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Learning AL / FM synthesis

 
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ChrisDuncan
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Joined: 17 May 2018
Posts: 108

PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 1:20 pm    Post subject: Learning AL / FM synthesis Reply with quote

Hey, guys.

Being a guitarist who's now learning keys, I've spent most of my time with the Kronos playing piano. Above and beyond the fact that I just enjoy it, piano makes you focus on playing. With synths you can hold down a chord, twiddle some knobs and get a lot of cool sounds that make you feel like you're actually doing something, but it doesn't do much for the chops.

That said, I'm now to the point where I want to start exploring synth music, and that starts with understanding synths. The AL and FM engines offer all the parameters I would expect to be able to roll my own sounds. However, there are a ton of params and I don't understand any of them.

I've made a living as a software developer for 30 years so the tech doesn't bother me, but synths are essentially a new programming language that I'm unfamiliar with. Before I can do anything meaningful, I need to understand the basics and then build on that knowledge. I'd like to develop the skill that would let me stand in front of an old patch cable Moog or a DX-7 (without presets) and know what I'm doing.

Do you guys have any recommendations for learning resources, be it book or video, that would a) teach basics from the ground up and b) easily relate to the UI of the AL / FM engines? Would be grateful for any thoughts you might have.
_________________
Studio A: Cubase 9.0.10 Build 150 64 bit | Windows 7 64 bit | 24 gigs memory | Yamaha TF5 | Mackie MCU
Studio B: Cubase 9.0.10 Build 150 64 bit | Windows 7 64 bit | 24 gigs memory | UR 44 | CMC TP-QC-AI-CH | Kronos 88
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Chris Duncan
Atlanta, GA, USA, Earth
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Liviou2004
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Joined: 20 Feb 2017
Posts: 671
Location: Nemours - France

PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 2:09 pm    Post subject: Re: Learning AL / FM synthesis Reply with quote

ChrisDuncan wrote:
Hey, guys.

Being a guitarist who's now learning keys, I've spent most of my time with the Kronos playing piano. Above and beyond the fact that I just enjoy it, piano makes you focus on playing. With synths you can hold down a chord, twiddle some knobs and get a lot of cool sounds that make you feel like you're actually doing something, but it doesn't do much for the chops.

That said, I'm now to the point where I want to start exploring synth music, and that starts with understanding synths. The AL and FM engines offer all the parameters I would expect to be able to roll my own sounds. However, there are a ton of params and I don't understand any of them.

I've made a living as a software developer for 30 years so the tech doesn't bother me, but synths are essentially a new programming language that I'm unfamiliar with. Before I can do anything meaningful, I need to understand the basics and then build on that knowledge. I'd like to develop the skill that would let me stand in front of an old patch cable Moog or a DX-7 (without presets) and know what I'm doing.

Do you guys have any recommendations for learning resources, be it book or video, that would a) teach basics from the ground up and b) easily relate to the UI of the AL / FM engines? Would be grateful for any thoughts you might have.


There are many kind of synthesis. The most common, popular and quite easiest to learn is the Substractive synthesis. There are many good tutos about it. For example, you can watch this one :



Inside the Substracive synthesizers family, you could find hardpatched (like Minimoog, Arp Odyssey, Krog Polysix and many, many others), Semi-modular (ARP 2600, Korg MS-20,....), and full modular (Big Moog).

For my part, I would recommend you to begin your synthesis learning with the Polysix Ex Kronos Engine. It is the easiest to learn and practice and wich carry the least parameters.
The MS-20 ex engine, is a semi-modular and carry more parameters. You could approach it after the Polysix. (here is a tuto upon MS-20 ex :



Then you can approach the AL-1 engine (here is a simple tuto

)

All in all, the best, when you find a sound you like, is to see how it has be donne. At first, just take a factory Polysix sound you like and go to see how it has been done.

---------------------

Then you mentionned DX-7 sounds. This is Frequency Moulation Synthesis, another type of synthesis, one of the most complicated to approach. In fact, DX-7 is not really a Frequency Moudlation but the real term is Phase Modulation.
In the Kronos, it's the MOD-7 engine. Actually, it's the most powerful and versatile engine in this synth.
But, the Parameter's Guide contains a very good tutorial you can follow step by step. It's called "Synthesis with the MOD-7: a guided tour", from page 349.

-----------------------

Finally, just an advice : go on step by step, from the easiest to the most complex. Do not try to master all the subjects all at once : it's impossible and the risk is that you might be disgusted and eventually abandon.

So this is some steps you can follow first.
Do not hesitate to search in Youtube. There are many good tutos. Here are some tips from a very good Youtuber, Once Upon a Synth : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyWVLB2iuZONfRs_EDlBDlnw3BUu2dbG2
There, you will find many, many interesting links.
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Kronos 2 73, Moog Grandmother, Studiologic Sledge 2, Behringer Neutron, Yamaha P90 / Electro Harmonix Vocoder V256, Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro / Soundcraft Mixer EFX12, JBL LSR308, Behringer FX2000 3D


Last edited by Liviou2004 on Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:14 pm; edited 8 times in total
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ChrisDuncan
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Joined: 17 May 2018
Posts: 108

PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent resources, and the incremental approach is a great way to get started. Thanks very much for putting so much thought into this.
_________________
Studio A: Cubase 9.0.10 Build 150 64 bit | Windows 7 64 bit | 24 gigs memory | Yamaha TF5 | Mackie MCU
Studio B: Cubase 9.0.10 Build 150 64 bit | Windows 7 64 bit | 24 gigs memory | UR 44 | CMC TP-QC-AI-CH | Kronos 88
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Chris Duncan
Atlanta, GA, USA, Earth
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ronnfigg
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Joined: 26 Mar 2011
Posts: 1983
Location: CA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Learn the basics. It will apply to most forms of synthesis. Things like VCO, VCF, VCA, EG, LFO, ADSR and more. YouTube videos are a good way to go, since you will grey to hear examples.
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"To me the synthesizer was always a source of new sounds that musicians could use to expand the range of possibilities for making music."
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Lightbringer
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Joined: 07 Jan 2018
Posts: 195
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you're just getting started learning synthesis, I'd recommend you start with the PolySix synth. Why? It's the simplest architecture of all of the synths in the K, but it sounds great and is capable of a large palette of sounds. Also, just about every parameter is by default wired up to a physical knob, slider, or button when you go into Tone Adjust mode. It's much more fun to have some hardware control and twiddle knobs than to type in parameters, especially while you're learning (but, really, always Smile ).

What you learn with PolySix will transfer over to AL-1 and MS-20 - there will just be more to learn there. FM synthesis (MOD-7) is an entirely different beast than subtractive (AL-1, Polysix, MS20), so I'd learn subtractive first. I think it's easiest to grok.

You can type Polysix tutorial into Youtube and find a good bit of content. Doesn't really matter if they are working with the original hardware, a VST, or the iPad app (iPolySix) - you should be able to follow along.

Reverse engineering factory patches is another great way to learn how a sound is constructed. You can start turning things off/down until you get back to just a basic sounding wave form to learn what all is contributing to the final sound, and how the different parameters are being used in sculpting the patch. Start by turning off all the FX, one by one. It can be very informative/telling to find out just how much FX are making certain sounds.
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ChrisDuncan
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Joined: 17 May 2018
Posts: 108

PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ronnfigg, Lightbringer - thanks very much for the suggestions.

I didn't realize the polysix was normalled to the physical controllers, which is a huge help for fooling around.

From everyone's suggestions, sounds like my weekend's first adventure will be playing with the world of the polysix, watching tutorials and also learning from existing patches. The latter is also my preferred method of aborbing programming tech, learning by example, so that will help a lot.
_________________
Studio A: Cubase 9.0.10 Build 150 64 bit | Windows 7 64 bit | 24 gigs memory | Yamaha TF5 | Mackie MCU
Studio B: Cubase 9.0.10 Build 150 64 bit | Windows 7 64 bit | 24 gigs memory | UR 44 | CMC TP-QC-AI-CH | Kronos 88
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chris Duncan
Atlanta, GA, USA, Earth
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