Elektron Digitone – the simple fact that it’s sitting on my desk, just to the right of my computer keyboard staring me in the face forces me to make sounds in it. While I use my VSTs to make sounds all the time, and technically they’re more convenient to use in the DAW, there’s something to be said for having dedicated hardware with knobs and buttons permanently fixed to their functions. VSTs either require you to write automation, do a ‘mouse jam’, or attach functions to a MIDI controller which takes time and can be distracting.
The Digitone is an FM synth made for ease of use. Many FM synths are notoriously difficult to program which leads many people to just use their presets, which is unfortunate because you can create some really wild and ‘otherworldy’ sounds with FM synthesis. It’s amazing for this. It will do anything from drum sounds (surprisingly well, I’ll do a video on just that by itself) to gnarly bass, to beautiful keys and bells, evolving pads, etc. It might actually be one of my most flexible synthesizers.
Poly Evolver – This one really helped me take the plunge into learning synthesis when I got it many years ago. I work better with hardware- that’s something I figured out about myself a long time ago, and so having a synth that had a ‘one-knob-per-function’ was essential to learning how to make my own sounds. This synth isn’t quite as versitile as others, less than the Digitone, but more than my Moog Slim Phatty (by a long shot). What it does do, it does very well. It sounds fat and warm with the filter closed a bit because of the beautiful Curtis filters, but when wide open can sound very harsh and aggressive – more so than most other synths. I like to use this one for arpeggiated basses, leads, effects, etc.
Having a hardware sampler gives you a workflow that you just can’t get with a DAW alone. Being able to quickly fill it up with sounds (and I only own/use samplers that I can quickly sample with) and start banging out rhythms is an awesome way to come up with ideas quickly. If your sampler has a sound characteristic to it like the ones I listed above, it will impart some magic across your song as well.
With a hardware sampler, you’re able to come up with ideas in different ways too as they each have their own limitations and way of sequencing sounds. This pushes your brain to think outside the box. It creates another dynamic that when mixed with your DAW, can help give you a sound different to other people’s. That alone is invaluable.
My rompler of choice is the Roland Integra 7. It’s Roland’s legacy rompler (notice a trend here?) that has all of the synth sounds in their previous synthesizers, as well as all of their SuperNATRUAL sounds as heard in other keyboards like the Fantom G8.
The Integra 7 has over 7,000 sounds in it, accessible at any time and can be browsed with an iPad for a larger, more friendly browsing experience. It’s got saxophones, strings, keyboards, synth sounds, electronic drums, orchestral drums, bells… everything really. It’s like Kontakt in a box and I use it very much the same way. I’ve gotten some of the most unique sounds from this thing by loading up a saxophone for example, sequencing some notes in that for a human might be impossible to actually play, and then adding effects in my DAW after recording in the audio.
My other “rompler” would be my TR-8S, which technically is a hardware drum machine, but sort of a rompler in the sense that all the sounds are built in and a majority of them are fixed-in-place. This thing has also helped shape my sound by providing a ‘base’ of extremely high quality and familiar dance music sounds, while also being expandable with samples. Again, a different work flow, more preamps being used, different timing (ie it has it’s own clock), etc.
#Synthesizer #DrumMachine #SoundModule