Getting Started With Synths

Post date:

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 11:17


Naomi Bolton

Synthesizers can be very imposing instruments to anyone who has never used one before. Just the amount of knobs, dials and sliders on some vintage synths are enough to scare away all but the most dedicated or persistent.

However, like all instruments, the key to learning how to use a synthesizer is simply lots of practice. Thanks to the internet there are a wealth or resources available for anyone interested in synths, so there really is no excuse not to get involved with these fascinating instruments. While it can be an expensive hobby, there are also enough cheap or even free options available to get you started. This means that you can dip your toes in the water without investing a ton of money into something that might just end up gathering dust.

Brush Up On How Synthesizers Actually Work

If all you know about synthesizers is that you press buttons or turn knobs to create strange noises, then you might want to brush up on the basics of how synths work first. Not only is it really interesting, but learning some of the basic terminology will also make it easier to understand what other synth players are talking about on forums. At the very least, it helps to know what oscillators, filters, amplifiers and modulation means and how these are used together to create unique sounds. There are plenty of books that go into a great deal of depth about the topic, but it is also easy to grasp the basics by looking at a few online articles or watching a YouTube tutorial about the subject. If you need any ideas, just check out our article about interesting Synth books as these could be useful. Moog Music Inc. also has a great series on the fundamentals of synthesizer program that is presented by r. Joseph Akins. Once you have a basic understanding of how synthesizers work you can start to delve deeper and learn about all kinds of neat ways to coax unique sounds out of even the most basic synths. You don’t need to study how to become a sound designer in order to use a synth, but understanding the basics will get you far.

Pick A Synth To Play

Learning how a synthesizer works is interesting, but without one of your own you are not going to get very far. This is why you should also invest in a synth in order to learn how to play it. Your options are going to depend on your budget and what exactly you want from the synth. If you have a lot of spare cash burning a hole in your pocket, then a decent hardware synth might not be a bad idea. Knowing you spent the money on it might provide you with the extra motivation needed to actually master it. You might want to avoid the synths on this list when picking your first one as they are notoriously hard to master. On the other hand, if money is tight or you are not really sure if you’ll feel as strongly about learning how to play a synth a few weeks down the line then a software synth might be a better idea. Once again, you’ll find plenty of information online or by asking around the forums about what synths are the best for beginners. It is also a good idea to check out YouTube videos of the synth in question, so you can hear exactly what it is capable of and if it matches your expectations. As soon as you have your hands on your synth it is time for the fun stuff; playing around with it.

Learn All About Your Particular Synth

Once you know how synthesizers work in general and you have selected one of your own, it is time to learn how to master it. The best place to start is usually the manual or user guide as it will fill you in on all the great features that you have at your disposal. This is also the part where you get to experiment with all the pre-set patches that are available on your synth. Pre-set patches are great as they usually sound good and enable you to come up with some interesting sounds without having to fiddle around too much on your own.

Program Your Own Patches

When you start feeling constrained by the pre-set patches on your synth you know it’s time to start creating some of your own. Once again, the easiest way to learn how to do this is with lots of practice and following a couple of tutorials. You can start out by trying to recreate some of the pre-set patches on your own before striking out in your own direction. There are also lots of videos online that demonstrate how to achieve particular sounds, such as these ones by Roland. If you want to go beyond watching video tutorials you’ll also that there are some training software, such as Syntorial, available online to help you out. While these are not free, they typically have trial versions that enable you to see if they will be of any use before you commit to paying.

Get Involved With The Community

Messing around on your own and following some tutorials can get you far, but nothing beats being part of a community of like-minded synth fans. Joining an online community like the one here at Vintage Synth Explorer means you’ll be able to get great advice and helpful tips from other members who have a lot of experience. Just remember to be respectful and contribute where you can to help the community grow.

Never Stop Learning

The great thing about synthesizers is the fact that they offer endless opportunities to experiment. Once you accept the fact that you should never stop learning and that there is always something new to discover, you’ll have a lot of fun with these instruments.