Yamaha S90XS 88-Key Synthesizer

Tech Tip: The First Two Things to Try with That New Synthesizer

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Synths can have a pretty steep learning curve. Here are a couple of tips for creating great sounds right from the get-go.

Making the most of your synthesizer

You've sprung for that killer new synth, and it's sitting in your room all shiny and new. You know how much power is contained behind those knobs and LEDs, and you know it's going to take a while to master it. However, there are couple things you can do right away to maximize its out-of-the-box potential.

Use all your outputs

Many of today's synths have multiple outputs as well as the usual left and right outputs. Use all of them—you will gain an incredible amount of creative headroom! For example, instead of using the stereo drum patch as-is, you can divide the patch so that the snare and kick are on individual channels while the toms and cymbals are each assigned to a separate stereo pair. Now you can adjust EQ, reverb, pan, and level for each element of the kit.

Layer your sounds

It's easy enough to dial up a horn patch, grab a handful of keys, and call it a horn section - perfect! Or is it? For more realism, take the time and think about a real horn section - each horn will be very slightly out of tune with the other horns. As well, each horn will attack the note at not quite the same instant in time. Your job as an arranger, then, is to vary the MIDI information for each part somehow. One of my favorite ways to do this is to first record the part in my typically ham-fisted fashion, and bang out the chords using an appropriate patch. Now that I've got something to play against, I go back and record each individual part with a different or tweaked patch. After all the parts are recorded, I delete the scratch track, and am left with a horn section that sounds far more realistic.

The Roland Jupiter-80 Synthesizer lets you split and layer sounds to your heart’s content. Its huge set of so-called SuperNATURAL piano, strings, and brass sounds can be stacked with up to nine tones for amazing realism and depth. Its combination of a big touchscreen and very logical control layout makes layering and experimentation much easier than with retro synths.

You say you you don’t have a synth?

There’s never been a better time to dive into the world of synthesizers. From modern EDM to retro ‘70s and ‘80s rock sounds ( The Who’s “Baba O'Riley” still looms large in its influence on modern bands), the synth is bigger than ever. And the selection is mind-boggling with a model to match pretty much any budget or musical ambition.

Explore the huge selection of synthesizers at Musician’s Friend.

Learn more with our Piano and Keyboards Buying Guide.

Tags: Keyboards

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