What should I buy?? (Synth players/Industrial Music)


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Hello!

My current setup:
Laptop / Ableton LIVE 9
M-Audio Axiom 61
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Roland FC-300 Midi foot controller


MY QUESTION: Please give me your suggestions on what board I should look into.
  • Is there a board where I can create my own sounds, that I can also have tons of presets?
  • Can I make my own presets in a program like "Omnisphere 2" and load them onto a standalone keyboard?


A month back I posted on this forum asking for a consensus on midi/laptop VS straight keyboard LIVE setups - because I was afraid of something failing during live shows with the laptop/midi setup.

Since I will mostly be going for a synth / industrial / new wave / electronic sound (rammstein, die krupps, depeche mode) I feel I should be looking for a board/workstation that will fit my sound/needs.

With the midi setup I pretty much have endless possibilities, however a higher chance of equipment failure LIVE - But with the standalone keyboard setup I might be limited with my choices but a very LOW chance of failure. I feel as if Ill have maybe 10 or so synth sounds and 6000 piano sounds... and it'll be useless to me

I have been looking at this board and researching it heavily: https://www.roland.com/global/products/fa-06/
This seems like a good instrument for the price.. however I am worried I will be limited in my "synth / industrial" sounds and won't be able to make my own with the ease I have in ableton - I see you can go onto the axial website and download more, but those are limited as well..

And then there's this guy, a full on synth workstation: https://www.roland.com/global/products/jd-xa/

Is Roland the way to go?


Thank you so much for reading!
 
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Fred Coulter

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Can I make my own presets in a program like "Omnisphere 2" and load them onto a standalone keyboard?

You'd need to create a sample of the patch you created in Omnisphere 2. Unless you're very lucky, this will entail multiple samples mapped across the keyboard. Hopefully you won't need to do some velocity switching, but if the timbre of the sound changes with changes in velocity as opposed to merely volume changes, you'll also need to sample at different velocity levels, too.

Once you've got the multi-sampled, multi-velocity sample set created, you'll be able to bring it over to a keyboard that (a) plays those samples, and (b) uses the same format you just saved the sample in on the computer. (It would probably be a good idea to know what keyboard you're going to use before starting the process.)

So you can create sounds in Omnisphere 2 and have them playable on a stand alone keyboard. But it's not easy.

It may be easier to get a decent programmable keyboard and create the sounds on it directly. Or if you're wedded to the sound creation capabilities of Omnisphere 2, get a milspec computer case and components so it can handle the bumps of road life.
 

SeaGtGruff

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Most higher-end arranger/workstations, regardless of manufacturer, should have a well-balanced variety of preset sounds that encompass all 16 of the GM/GM2 instrument families, so there's little danger you'll end up with 6000 piano sounds and just 10 or so synth sounds. They usually also give you the ability to modify the preset sounds by tweaking things like attack/release and cutoff/resonance. And many of them also have the ability to load new sound samples. The manufacturer's web site should have documents available online so you can see a list of the preset sounds as well as details about the capabilities that a particular model has.

On the other hand, if you want to be able to craft your own sounds dynamically, the better choice is probably going to be an actual synth. Some arrangers can do a reasonable approximation by letting you select the basic waveforms (sine, saw, triangle, square, pulse) as your building blocks, layer them together, adjust various parameters, etc.-- but an actual synth is designed to excel at hands-on sound design, and the controls (knobs, etc.) give more immediate access for making changes as opposed to having to select from different functions and settings in a menu. Also, I think it's fairly common these days for synths to come with a variety of presets-- at least, if they have memories for saving and recalling their settings.
 
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Most higher-end arranger/workstations, regardless of manufacturer, should have a well-balanced variety of preset sounds that encompass all 16 of the GM/GM2 instrument families, so there's little danger you'll end up with 6000 piano sounds and just 10 or so synth sounds. They usually also give you the ability to modify the preset sounds by tweaking things like attack/release and cutoff/resonance. And many of them also have the ability to load new sound samples. The manufacturer's web site should have documents available online so you can see a list of the preset sounds as well as details about the capabilities that a particular model has.

On the other hand, if you want to be able to craft your own sounds dynamically, the better choice is probably going to be an actual synth. Some arrangers can do a reasonable approximation by letting you select the basic waveforms (sine, saw, triangle, square, pulse) as your building blocks, layer them together, adjust various parameters, etc.-- but an actual synth is designed to excel at hands-on sound design, and the controls (knobs, etc.) give more immediate access for making changes as opposed to having to select from different functions and settings in a menu. Also, I think it's fairly common these days for synths to come with a variety of presets-- at least, if they have memories for saving and recalling their settings.


Thank you! You always take the time to read my concerns =] Since im NEW what exactly is GM / GM2?

Also is Omnisphere mainly used as a software driven instrument like a midi / laptop setup? Can you sue that software at all of a standalone keyboard?
 

happyrat1

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Just spitballin' here but what's your budget?

Since you're looking for industrial, house, D&B sounding stuff and the ability to create your own sounds as well, I'd say take a look at the Roland JD-XA, the King Korg and the Studiologic Sledge to name a few.

These are all virtual analog synths.

These will allow you to edit and save all the space cadet sounds you'd possibly want for an industrial performance.

Then again if you need ROMpler type sampled sounds for your old standards then you'd be better off looking at conventional workstations like the Roland FA-08 or FA-06 or Juno DS88 or DS61 or the Korg Krome.

Ideally you'd have one from each category to fully cover the sound palettes of modern music.






https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP7KtfScv9M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JV1UlQOP--4

Personally If I were starting out with a new studio from scratch these days I'd own a Roland Juno DS88 and a Studiologic Sledge 2.0.

This combination would allow for an amazing range of sounds.

Right now, as a matter of fact, I'm trying to sell off my Casio XW-P1 and upgrade to a Studiologic Sledge 2.0 to compliment the rest of my studio.

Gary ;)
 
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Fred Coulter

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Since im NEW what exactly is GM / GM2?

GM is standardized locations of similar sounds. That way when you get a MIDI file and it says play patch 53, you'll get some sort of Choir Ahs. The sounds on two different keyboards won't be identical, but they should be at least similar.

GM2 adds some common controller assignments.

For more information, check out Wikipedia.

To make life more "interesting", several of the manufactures have gone beyond GM and GM2, and have created their own supersets of the standard sounds. As usual, there's an article comparing those on Wikipedia, too.

But remember that the sounds aren't identical. A Tyros 5 piano (patch number 1) will sound very different than a Casio CTK 2100 playing the same patch. They're both recognizably pianos, but you'll probably like one better than the other.
 
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SeaGtGruff

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Just to add a bit to Fred's summary, GM ("General MIDI") is a set of standards that have been proposed to ensure a certain degree of interchangeability and commonality between different keyboards. Part of this deals with the actual MIDI messages, but another part of it deals with the various instrument sounds (or "programs," as they're referred to in MIDI-speak, a.k.a. "patches" to a synth player, "voices" in Yamaha-speak, "tones" in Casio-speak, and "timbres" to educated musicians).

The idea is that if you have a MIDI song file that complies with the GM standard ("GM-compliant"), you are assured that it uses only messages and programs which are recognized and accommodated by "GM-compatible" keyboards. It also means that the various programs mean the same thing on those keyboards, so that your GM-compliant MIDI song file will sound more or less the same on any GM-compatible keyboard. For instance, you know that Program 1 will sound like an acoustic grand piano and not like something else (say, a church organ or a clarinet). But it doesn't mean that Program 1 will sound exactly the same on all GM-compatible keyboards, just as there's no guarantee that every acoustic grand piano in the world will sound exactly the same as every other acoustic grand piano.

Anyway, the first version of GM-- originally called just "GM," although now it's sometimes called "GM1" (for "General MIDI Level 1")-- defined 128 different programs or timbres, which were grouped into 16 categories or "instrument families," as shown in the Wikipedia article that Fred linked to:

Piano
Chromatic Percussion
Organ
Guitar
Bass
Strings
Ensemble
Brass
Reed
Pipe
Synth Lead
Synth Pad
Synth Effects
Ethnic
Percussive
Sound effects

Each category contains 8 programs or timbres, so there are 8 piano sounds, 8 organ sounds, 8 bass sounds, etc. At that time, 128 different instrument sounds-- plus 1 standard drum kit-- seemed like a lot. (Shortly before that, it was common for a portable keyboard to have fewer than 20 different sounds, and a keyboard that actually had a whopping 100 different sounds was "top of the line"!) But soon it became apparent that 128 wasn't enough, so the GM2 ("General MIDI Level 2") standard added another 128 sounds, for 256 in all. Even before GM2, Yamaha and Roland came up with their own extensions to GM, called GS (Roland) and XG (Yamaha). It should be noted that the additional instrument sounds aren't evenly distributed between the 16 instrument families-- that is, there aren't 16 GM2 instrument sounds in each instrument family; some families have more than 16, and some have less.

In any case, it's expected and required that a GM-compatible portable keyboard or arranger workstation will have a variety of preset sounds-- at minimum, the 8 GM instrument sounds from each instrument family or category, and sometimes several dozen in certain categories.

On the other hand, it isn't required-- and usually isn't expected-- that a synthesizer be GM-compatible, since by its very nature it's meant to be used for creating new sounds. For that reason, a synth may or may not have presets for the 128 GM sounds. Also, a synth's version of a particular GM sound might sound noticeably like a synth trying to sound like that instrument-- for instance, a synthesized violin-like sound versus an actual violin sound-- whereas a portable keyboard or arranger workstation is typically going to use sounds sampled from the actual instrument.

So an arranger workstation will generally have a much wider variety of preset sounds than a synth, and they'll be more likely to sound "real"-- although not all arrangers sound alike, and some sound more "real" than others. But while a synth might not have the same variety of presets as an arranger, it will be much more capable of designing new sounds-- not new sampled sounds (unless the synth can play samples), but new synthesized sounds.

The differences between an arranger and a synth aren't always as clearly-defined as I've made them sound. For instance, the Yamaha MX49 and MX61 are classified as synths, but they play samples and are similar in some ways (but different in other ways) than a Yamaha arranger workstation.

The bottom line is that you first need to decide what you want to use the keyboard for-- playing a wide variety of realistic sampled instrument sounds, or inventing new sounds that don't sound like existing instruments-- so you'll have a better idea of whether to look at arranger workstations or synths. And then you should look at all of the available choices in your price range-- check out their manuals (which are usually available for download) to see what features, capabilities, and limits they have; check out YouTube videos or other demos to see how they sound; check out online reviews to see if they have a lot of complaints; etc. Then, after you've narrowed down the alternatives to the most likely contenders, see if you can find a store where you can try them out in person, so you can see how they feel.

Note that most performing keyboardists don't usually buy one keyboard to fit all of their needs-- instead, when they need a piano they buy a piano (or digital piano); when they need an organ they buy an organ; when they need a synth they buy a synth; etc. So instead of looking for one single keyboard that will fulfill all of your needs, you may want to consider whether you can-- for roughly the same amount of money-- buy an arranger workstation as well as a synth. Of course, that might depend on how much your total budget is. And certainly there may be keyboards out there that might fill all of your needs.
 

Fred Coulter

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On the other hand, it isn't required-- and usually isn't expected-- that a synthesizer be GM-compatible, since by its very nature it's meant to be used for creating new sounds. For that reason, a synth may or may not have presets for the 128 GM sounds. Also, a synth's version of a particular GM sound might sound noticeably like a synth trying to sound like that instrument-- for instance, a synthesized violin-like sound versus an actual violin sound-- whereas a portable keyboard or arranger workstation is typically going to use sounds sampled from the actual instrument.

If a synth has room for 128 downloadable patches (or more) AND has decent support from the manufacturer or decent third party support or a vibrant user community, there is usually at least one "GM set" available for the keyboard. This is a bank of 128 sounds that follow the GM conventions. That way you can use the synth to realize the GM compatible MIDI file. SeaGtGruff's caveats about sound quality definitely apply.

If you spend enough time and resources, you can do a damn good job of recreating the sound of a "real" instrument using synthesizers. I'm not sure if it's still the case, but the best piano I'd heard for quite a while was created using a TX816 by Yamaha. It only had sixteen note polyphony, so you'd need to be extremely careful with the sustain pedal. (The TX816 was basically 8 DX7s in a rack mount. No front panel, so you'd need a computer - or maybe a DX7 - to program. Each module was used to create a piece of the piano sound, like the initial hit of the hammer against the string, etc.)

GM sets are not created with that level of care.
 
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SeaGtGruff

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Regarding a synth's version of a real instrument, and its noticeable difference from the actual instrument, this can sometimes be a desirable thing. Hence, the GM soundset includes several programs of this nature:

Program 39 = Synth Bass 1
Program 40 = Synth Bass 2
Program 51 = Synth Strings 1
Program 52 = Synth Strings 2
Program 55 = Synth Choir
Program 63 = Synth Brass 1
Program 64 = Synth Brass 2
Program 119 = Synth Drum

And as an aside, one thing you're bound to run into eventually-- so you should be forewarned in case you don't already know (although if you use Ableton Live then I suspect you do)-- is that MIDI program numbers and channel numbers (and, less frequently, bank numbers) can be numbered from either 0 or 1. They're always numbered from 0 inside the actual MIDI messages, but for human user purposes they're often displayed as though they're numbered from 1. For instance, the program numbers above are listed as the MIDI Manufacturers Association gives them, from 1 through 128, but inside the actual MIDI Program Change messages they'd be 38, 39, 50, 51, 54, 62, 63, and 118, respectively.

Consequently, if you're looking in a printed data list to find the bank MSB/LSB numbers and program number for selecting a particular preset that you want to use, then entering it into your hardware or software, you need to pay attention to whether the list counts from 0 or 1 for the bank MSB, bank LSB, and program, as well as whether the hardware or software counts from 0 or 1 for each of those, and then adjust the values accordingly so you don't end up selecting either the wrong preset or a non-existent preset (since not every combination of bank MSB, bank LSB, and program number will correspond to a preset on the hardware instrument or virtual instrument).
 

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