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synth doom/drone/ambient hardware set up without effects?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Synth Noise  
Author synth doom/drone/ambient hardware set up without effects?
Blume
Hey all,

I'm currently in the process of putting together a small hardware set up to make evolving dark drones and I'm wondering how many of you out there make this kind of music using NO external effects whatsoever?

I originally come from a 80's punk/hardcore/indie/experimental(?) background, turned 40 this year and am still fairly new to synths, meaning just a year or so into them.

A while back I remember a quote from Ian MacKaye of Fugazi, Minor Threat, et al. talking about wanting to see how far he could take a simple set up of a guitar, cord, and amp and I'd like to apply it to synths.

My set up, while currently still in process will likely be as follows:
Bass Station 2-already own
Minibrute-already own
Microbrute-been looking on the used market as second osc for minibrute
Mike Rucci Maximal Drone-buying soon. Support local!
Shruthi w/4pm filter-seem capable of alot and sound great in demos

I like the idea of this set up because I have 1 dual DCO mono, 1 "dual" VCO mono with the mini and micro, a dual hybrid synth in the shruthi, and one drone synth. plus it all fits in my space challenged apartment.

How far do you think I could push this without using any effects?

Thanks
EarlJemmings
Pretty far, especially if you're playing live. As great as it is drowning everything in reverb and delay, the raw sound of a synth over a booming pa is amazing.
Blume
Playing out live is definitely a goal of mine.

At the very least, I'd like to play everything "live" at home, exploring what's possible with the cv capability of the brutes and the drone synth. nanners

I'm drawn to the idea of no effects because it seems too easy to throw verb and delay on something and call it drone/noise/ambiance or whatever. Plus, with a few synths at my disposal I feel that I have more room to explore, meaning adding or subtracting certain elements to create a dense, evolving, textured slurry evil

I'm really curious how many others out there approach their sound design experiments like this?
Nelson Baboon
Blume wrote:
Playing out live is definitely a goal of mine.

At the very least, I'd like to play everything "live" at home, exploring what's possible with the cv capability of the brutes and the drone synth. nanners

I'm drawn to the idea of no effects because it seems too easy to throw verb and delay on something and call it drone/noise/ambiance or whatever. Plus, with a few synths at my disposal I feel that I have more room to explore, meaning adding or subtracting certain elements to create a dense, evolving, textured slurry evil

I'm really curious how many others out there approach their sound design experiments like this?


I've encountered this issue in my own music, and I'd recommend that maybe you don't look at it in such a black/white way.

I agree with you that it's easy to let external fx compensate for the 'core sound' being deficient in some way. You often hear demos here where people use fancy synths and then drown the result in tons of reverb or delay...i don't think that these serve well as demos, and as music, well, it varies. The problem with lots of reverb tends to be that while THIS track may sound good, then the next one sounds a little too similar, and the next, and the next. And reverb isn't the only effect that does this - I've found the same thing with distortion fx - that they can be relied upon too much to provide sonic urgency to tracks.

(I am thinking out loud here - trying to articulate how I look at all of this)

But I think that there is also a way in which fx can be very effective, and not contribute negatively to ones overall output. That it to view the whole system that you're setting up as 'an instrument', and apply fx with that consciousness, and with more subtlety than a big corrective at the end.

Some fx work well also as just adding a little bit at the end - just making the stuff sound better, without making everything sound alike. Overstayer equipment is great for this, and there are others too.

but then there are also fx that don't primarily 'pretty up' the sound, and can really work within the aesthetic that it's all just one big instrument (a bit cliched expression, but I'm not thinking of an alternative right now)

These will vary from person to person, but I love stuff like the bug brand fx. For instance, I have 2 of the pt delays, and experiment with using related modulations on the delay and the synths, and other components. Having it all cohere, without sounding like everything is 'drowned' in pretty delay or reverb. The ciat lonbarde cocoquantus - which can change from being a delay, to a crazy modulated delay, to insane unrecognizeable loops of its input, etc, etc - again - these are simply examples from my own process....

But I guess what I'm saying is that maybe you should be more flexible about this 'purist' goal - that your intuition about not drowning the instruments with fx, but that fx can also be used to further your goal.
notmiserlouagain
Nelson Baboon wrote:

I've encountered this issue in my own music, and I'd recommend that maybe you don't look at it in such a black/white way.

I agree with you that it's easy to let external fx compensate for the 'core sound' being deficient in some way. You often hear demos here where people use fancy synths and then drown the result in tons of reverb or delay...i don't think that these serve well as demos, and as music, well, it varies. The problem with lots of reverb tends to be that while THIS track may sound good, then the next one sounds a little too similar, and the next, and the next. And reverb isn't the only effect that does this - I've found the same thing with distortion fx - that they can be relied upon too much to provide sonic urgency to tracks.

(I am thinking out loud here - trying to articulate how I look at all of this)

But I think that there is also a way in which fx can be very effective, and not contribute negatively to ones overall output. That it to view the whole system that you're setting up as 'an instrument', and apply fx with that consciousness, and with more subtlety than a big corrective at the end.

Some fx work well also as just adding a little bit at the end - just making the stuff sound better, without making everything sound alike. Overstayer equipment is great for this, and there are others too.

but then there are also fx that don't primarily 'pretty up' the sound, and can really work within the aesthetic that it's all just one big instrument (a bit cliched expression, but I'm not thinking of an alternative right now)

These will vary from person to person, but I love stuff like the bug brand fx. For instance, I have 2 of the pt delays, and experiment with using related modulations on the delay and the synths, and other components. Having it all cohere, without sounding like everything is 'drowned' in pretty delay or reverb. The ciat lonbarde cocoquantus - which can change from being a delay, to a crazy modulated delay, to insane unrecognizeable loops of its input, etc, etc - again - these are simply examples from my own process....

But I guess what I'm saying is that maybe you should be more flexible about this 'purist' goal - that your intuition about not drowning the instruments with fx, but that fx can also be used to further your goal.


I agree!

Just start out, I think you´ll probably will change your setup more than once anyway.
What you´re describing of Ian Mackaye (I think) is rather to find a certain approach/mindset/experimental arrangement than a certain setup of gear.

Fugazi had some great tunes, I think they can be a true inspiration for synth music (In On The Kill Taker!), I also love Young Marble Giants for that.

Btw. playing live drowning everything in reverb saved my ass a few times when stuff crapped out or I totally lost oversight what I was doing or you turn a knob and suddenly everything sounds really pathetic (;
Nelson Baboon
huh, me?

notmiserlouagain wrote:
Nelson Baboon wrote:

I've encountered this issue in my own music, and I'd recommend that maybe you don't look at it in such a black/white way.

I agree with you that it's easy to let external fx compensate for the 'core sound' being deficient in some way. You often hear demos here where people use fancy synths and then drown the result in tons of reverb or delay...i don't think that these serve well as demos, and as music, well, it varies. The problem with lots of reverb tends to be that while THIS track may sound good, then the next one sounds a little too similar, and the next, and the next. And reverb isn't the only effect that does this - I've found the same thing with distortion fx - that they can be relied upon too much to provide sonic urgency to tracks.

(I am thinking out loud here - trying to articulate how I look at all of this)

But I think that there is also a way in which fx can be very effective, and not contribute negatively to ones overall output. That it to view the whole system that you're setting up as 'an instrument', and apply fx with that consciousness, and with more subtlety than a big corrective at the end.

Some fx work well also as just adding a little bit at the end - just making the stuff sound better, without making everything sound alike. Overstayer equipment is great for this, and there are others too.

but then there are also fx that don't primarily 'pretty up' the sound, and can really work within the aesthetic that it's all just one big instrument (a bit cliched expression, but I'm not thinking of an alternative right now)

These will vary from person to person, but I love stuff like the bug brand fx. For instance, I have 2 of the pt delays, and experiment with using related modulations on the delay and the synths, and other components. Having it all cohere, without sounding like everything is 'drowned' in pretty delay or reverb. The ciat lonbarde cocoquantus - which can change from being a delay, to a crazy modulated delay, to insane unrecognizeable loops of its input, etc, etc - again - these are simply examples from my own process....

But I guess what I'm saying is that maybe you should be more flexible about this 'purist' goal - that your intuition about not drowning the instruments with fx, but that fx can also be used to further your goal.


I agree!

Just start out, I think you´ll probably will change your setup more than once anyway.
What you´re describing of Ian Mackaye (I think) is rather to find a certain approach/mindset/experimental arrangement than a certain setup of gear.

Fugazi had some great tunes, I think they can be a true inspiration for synth music (In On The Kill Taker!), I also love Young Marble Giants for that.

Btw. playing live drowning everything in reverb saved my ass a few times when stuff crapped out or I totally lost oversight what I was doing or you turn a knob and suddenly everything sounds really pathetic (;
notmiserlouagain
Nelson Baboon wrote:
huh, me?


No, Blume... I was talking about the musical approach he described in the first post to leave out unnecessary stuff and mentally focus on the one instrument to get the most out of it. It probably boils down to the usual problem for (modular) synths: it´s hard to play or relate to them as an musical instrument in the classical sense, as constellations are always changing and thus harder to intuitivly play.
I´ve had good experience with the flower electronics stuff, also benjolins, but reportedly ciat-lonbarde is also good in that respect (´playability´).
Nelson Baboon
notmiserlouagain wrote:
Nelson Baboon wrote:
huh, me?


No, Blume... I was talking about the musical approach he described in the first post to leave out unnecessary stuff and mentally focus on the one instrument to get the most out of it. It probably boils down to the usual problem for (modular) synths: it´s hard to play or relate to them as an musical instrument in the classical sense, as constellations are always changing and thus harder to intuitivly play.
I´ve had good experience with the flower electronics stuff, also benjolins, but reportedly ciat-lonbarde is also good in that respect (´playability´).


well, yes. in my opinion, way more playable in that sense than the flower electronics and benjolin. just my opinion.
zeit
Personally, I would find it tough to do drone/ambient without delay. Right now, my only instruments are a Phenol, a Tascam Porta02 and a delay pedal (the Porta02 mainly used for tape loops or processed through the Phenol). Without the delay most of the tracks I've put down so far wouldn't work. I can do without reverb (as sometime it can add another layer of unwanted drone to the track) but delay would be really hard to do without. But, much respect if you can do it without any type of effects. thumbs up

The Maximal Drone synth looks useful, I might have to pick up the Minimal Drone synth they have...after I find the right looper for me. hmmm.....
cthonist
The 'brutes are ideal for effectless drone imo, all those waveshaping options with subtle modulation can keep things spooky & interesting indefinitely. You have some interesting cross-patching options as well.

I wouldn't personally go without effects but I like to use them in modular where there are more opportunities to move past the standard 'synth voice + reverb/delay'
Demi Jon
I play live and record with a improv psych/drone/free noise/rock trio (drums, guitar & modular). Guitarist uses only overdrive -- sounds great. My modular has a couple of delays but I use them sparingly; likewise the spring reverb on my keyboard amp. Mostly I depend on the dynamics of the sound, e.g. huge-sounding-but-not-loud dramatic random bass clicks and thumps in the quiet bits, ragged high leads cutting through the guitar when we are thundering away.

Occasional judicious use of jagged looping delay and reverb swells (for instance) add to the palette of tension/release.
Swann
Quote:
A while back I remember a quote from Ian MacKaye of Fugazi, Minor Threat, et al. talking about wanting to see how far he could take a simple set up of a guitar, cord, and amp and I'd like to apply it to synths.


I like your thoughts on Fugazi, love 'em. Keep in mind, despite their bare bones approach, Fugazi were a highly melodic band and used a very diverse set of traditional and non-traditional musical approaches: dissonance, part harmonies, odd time signatures, counterpoint, feedback, etc... I'm sure that if Mr. MacKaye had to start making solo music with his guitar alone he might find himself lacking some inspiration after a while. On the other hand, John Fahey made an entire career of making music on a lone guitar and in the end he ended up fooling around with effects too! Life and Music always move on.

I agree with Nelson Baboon that there's no real need to limit what you are using for gear.

Just do what sounds good!
pinkandbluenoise
Agreed that it's definitely not 'selling out' to use some effects particularly as sonic glue. But if you're worried about smearing everything together or losing emotional impact, don't forget that, silence, dynamics, and negative space can also be incredibly useful compositional tools!
halbrook
I'd even go more minimal. Scrap the bass station and microbrute. You can get pretty far with the minibrute, maximal drone, and the shruthi. Even the maximal drone alone can get you pretty dense/complex drones with the 6 oscillators. Sometimes having too much will just cloud the sound.
Blume
Wow. Became pretty busy with a new job and kind of forgot about this thread.

I didn't mean to come off sounding absolute or elitist, I would have no problem using effects if I could afford any

For me, it's more about not having a lot of extra money to spend on gear, so instead of constantly GASing for things I can't afford, I figured on getting a few character pieces then pushing my abilities and gear to it's limits(and beyond).

Although I do make quite a bit more at my new gig...

I'm also still figuring out what I want out of a synth. I definitely prefer an aggressive, thick tone and some type of grit and character so that means that the BS2 might have to go. It was nice at it's price point for my first monosynth but I find it lacking in character after owning the MB for a bit now. I think I prefer the sound of the Korg Arp Odyssey and would love to try a Roland SH2 or 09 someday.

Also, right before Christmas I came home pretty drunk one night. I woke up the next morning with a message from ebay telling me I won the bid for a Polivoks Shruthi
oops

I could also sell most everything later and pick up a Matrix Brute if I end up liking it. I'd have all the brute oscillators I'd need, a sequencer, plus effects lol
drsm79
I've been experimenting with this kind of thing myself (and am also fairly new to synthing). LFO's are your friend, clever envelopes, too. I love the two brutes I have (mini and micro). The Erebus from dreadbox is great for droning, and I'd be tempted to look at a few eurorack modules wink I have a Streichfett going into the audio in of the minibrute, and that sounds ace, especially with different "animations" on the streichfett.
MindMachine
drsm79 wrote:
I've been experimenting with this kind of thing myself (and am also fairly new to synthing). LFO's are your friend, clever envelopes, too. I love the two brutes I have (mini and micro). The Erebus from dreadbox is great for droning, and I'd be tempted to look at a few eurorack modules wink I have a Streichfett going into the audio in of the minibrute, and that sounds ace, especially with different "animations" on the streichfett.


What are you using to control the Streichfett? I don't have any midi and am tempted to get a small controller to use w/ Streichfett.

Yeah Blume that Karp does sound nice. Hope you enjoy your Shruthi. Mr. Green
drsm79
I have the minibrute controlling the streichfett, and the audio from it going into the brute, so it goes through the brutes filter. The brute dirties the 'fett up a but.
noarkjokes
I don't have a ton of synthesizer experience due to limited income, but I do have most of Michael Rucci's current available catalogue (purchased with last year's tax return). I'm not exactly sure what you plan on doing with it, but I will warn you that without effects you might find yourself bored with it VERY quickly. It is a VERY primitive synthesizer. On its own, it is borderline useless. I've found that the Minimal Drone along with the 8-step CV Sequencer is a bit more fun, due to the inclusion of an LFO on the Minimal Drone. If you're able to externally control the voltage to the Minimal or Maximal Drone with something you already have you might have fun with it, but without effects they are pretty limited... They are essentially square wave oscillators with on/off switches, frequency knobs, and some sort of low pass filter.

I just ordered a 4-circuit Spatiosonic semi-modular (should be here in 2 weeks or so It's peanut butter jelly time! ) and am really looking forward to using my Maximal Drone, Minimal Drone, and 8-step CV sequencer in conjunction with that.

My live setup has consisted of exclusively the Min/Max Drone with an EHX Small Stone, Memory Boy, Ditto Looper, and Digiverb. I have enough sounds for a half hour set but I have found myself extraordinarily limited so far.

Like I said, I don't have much experience with the equipment you've got but those are my thoughts on the Maximal Drone...
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