Kenny’s Tip of the Day - Learn One Synth - Completely!!
This tip may not apply to those of you who already use synths heavily in your music. Hopefully you already have your favorites and know how to use them all fluently. And it also wouldn’t apply to those who have zero interest in using synths at all. EVER!!
But for those of you (like me) who like or love to use synths on a more occasional or sporadic basis, I would suggesting picking one great one, and learning it completely.
Why? Well… I personally love synths. Love everything about them. But what I HATE about them is finding the right synth sound for my song. You might have the perfect one in your head, but getting it out of your keyboard or virtual instrument is probably a different story. At least it is for me.
Any great synth these days comes with thousands of presets. Which should be a good thing. It shows what that synth can do. But when you’re in the middle of creating or programming a track, nothing can be more of a buzzkill than having to go thru 2500+ presets to find the perfect one.
After a few dozen, you start to lose your perspective. You forget what you were even looking for. And the names? UGH. For the most part, naming synth patches are almost useless. They very rarely tell you exactly what you’re getting. Probably because synth sounds vary a lot more than can be put into one or two words. Names like “Warm Pad” can be somewhat helpful but “Dirty Synth” can sound like a thousand different things. It’s almost useless. Actually. It kind of is.
But don’t fret. I’ve found the perfect solution. Find one great synth. A synth that is super powerful and can do almost anything, and learn it completely. For me, this was Serum. I just found this to be incredibly powerful yet also simple to program.
And while it has great presets, I wouldn’t suggest worrying too much about them. I would learn how to program this thing from top to bottom and learn how to create and tweak your own sounds. Or just tweak other presets that inspire you.
BTW - I did a “Serum Explained” tutorial which you should check out if you’re interested in this synth.
So now what I do is I have about 20 presets that I have saved over the years. It started with just five that I created but every time I find a good one (and we all have our own personal taste) that I’ve tweaked, I save that one as well to my user library.
Referring to these 20 presets is a lot easier than searching thru thousands. And it keeps me on task. If I know what I want, I can go right to it. Often, it will be close but because I know how to program it, I don’t abandon one sound for another. I tweak the first sound to be just right. And I save that one if I really love it. So I can use it again.
This method keeps me and my productions on task and wastes little time. Gets me to the sound I want in my head and also allows me to build a small but powerful foundation to work off of whenever I need a synth next time. If I need a pad, I go to “Kenny’s Pad” and within minutes, I can create the pad I had in my head for this specific track. Which can vary from the original preset but in the perfect way for the context applied.
So if you’re like me and get frustrated looking for that perfect synth patch, do yourself a favor. Learn one great and powerful synth. Completely.
I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia