Why do musicians choose synthesizers over real instruments?

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auntblabby
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02 Sep 2020, 11:55 pm

ironpony wrote:
Oh okay. Well I recognize some instruments that are real such as the timpani or saxophone. But when it comes to the instruments that do not sound real at all, that is what I would call synth. But am I applying the term wrong?

if you define synthetic as being made of different ingredients from the usual, or as replaced sounds at least in part, you could call the "not real" sounds synthetic.



ezbzbfcg2
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05 Sep 2020, 12:24 am

But aren't most "synthesizers" and keyboards simply playing back digital pre-recorded notes? Same as an analog Chamberlin or Mellatron, but digital instead? Still playing back a pre-recorded, pre-existing sound?

Or do synthesizers somehow synthesize sound in real-time by manipulating the electrical input running through them?



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05 Sep 2020, 12:28 am

I think it depends on which ones. My ex-gf has a synthesizer and some of instruments on it sound real, and others, like the pan flute for example, sounded completely fake, and it was definitely not pre-recorded samples, but some sort of made up sound, trying to sound like a pan flute by failing.



auntblabby
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05 Sep 2020, 1:33 am

sound as we know it is composed of a variety of waveforms - reduced to their elements are triangular, squarish, sine [rounded] individually or much more often in mixtures, and the various registrations [combos] possible determine the character of the sound of each instrument. moog was one of the early inventors who figured out that if you took tone generators/voltage-controlled oscillators and filter banks, miniaturized them into a console, hooked to a keyboard, you had a bona fide new musical instrument that could both emulate natural sounds as well as create novel ones.



ezbzbfcg2
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06 Sep 2020, 2:52 am

I'm still not certain what a true synthesizer is. Does it manipulate electrical impulses to synthesize sound to make the human ear think it's listening to something it's not? Like making random tones sound very much like a real violin, when the sounds aren't truly from a violin, simply sounds that have been synthesized (made to sound like something they're not)?

Or is playing back pre-recorded sound also a form of synthesis in some broad context?



ironpony
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06 Sep 2020, 4:16 am

Well as far as synth vs. real instrument goes, in this song for example, at 2:15 into the song, you hear a synthesizer sound that sounds kind of like a xylophone:

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

But why didn't they just use a real xylophone? Are you telling me that Billie Eilish couldn't afford xylophone samples, and has to use a synthesizer instead to try to create a similar sound?



auntblabby
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06 Sep 2020, 6:16 am

ironpony wrote:
Well as far as synth vs. real instrument goes, in this song for example, at 2:15 into the song, you hear a synthesizer sound that sounds kind of like a xylophone:

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

But why didn't they just use a real xylophone? Are you telling me that Billie Eilish couldn't afford xylophone samples, and has to use a synthesizer instead to try to create a similar sound?

studio time and space is expensive. direct-to-PC is a LOT cheaper. that is today's utility for synths versus real instruments which tend to sound relatively subpar recorded in most folks' living rooms via microphone [and room] capture. that is the whole purpose of studios.



techstepgenr8tion
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06 Sep 2020, 9:33 am

ironpony wrote:
Well as far as synth vs. real instrument goes, in this song for example, at 2:15 into the song, you hear a synthesizer sound that sounds kind of like a xylophone:

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

But why didn't they just use a real xylophone? Are you telling me that Billie Eilish couldn't afford xylophone samples, and has to use a synthesizer instead to try to create a similar sound?

The striking qualities are completely different though. The timbers are similar but you notice that sound has no 'punch' at the beginning, it sort of 'eeks' out of nowhere, falls rather odd, and vanishes as uncanny as it showed up. That's actually the point, it's an articulation that a lot of people would associate with either psychedelia in music when used certain ways or adding guile to the structure of the track (in Phineas's case I'd guess probably both but more the later).

The question then - suppose they used a real xylophone, sampled each note they struck so they could then carve off the attack, and did what they could to make it 'flub' and disappear.... wouldn't it be so far from the sound of an original xylophone that you'd be stuck asking most of the same questions? Also if they had - xylophones are harsh when you try to play too much with the filters since there's a lot of 1000-2000hz mids and that wouldn't be easy to settle into the mix where what they used had a broader spectrum and was easier to sculpt.

I think that may be where the confusion is coming in here - it's not that they found a crap substitute for a xylophone and decided to force their way through with it, it's that what they selected fit what they were looking to do very specifically.


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ironpony
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06 Sep 2020, 12:49 pm

auntblabby wrote:
ironpony wrote:
Well as far as synth vs. real instrument goes, in this song for example, at 2:15 into the song, you hear a synthesizer sound that sounds kind of like a xylophone:

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

But why didn't they just use a real xylophone? Are you telling me that Billie Eilish couldn't afford xylophone samples, and has to use a synthesizer instead to try to create a similar sound?

studio time and space is expensive. direct-to-PC is a LOT cheaper. that is today's utility for synths versus real instruments which tend to sound relatively subpar recorded in most folks' living rooms via microphone [and room] capture. that is the whole purpose of studios.


Oh okay, but they still could have had used pre-recorded xylophone samples, couldn't they have, rather than going for a full on synth sound trying to poorly replicate a xylophone?



ironpony
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06 Sep 2020, 12:50 pm

ironpony wrote:
auntblabby wrote:
ironpony wrote:
Well as far as synth vs. real instrument goes, in this song for example, at 2:15 into the song, you hear a synthesizer sound that sounds kind of like a xylophone:

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

But why didn't they just use a real xylophone? Are you telling me that Billie Eilish couldn't afford xylophone samples, and has to use a synthesizer instead to try to create a similar sound?

studio time and space is expensive. direct-to-PC is a LOT cheaper. that is today's utility for synths versus real instruments which tend to sound relatively subpar recorded in most folks' living rooms via microphone [and room] capture. that is the whole purpose of studios.


Oh okay, but they still could have had used pre-recorded xylophone samples, couldn't they have, rather than going for a full on synth sound trying to poorly replicate a xylophone?


Yes that's true. I guess I just feel the 'punch', sounds a lot better, and just couldn't get into the psychodellic quality as much.



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07 Sep 2020, 1:11 am

I believe they choose synthesizers because they have more possibilities.



auntblabby
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07 Sep 2020, 1:35 am

ironpony wrote:
Well as far as synth vs. real instrument goes, in this song for example, at 2:15 into the song, you hear a synthesizer sound that sounds kind of like a xylophone:

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

But why didn't they just use a real xylophone? Are you telling me that Billie Eilish couldn't afford xylophone samples, and has to use a synthesizer instead to try to create a similar sound?

a matter of taste, but a xylophone wouldn't "fit" in this mix, it would stand out too much. this song seems interested in blending and not standing out.



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07 Sep 2020, 11:46 am

Oh okay that makes sense. I guess that is why I don't like a lot of synth music, because a lot of it tries to blend and does not have that 'punch' in the notes that was mentioned before.

However, one synth score I like is the Blade Runner score. It's synth but it has sort of a percussive punch to it, if that makes sense? Or is it just me?



auntblabby
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08 Sep 2020, 10:15 am

ironpony wrote:
Oh okay that makes sense. I guess that is why I don't like a lot of synth music, because a lot of it tries to blend and does not have that 'punch' in the notes that was mentioned before.

However, one synth score I like is the Blade Runner score. It's synth but it has sort of a percussive punch to it, if that makes sense? Or is it just me?

he used state of the art synthesizers including early digital ones, electronic instruments long have been able to be percussive, starting with the original hammonds.



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08 Sep 2020, 8:55 pm

About 10/15 years ago, electronic instrument makers decided, "You know, why create yet another synth to duplicate real sounds. Why not come up with a technology where the musical instrument is real, not just a fabrication?" This led to physical modelling. In effect, when Pianoteq created a physically modeled Steinway D, it's a real piano, just comprised solely of bits, 1's and 0's, if you will. Similarly, their Organteq is a real organ which just happens to sound like other pipe organs. Other manufactures adopted this physical modeling trend so now you have real drums and electric bass from IK Multimedia. Their MODO bass and MODO drums, for example, use modal synthesis technology to create real sounds in real time, obviously using highly complex analog modeling technology, possible because of the power of modern day CPU's.

Here's another interesting thing about the power of modern CPU's. Companies like WAVES and IK Multimedia are able to model real guitar amps and effects to the point where their circuitry is so identical to the real thing that, playing a guitar or bass through them, you couldn't tell the difference of whether its a software Marshall or real Marshall, software Fender Twin or real deal. I use Amplitude 4, specifically, their remake of the Rockman headphone amp that Tom Scholz from Boston created. It's scary real, as their Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier amp. It's also interesting to note that the WAVES version of Paul Reed Smith's tube amps (Archon, Dallas and Sierra Blue) were created by Paul Reed Smith himself. Their sounds, by the way, will make your drawers drip wet. i should know. I play them.



auntblabby
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08 Sep 2020, 9:11 pm

Roland has long had their cinema pipe organ sound fonts. they duplicate the sound of a typical european quasi-wurlitzer theatrical pipe organ. a musician named Reg Rawlings patched them into his electronic accordion and made some demo CDs of him playing the wurlitzer on his accordion :dj: