re: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2006, 05:10:52 AM »
Hi,

This is a tricky question to answer, as it depends somewhat, on what kinds of sounds you want from your synth(s).  

There are several factors which I think you should consider.

Make sure your intended synth can communicate fully with your software.  I know you'll be using midi, but some midi software and synths don't properly communicate.  I've only noticed this with Music-X II, but you should try to check that OctaMedSS aint going to have the same problems.

Consider the type of sound generation that you want to use.  Some examples are analogue, virtual analogue, sample based, wavetable, fm etc.  Read about these online.

Consider the number of voices you will be needing to play simultaneously.  Some sound modules, or band-in-a-box type products can give you access to a large range of sounds, and are able to play a number of tunes at the same time (eg, entire percussion set, leads, basses, pads, etc).  They may also offer effects, such as delays, reverbs, chorus, etc.  These products can be great value for money, if you choose carefully, but generally don't give the same control over individual sounds, or quite the depth of character as a synth which is dedicated to playing only one patch at a time.

Take your time, and play the synth that you are considering buying.  Demo it several times.  By 'demo', I mean try to create the sounds/music that you want to use the synth for.  Don't pay any heed to in-built demo routines in synths (you may see a demo button on a synth).  These are generally crap, and not a fair indication of what an instrument is capable of.  Don't believe the marketing hype either.  Just use your own ear.

Carefully consider the level of control you need.  Most people will need at least one keyboard to play.  This could be from a synth with built in keyboard, or you could use a separate control keyboard, with sound modules, or rack mount synths, etc.  One must also consider the midi implementation of what you are buying.  Good synths will have just about every parameter editable via midi messages.  As you are using old software, you should try to avoid synths that rely too heavily on system exclusive messages (sysex).  It can be a pain if you need to send sysex just to change a patch or modulate a filter.  Try to get something which offers knobs and sliders for the sound parameters that you want to modulate in real time.  Some synths offer user assignable knobs/sliders, which can be handy.  You can also buy/diy separate control surfaces, which are really great.


Is there a particular style of music you want to do?  This can narrow the field considerably.  For example, if you really only want to do hip-hop, using the most typical sounds, you could buy something like a JV-1080 (or it's recent replacements) as this has been a staple in the industry for so long (maybe not anymore, as I'm really not in the scene now).  If you want to do acid tech. you would seriously miss something which sounds like a 303.  If you want to do hymns, maybe an electric organ is for you.  If on the other hand, you are highly experimental, then there is really no limit, other than your ear, your budget, and your imagination.

Budget, budget, budget...  There are ways to get the most for your money, but it can be a real pain.  Definitely patience is important here.  It helps if you know someone in your area with a studio setup.  A lot of musicians who have been running studios for some time can help you work out what would be good for you, on your budget.  It helps to have used lots of different synths before, and have a good understanding of the different sound generation techniques.  Often shops will not give you the best price, but second hand gear can also bite you.  A lot of the classic analogue synths are getting unreliable now, and some also have issues with battery leakage, so be careful.  If you buy from a shop, make sure they have a reasonable return policy.

Hmm, lots of other things to know.  One good tip I could give is also to use PC's as sound generators.  I have several old PC's which I use as software synths.  I have dos boxes which I use just for a program called AXS.  The computers were completely free, and the sounds can be really good.  The only problem is the additional interfaces/cables, oh, and extra space too.  PC's can be a great way to expand your studio on a budget though.

If you can mention what type of music you want to do, I may be able to give you a bit more help.

Good luck,

Oli
Good good study, day day up!
 

Offline marcfrick2112

Re: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2006, 09:27:20 AM »
Hi Oliver, thanks for your very complete and helpful response  :-D
OK, type of music....difficult question. First, I just want to  'play around' with a synth, good variety of sounds, etc...mainly I am into electronica/industrial/techno, with a side order of classical, jazz on the side.  :-P

Not sure about 'acid tech', but I know of the 303, I like it, and I want one :)

Shops in my city are very poor for musical equipment...many won't even let you audition a synth before buying !??!?!??

I have used maybe 3 synths in my life...(Not counting my two old, pre-MIDI, not-really-polyphonic 'synths', Roland Compuphonic, and Korg 'Maxi-Korg', both capable of two whole sounds at once!. Can't find any model #'s)
 :roll:
As for PC's,...I can barely use them as PC's, let alone to make music...maybe they know I am an Amiga nut..they don't like me  :-D

Anyway, any further advice would be welcome.
---------------
Marc Frick
---------------
A1200T / \'060, 256MB, CD-R, OS3.9
A4000 w/ WarpEngine / 82MB , OS3.1
A4000 16MB, OS 3.9
A1200 , \'030 / 10MB
A1200 (stock)

CD32 :)

...And a very sick 4000T
 

Offline weGuru

Re: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2006, 12:05:36 PM »
I use a Roland Alpha Juno 1 and a Roland Phaselab MC 09....The MC 09 has knobs and buttons and produce a lot of great sounds...The Midi part is verry good too
Retro is my life...
 

Offline Oliver

Re: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2006, 06:45:45 PM »
@weguru: alpha junos rock.  Very cool synths.  I only used one for a day, but really enjoyed it.  Not the easiest to use, but I thought it very capable.  I believe there is a fairly rare add-on control surface for the alpha juno as well.  Have you got that?  I've heard mixed reviews of the MC09.  I've only tried one for about 5 minutes in a shop.  What do you think its strengths and weaknesses are?

@ marcfrick2112: no probs for the reply.  My pleasure.

I think you're in a pretty tricky situation.  You want to do a wide range of music, on a budget, without using modern soft synths (can you get hold of a Mac? expensive, but versatile for music, and easier to use than some of the more esoteric PC synths that I play with).

If you REALLY want a 303 sound, with all its character and subtle nuances, you will really have to get something dedicated to doing only that one analogue voice.  However, if you just want something pretty close, and still good, there are plenty of options (just read some reviews, and grab samples).  Many synths which can approximate a 303 sound, can also do a lot which 303's never could.

For a wide range of sounds, a digital synth is probably your best option.  The afore mentioned JV1080 is worth considering.  Old units, but good quality.  Used by literally thousands of studios.  Many film scores and hip-hop tracks have been made with 1080's (some almost exclusively).  They need some expansion cards to get a wider range of sounds.  However, even with the expansions, the ability to design sounds is limited.  You would also need a control keyboard to play (these can be just midi-out devices, without any sound generation capability), as the 1080's don't come with a keyboard.  I guess there should be 1080's available second hand, as they have been around for quite a while.  I can't remember if the 1080 has built-in effects as well.  There are many other options similar to the 1080 as well.

I started out using a Yamaha general midi (GM) sound module, thinking it would be handy for it's range of sounds.  Unfortunately, the sounds are not very customisable at all, and it was not very satisfying at all.  I would avoid this type of sound module, as it really offers little more than a cheap PC sound card (a bit better quality, some more options, but not many).  Some XG sound modules are a little better, and cater more to dance music, and can be used to good effect, but not as a staple for a studio - only as a cheap extension.

I think it would be worth your while learning to use a PC a bit more, as low end ones are often just about free these days, and they can be used to fill out a studio to really good effect.  Macs also offer plenty in this regard too, but they tend to be a bit pricier.  If you can have a play with rebirth on one of these, it may be enough to quench your thirst for 303 sounds, as well as providing some percussion.

OK, thats all for now.  Get some other opinions too.  I haven't done anything with music for a few years now, so I'm pretty out of touch.  btw, there's plenty more to know.

Have fun.

Oli

P.S. Some synths which I have had some troubles using with amigas are Yamaha CS1-X, JoMoX XBass09, Novation Super Bass Station, and maybe some others I can't remember.  They generally receive midi fine, but amigas can have trouble consistently receiving their output.  I experienced this primarily with MusicX-II, but also with a Midisnoop program (I think that's what it was called).  Most common faults were not receiving note off events, and lock ups.  I built a midi data filter to clean up their midi signals (made it more compliant with original midi standard), and they worked fine.  Also used a Juno-106, which is a great synth, but it uses sysex for a few parameters (volume, and a couple others I think).  This can be a problem if you want to control these parameters with old software, which doesn't have a pre-customised environment to support such a synth.  I think it also doesn't send midi out signals for all its knobs/sliders, but can't remember clearly.
Good good study, day day up!
 

Offline larsef

Re: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2006, 08:00:02 PM »
I can tell you what I have:

It all started with my Apple PowerBook and GarageBand. I wanted to use GarageBand so I bought a midi-keyboard (M-Audio Radium 61). However, the midi-keyboard has no sound and I didn't want to be dependent on my PowerBook to play music. Because of this, I bought my first sound module, a Korg 05R/W, for about 100 Euros.

After that, I realised GarageBand was really crap. It does not support MIDI-out, so I couldn't use GarageBand with the Korg 05R/W. Instead of buying a new expensive music program such as Cubase or Logic, I bought an Amiga 1200 with MIDI-interface. Now, I'm using my Amiga 1200 with Bars&Pipes and I really like it.

Later, I bought a Yamaha QY70 for about 60 Euros. It is a sequencer and a music module in one unit. I want to use it to transfer drum and bass sequences to the Amiga, but I haven't got that far yet.

On Monday, I will get my JV2080 with two expansion cards (orchestral and session). I bought it for about 330 Euro.

If you don't know what you need, a good idea is to start with something cheap, then expand with more modules. Merging together the sounds from two or three modules might give a more interesting sound.

One thing which I would like to have is a sampler module, such as the Akai S3000 or something similar. My dream would be a Korg Triton Rack, but they are still quite expensive.

Regarding patch editors, I haven't really used one, but I imagine that if you want to upload a patch to a synth you could always do it through sysex messages, even if you don't find a librarian program for your synth.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A1200, Apollo 1260 (68060@50, with MMU+FPU), 32 MB, Delfina soundcard, 40 GB harddrive
 

Offline marcfrick2112

Re: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2006, 04:20:06 AM »
Hey thanks everyone for your advice. I think I'll check
around on the internet a bit, before going to a store.

@larsef: Would you say Bars n Pipes is easier to use than
OctaMED SS? You have a good idea, I may just start with a cheap
synth, and add on as I learn, and as my budget permits....
---------------
Marc Frick
---------------
A1200T / \'060, 256MB, CD-R, OS3.9
A4000 w/ WarpEngine / 82MB , OS3.1
A4000 16MB, OS 3.9
A1200 , \'030 / 10MB
A1200 (stock)

CD32 :)

...And a very sick 4000T
 

Offline larsef

Re: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2006, 12:27:53 PM »
@marcfrick2112: OctaMED SS and Bars&Pipes are two very different programs, since OctaMED SS is a tracker program while Bars&Pipes works more like a traditional sequencer such as Logic and Cubase. It is difficult to say which one is the best or easist to use, it all depends on you and what you like. The reason why I like Bars&Pipes is because of the pipeline system. That is why I'm using Bars&Pipes and not a tracker program. As far as I understand, modern sequencers such as Logic and Cubase do not have this kind of pipeline system, which is basically the reason why I'm using my Amiga for music and not my Mac.

The pipeline system is very simple yet powerful. MIDI-signals (e.g. from your keyboard) are coming in from the left through a pipeline and being put through a number of tools. One important tool is the sequencer recording tool itself, which records the MIDI-signals so you can play them back later on. Another tool allows you to split the MIDI-signals and send them to two or more MIDI-channels (where each MIDI-channel has its own instrument). This is great, because it allows you to play many different instruments at the same time from your keyboard. You can also add an arpeggiator tool, an echo tool or a split keyboard tool (allowing you to play one instrument with the left hand and another with your right hand, even if the sound module itself does not support it). There are even more tools to download.

For instance, say you want to have a bass arpeggiator played with your left hand (going C-E-G-C-E-G if you play a C-major), and at the same time you want a choir sound playing C-E-G all at the same time (also played with your left hand). Then, with your right hand you want to play a piano together with a string instrument (violin). This will take up four midi-channels (one for each instrument). Finally, you want to have a drum track played in the back (typically on midi-channel 10). You also want an echo on the bass arpeggiator. This is very easy to set up with Bars&Pipes, and you can play all these instruments at the same time from the midi-keyboard without playing back anything already recorded. The drum track is itself generated by the pattern tool, which generates midi-signals from patterns. You can also quantize the signals through the quantize tool, forcing all the notes to be no less than 1/16 or 1/32 (or whatever you choose). Of course, all this allows you to record all these for instruments+drums in one go instead of one time per instrument.

Finally, if you would miss one tool (I would for instance like to have a groove-box tool with built in step-sequencer) and you know how to progam in C, you can always make such a tool yourself. There's good documentation on the web in how to program your own tools.

I think you should try Bars & Pipes and see if you like it or not. Bars & Pipes has a very good documentation on the web and you can also download tools that other people have made. You can download Bars & Pipes for free (and even get the source code).

Check out these URLs:

Documentation:
  http://www.fromwithin.com/liquidmidi/docs/barsandpipes/index.html

Alfred Faust's homepage, who's continued to develop Bars&Pipes (latest version is from 2005). You can download the latest version from his page:
  http://www.alfred-j-faust.de/indexeng.html

Tools programming guide:
  http://alfred-j-faust.de/rft/main.html

You can dowload many tools here:
   http://fromwithin.com/liquidmidi/tools.html
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A1200, Apollo 1260 (68060@50, with MMU+FPU), 32 MB, Delfina soundcard, 40 GB harddrive
 

Offline marcfrick2112

Re: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2006, 09:28:57 AM »
larsef: soory to be away from the post for a while, pesky job
,etc. :) Thanks much for the links! Have only older version of
bars n Pipes as .ADF files, very old...do you know if the
add-on to use amiga built-in sound is available freely? (called
Internal Sound Kit, IIRC) would like to try B&P before I get
a synth, money is tight now...

Anyway, thanks all for your help...
---------------
Marc Frick
---------------
A1200T / \'060, 256MB, CD-R, OS3.9
A4000 w/ WarpEngine / 82MB , OS3.1
A4000 16MB, OS 3.9
A1200 , \'030 / 10MB
A1200 (stock)

CD32 :)

...And a very sick 4000T
 

Offline InTheSand

Re: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2006, 11:10:24 AM »
Hi,

The company that produced Bars and Pipes (Blue Ribbon Soundworks) was taken over by Microsoft. Luckily, for once, Microsoft did the decent thing and made Bars and Pipes free.

The last version appears to be Bars & Pipes Professional 2.5b and it can be found here.

 - Ali
 

Offline Ral-Clan

Re: Synth recommendation for an Amiga sys... Newbie
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2006, 12:52:13 PM »
I have used both Bar&Pipes and OctaMED.  Bars & Pipes is an extremely feature-rich, easy to use sequencer that is very "organic" seeming.  It works very sensibly, and the music is displayed as coloured flowing lines on each "pipe/track".  Bars & Pipes works for almost any type of music, whereas Octamed, because if its step-sequencer nature, is much better for mechanical type music, like acid, trace, video game music, etc.  Although I have heard some good "organic" type music done on Octamed, you really have to know the program well.  

Bars & Pipes, on the other hand, is great for doing music with flowing morphing tempos, time signatures, even free-form music with no set tempo or time signature.

I have three basic synths/modules hooked to my Amiga.  A Roland Juno-106, a Yamaha TX-81z, and a Roland Soundcanvas SC-155.  I think this is a great setup: analogue sounds from the Juno, classic 80's sharp FM digital sounds from the TX-81z, and a whole palate of useable acoustic, synthy, and percussion sounds from the SoundCanvas.  If I had to only have ONE module, I'd probably choose a Soundcanvas.

If you can't find a Yamaha TX-81z, then a DX-21, DX-100 or an FB-01 can get similar sounds for cheap (the last module often goes for $50-$75US on Ebay - and it's 8-part multi-timbral!)

My Soundcanvas is an older one, and so can be acquired cheaply now.  It can play up to 16 different voices at once (so you can do all your bass, rythm, melody, etc. parts with one device).  Although they are GM sounds, they are pretty good/warm sounding, and there are about 125 extra MT-32 sounds too.  The piano sounds are fairly realistic.  Good value for the money.

The great thing about B&P also is that you can control your synth patches from within it, and even link it to an external digital multitracker so it runs in sync.  I have mine synced with my Yamaha MD-8 minidisc recorder, so I can add 8 tracks of recorded audio (i.e. vocals, acoustic instruments) and they will lock to the MIDI instruments.

The sample triggering features on B&P are basic though.  Good for doing a simple trigger now and then, but not multiple sample parts.  OctaMED is MUCH better for doing music with sound samples.

Here is a link to some music I have created on the Amiga with this setup.  B&P was used on all the songs except for "I Blame You", which was done with OctaMED.

http://tinyurl.com/qbetv
Music I've made using Amigas and other retro-instruments: http://theovoids.bandcamp.com