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 Forum index » Instruments and Equipment » General Discussion
Synths for improvisation
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vi scose poise



Joined: Jun 23, 2005
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Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 5:02 pm    Post subject: Synths for improvisation Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

What are the best kinds and specific models of [non-software] synths for live improvisation? I've noticed that quite a few musicians use the Nord Modular (NM1/G2) for improvisation. Several, however, rely on analogue modular synths (Thomas Lehn uses an EMS Synthi A). I understand that the answers to such a question will vary and that the two kinds I've mentioned above are quite popular, but I would like to know if I've left any out. I would love to read your experiences with synthesizers and live improvisation as well!
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paul e.



Joined: Sep 22, 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

in general, any synth with lots of knobs for realtime control..or a ribbon controller etc etc..that is always good

an arpeggiator is also fun for improv. ....

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mosc
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I've seen great improvisations on very simple synths, and boring performance on very high-end rigs. I remember a great performance by Tommy Lindel at the Nord Modular Days in The Hague in 2004. He plays a simple Nord Modular micro, and used only two knobs. One controlled the pitch of an oscillator and one controlled the volume - much like the two controls on a Theremin. He made beautiful music with that.

I like the bio control synths that Joker Nies uses for improvization. I have a little OmniChord called a PortaChord that I like to bend.

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Mohoyoho



Joined: Dec 03, 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 10:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Recently I've been getting into my Waldorf Microwave XT. A beefy synth with lots of knobs! I think it's going to be a big part of my next performance.
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Mark Mahoney
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orczy



Joined: Mar 30, 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Two thoughts on this.
On a keyboard level, I found the Prophet T-8 to have the most responsive keyboard in any analog synth. This was best for "standard" music, ie not textural, more harmonic / melodic.
On a texture / sound idea, I really enjoyed the Pro One. It's ability to manipulate external sounds was a boon. The Korg MS-20 was also great for this.
As you can see, it is all old gear, but my experiences with digital will be of no use or interest.
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seraph
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

why not a virtual synth with some kind of control surface Question or an application like Ableton Live (with a control surface) Question actually you could have more than one control surface controlling different parameters Exclamation
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egw



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 5:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

More important than the synth itself is the degree of familiarity you have with it's controls. How quickly can you get the sound you have in your head.
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Kassen
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

For interactive improvisation I´ve had some very good times with turntables and with analogue delays (though never at the same time so far.

If you know your delay well then you can add chords, accents or counter rithems to a other instrument, all with only three knobs. Stricktly speaking it´s perhaps not a synth but then again Karplus-Strong *is* well established as a form of synthesis.

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GovernorSilver



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 8:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

paul e. wrote:
in general, any synth with lots of knobs for realtime control..or a ribbon controller etc etc..that is always good

an arpeggiator is also fun for improv. ....


Yes, that's what I ended up using a lot on my Emu XL7 when I was in another free-improv band. I could either bang out single pitches on the XL7 drumpads or hold down drumpads for arpeggiated notes. The tap tempo button came in very handy for quickly adjusting the arpeggio to match what the other musicians were doing, more intuitive than using a knob (because the tempo control mode had to be set for the knob first).

And yes, the 16 quick edit knobs (filter, amp, etc.) came in really handy too.

Yes, I also improvised on Nord Micromodular, but I was using it more as a processor of external, live instruments than as a synth.
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greaseenvelope



Joined: Aug 10, 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2005 4:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I've played for a few years as the synth player in improv based projects. Big Thomas Lehn fan as well. It's all about the way you use your knobs, not what engine they adorn, as i've seen great synth improvs on unmodded sk1's and total bullshit thrown down by people touring with homemade modular setups. The first instruments you need to bring to the session are taste, restraint, and open ears.
But to answer your question until 2 months ago I was using a Novation K-station, which is really intersting for improv because it has these great "dying-aliasing-computer crashing" sounds when you maxed out its polyphony on complex sounds with expressive sun ra hand plants while using the extremely bit-crunchy distortion or harsh FM settings. I need to get the filter knob fixed though because my mad tweaking of it has caused some kind of skipping between about 60-112, so precision tweaking is totally impossible until I get it fixed.
However, I recently acquired a Nord Modular G2x, which I'm fairly certain will do the trick, but first I need to learn to program the beast. It's totally killing my social life. A much wider palette of sounds, but I'm having to work to get them to have as much "bite" as the K had naturally. It seems like I'm wanting more knobs too, so I may have to invest in one of those Berenger dealies.
Just find a platform you like and a sound that inspires you and you could do perfectly good improv on anything. Hands on controls are probably essential unless you are already an improvisor on piano/organ. Another good improv synth player to check out: Bob Ostertag. Started with a Serge modular and tape delays then became a master of live sample mangling on a Kurzweil (2600?). His work on Fred Frith Keep the Dog is hilarious and amazing.
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Mohoyoho



Joined: Dec 03, 2003
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2005 7:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I recently purchased a Moog Voyager, and without doubt it is meant to be used in live performance. Those knobs are beckoning to be tweaked. No menus to be bogged down with and a wonderful (but too short) keyboard. All the controls are very responsive. When you twist something it changes the sound. And then there's the XY pad planted in the middle.
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Mark Mahoney
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http://www.limitedwave.com/subterraneous/
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GovernorSilver



Joined: Apr 26, 2004
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2005 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Gotta mention Peter Blasser's work. His Fourses and Fryalls are in use by a number of avant-garde musicians in our area.

http://www.ciat-lonbarde.net/

I'm looking forward to his forhortortor digital delay.
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greaseenvelope



Joined: Aug 10, 2005
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Location: portland, or
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 12:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I met Peter B at a brunch he did demoing his devices and improvising with them (everyone got a chance to play-the 12 year old kid was the best). His devices are brilliant and I too lust for a horhor. Amusingly enough I was recently hanging out with the (only) three owners of a certain model of his Ambraizier, whose looping mechanism predates the horhor I believe, at the same time. Jenny from Metalux makes particularly brilliant use of it in her music.
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seraph
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Joined: Jun 21, 2003
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 3:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I am now experimenting with the following set:
Powerbook, M-Audio Ozonic and Behringer BCR2000
it seems reliable, powerful and portable (I can carry everything on my motorbike)

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