Re: Techno, ahem, Electronic music

James Rogers (
Sun, 05 Jan 1997 11:59:39 -0800

Ray Peck wrote:
>I agree wholeheartedly. The thing that's especially true of digital
>snths is that they lack imperfections. As we all know, the brain is
>stimulated by differences: it filters out the steady-state stimulous.
>Analogue synths are quirky, they drift, and they wobble. If you play
>a note over and over, it's slightly different each time. The same is
>not true of (most) digital synthesizers, which is why I don't like
>them in general. That's not to say that you can't program in much
>more interesting variations, but it's rare that people do so.

This is the reason some digital synths have randomizers/noise functions
(Roland and others) as part of their signal generation path. When working
in a studio, I often find it hard to listen to digital synth sounds for
extended periods of time. It becomes difficult for me to focus on the sound
after a couple hours.

>Another effect of the digital synth revolution is the tossing away of
>real-time control. Analogue synths have lots of knobs to tweak the
>sounds while you're playing. Digital synths almost never do (cf. the
>"revolutionary" new Kawai keyboard that adds the knobs back). They
>also added lots of presets (presets were very limited before). And
>synthesis methods such as FM were less amenable to real-time
>tweaking. All this conspired to make keyboard players click in the
>preset, and leave the sound static as they played.

I love knobs and sliders. Paging through LCD screens is a real pain, and it
requires intimate knowledge of the synth to do it effectively. Supposedly
revolutionary features like touch screens (a la Korg Trinity) do nothing
more than move the buttons from the real to virtual without really changing
the interface (and IMHO touch screens are worse than the usual buttons).

I agree that presets are boring and often overused, but they do have their
purposes. There are some times when I need a particular sound for which a
preset works just fine, without the need for any significant tweaking. I
always keep a couple Korg or Roland preset boxes around (usually expanded to
capacity) even though much of my work is done on samplers and analogs.

-James Rogers