Learning How To Play Synths


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Just like any other musical instrument, it is much easier to learn how to play a synthesizer if you are having fun. However, it can be extremely frustrating for people who would like to compose or play music, but struggle with the hardware or software. Thankfully, we live in a day and age where just about any information you need can be accessed almost immediately, which makes it a lot easier to master certain skills, such as playing synths. If you have ever listened with envy to the sounds that other synth players are able to coax out of their instruments and unsure where to even begin, here are a couple of resources to help you get started. 

Learning The Basics

The saying "ignorance is bliss" is not really applicable to synthesizers as there are a lot of synthesizer related terms that you will frequently hear and understanding what they mean is important. You could obviously just sit down in front of a synth and try to teach yourself through trial and error, but learning the basics first will help you a lot in the long run. Even if you need to start with the very basics, such as what exactly a synthesizer is and what the difference is between analog and digital, you'll find online resources that can assist. A good starting point is "Synth 101: Learning the Basics" which is available from the Yamaha music website (https://hub.yamaha.com/synth-101-learning-the-basics/). They not only cover the aforementioned topics, but also explain the different definitions along with the pros and cons of different synthesizer types. The Synthesizer Academy (http://synthesizeracademy.com/)  is another great resource for tutorials on how to make electronic music. It is recommended that you start at the beginning and work your way through the lessons, but you are also free to jump to whatever lesson you want. 

Become Part of A Community

Once you are up to speed with the basics, you'll find that forums for synth enthusiasts, like our very own one here at Vintage Synth Explorer, are a great way to discover new information, chat to fellow synth fans and learn from them. Whether you need advice, tips or even just motivation and inspiration, being part of a community can make the process of learning how to use synthesizers a lot more fun.

Enroll In Online Learning Courses

The days of having to travel to a location and make time in your busy schedule just to learn something new is thankfully in the past. The abundance of online courses means that you can now learn in the comfort of your own home or wherever you have an internet connection available. You can also schedule our learning around your other priorities, instead of the other way round. Even for something as niche as synthesizers, there are a number of online courses available.

LinkedIn Learning

Those old enough to remember Lynda.com will probably know that it was acquired in 2015 by LinkedIn. It is now an open online course website that features a number of video courses, including ones related to synthesizers. For example, here is a two hour course on Learning Modular Synthesis: Moog MOther-32 Semimodular Synth (https://www.linkedin.com/learning/learning-modular-synthesis-moog-mother-32-semimodular-synth). Although it costs $29.99 per month to use the courses on the site, they do offer a free monthly trial, which can already help you to get far. All of the old Lynda.com courses, such as this one about Learning Synth Programming (https://www.lynda.com/Audio-Music-DAWs-tutorials/Synth-Programming-Basics/156759-2.html) is also still available on LinkedIn Learning. 


Syntorial (https://www.syntorial.com/) is another method of learning that has seen a lot of success with users. Instead of ordinary synth tutorials, it approaches the subject like a video game. So what you get is almost 200 lessons that offer a combination of video demonstrations along with interactive challenges. If you don't want to get too hung up on theory and enjoy video games like Guitar Hero, then Syntorial could be a good avenue to explore. While it is not free, you can download a free demo to try out the first 22 lessons without any time limit, which is more than enough to get you started. 


If you are interested in synths, but would like to make use of MIDI keyboards, pad controllers, and drums instead of more traditional synth hardware, then Melodics could be a good option. It is an desktop app that can teach you how to play these instruments. Best of all, it can be downloaded for free and comes with 60 free lessons to give you a taste of things before paying for anything. 

Reading Books And Manuals

Of course, if you want to get away from computers completely, then you can always opt to read a book or two about synthesizers to brush up your knowledge. To get you started, check out our article about six books that can be very useful for synth enthusiasts who would like to learn more (http://www.vintagesynth.com/articles/6-interesting-books-synth-enthusiasts). 

If you have bought a synthesizer already, then the chances are good that it came with a manual that can help you to learn more about using it. This is obviously only applicable if it is a brand new synthesizer, but don't despair if you managed to snap up a great vintage synth for a bargain and it came without documentation. Websites such as Archive.org have collected tons of synthesizer manuals that you can download and peruse (https://archive.org/details/synthmanuals). 


From learning music theory with the Tenuto app (https://www.musictheory.net/products/tenuto) to watching YouTube tutorials on building your own synths, there are plenty of other ways to increase your synth knowledge. Let us know on the forum or in the comments below what you think the best method is for learning how to use synthesizers and which ones did you use when you got started.