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Presets vs Custom sounds - your thoughts?
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Freds 1030



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:40 am    Post subject: Presets vs Custom sounds - your thoughts? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

What are your thoughts about composing using factory presets vs custom patches?
I know is a bit of a generic question and for different styles there might be different "standards", but I'm curious to hear people thoughts on this.

In my opinion the sounds are part of the composition and using a default sound or loop is almost like cheating, but that might because my background and the style of music I compose.
I do think that your pallet is like a little universe you create, so at the end your music has more personality. Then again, I've been guilty of using factory loops and synth patches when working again a tight deadline (on the film scoring world).

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XCenter



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

That´s case sensitive IMHO: one time there is no need to reinvent the wheel, if you need a string pad for example. The other time all sounds need to be handmade for the benefit of the track.
Some may see that from a different angle and have another approach to their music. But for me both fits when it falls into places.

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Antimon



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

As long as you're not breaking any law, there is no such thing as "cheating" in music, objectively speaking. Subjectively speaking, you can get any answer imaginable to your question - it's all down to what you think yourself. It's a harsh and boring answer, but there you go.

I often feel that one of the most difficult and crucial issues when making music is finding the balance between how much you are enjoying your own music, and how much you care about how others will enjoy it.

Also, reinventing the wheel can be great fun! Smile

/Stefan

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Freds 1030



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Interesting...

btw someone just posted a similar question on another more main stream music forum and the replies have been very contrasting to each other!

I'd love to hear more opinions on the subject, though. Maybe my preconceptions about this are a bit to rigid.

I always believed that part of composing electronic music is working with sound and creating new sounds, especially in more experimental music. Obviously this depends on the style, but I still give more credit to artist that create their sounds.

When I recognize a patch in a popular rock song, for example, I don't really mind because of the context, but I cannot give too much credit if I heard someone that's is supposed to be a sound artist featuring a commercial patch or sound.

Also, if I hear music where the main focus is on melodies and harmonies I'm not bothered by presets because sound is not the point of the composition. On the other hand, if I hear an atmospheric piece, for example, and I recognize a few of the patches I'm turned off.

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nobody



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

About the only presets I use are drum sounds. Other than that, I can't stand the idea of a completely unmodified factory preset in my work.

This is why I don't want "workstations". I want synthesizers. I want as much of the guts as possible in my machines dedicated to the art of creating sound. Well, except for a good arpeggiator.
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Acoustic Interloper



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Freds 1030 wrote:
I always believed that part of composing electronic music is working with sound and creating new sounds, especially in more experimental music. Obviously this depends on the style, but I still give more credit to artist that create their sounds.
AND
I cannot give too much credit if I heard someone that's is supposed to be a sound artist featuring a commercial patch or sound.

Which appears to mean that you believe that "composing electronic music" is equivalent with "supposed to be a sound artist."

There are many forms of electronic music. Not all electronic music is sound design, any more than all acoustic music is instrument design. If one's compositional emphasis is combinatorics for example, algorithmic generation of patterns of sounds with some harmonic or rhythmic interrelationships, and not sound design, then I'd say that generating those patterns using presets is not less creative than generating patterns using congas, kalimbas, a violin, or whatever one has at hand.

What, really, is the point of these idle distinctions? Who cares whether you, or I for that matter, give credit. What matters is the piece, and its performance.

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Acoustic Interloper



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:21 pm    Post subject:
Subject description: This post is a preset.
Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Come to think of it, this is just the old "Presets Suck" post, which is, itself, seemingly a preset. How ironic.
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Blue Hell
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Shocked but of course presets suck Laughing

I don't know, what Stefan said ... what you like, what you can get away with & what works ... like as in love and war everything is permitted Wink

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XCenter



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Blue Hell wrote:
Shocked but of course presets suck Laughing


So you think a Mellotron sucks or a Solina string etc pp? Wink

These are great sounding instruments IMHO.
Good instruments should be played.

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Freds 1030



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 1:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I agree it comes down to the type of music and the context.

Some synth presets contain arpeggiators that also include notes and even melodies and motive. So imagine, for example, that you listen one of the tracks Daft Punk composed for Tron and he is using that preset with that melody still intact and that's the main motive of the track, don't you think that's a bit lazy and even cheap?
IMO another person did the composing for them. They would never do that, of course.
In another context though, this might be just fine, but not on this case.

The reason I brought this subject is more related to film scores. I was listening to some music from a TV show (that will remain nameless, just in case!) and recognized some of the sounds used in it. In particular loops from Stylus, a few patches/arpeggios from Omnipshere and a voice sample from Symphony of Voices. As soon as I remembered where these sounds where from the music got less interesting and sounded more "canned" to me.

Of course is hard to criticize the composer for this, time constrains on TV are just ridiculous, but I doubt he would do the same for a film if he had the time and the budget. In a film he would have more time to program original loops and sounds -and hopefully record a real singer!- or at least he would have someone doing it for him to achieve a more personal, unique and original sound.
I doubt Han Zimmer, for example, would use unmodified synth presets in a film. Wether you like him or not as a composer he works hard on getting a personal sound palette (with a lot of help).

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

It's interesting that you should bring up Daft Punk, I've been meaning to bring them up myself!

I heard the original sample used in "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger", and it was difficult to distinguish the difference between the original tune by Edwin Birdsong and the track on Discovery, besides the vocals. It's almost like they put on the album, added some vocoder stuff and hiss breaks, and declared it a wrap! I have a feeling that similar stuff has been done for other tracks on that album.

Which is fine, because it's great music - I love Discovery. But it's a bit like using complex presets, isn't it. It's like blurring the line between DJ:ing and composing. And it all comes down to what the musicians are comfortable with doing, and/or if they can get people to listen and enjoy.

Freds 1030: if you aren't comfortable with using presets, then you shouldn't use them, since you are the master of your own music. But if you're sitting one day, playing one day with a goofy preset, and find yourself liking what you hear, don't fight your own playing.

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XCenter



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Freds 1030 wrote:
The reason I brought this subject is more related to film scores. I was listening to some music from a TV show (that will remain nameless, just in case!) and recognized some of the sounds used in it. In particular loops from Stylus, a few patches/arpeggios from Omnipshere and a voice sample from Symphony of Voices.


Ok, that´s another context. We´re talking about budgets here. That has less to do with thoughts about personal psotions regarding music & art.

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Keysandslots



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 6:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I use presets all the time, sometimes just with a bit of tweaking. I've been using the same "factory preset" on my acoustic piano for years and it still seems to sound fresh. I don't use arpeggiators or loops, other than just for jamming or fooling around. I figure if I can't play it, I shouldn't use it.

It's not the preset that becomes stale, it's the playing.

Randy
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nobody



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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think what's most important is honesty. Honesty in one's playing. Honesty in one's sources. If you've sampled, sliced and diced, and you like it, just say so. It's no less artistic than if you've worked hard from nothing but init patches. It DOES take away from one's artistic merit, though, if one uses loops and presets and claims it as 100% original.
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Freds 1030



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 2:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

XCenter wrote:
Freds 1030 wrote:
The reason I brought this subject is more related to film scores. I was listening to some music from a TV show (that will remain nameless, just in case!) and recognized some of the sounds used in it. In particular loops from Stylus, a few patches/arpeggios from Omnipshere and a voice sample from Symphony of Voices.


Ok, that´s another context. We´re talking about budgets here. That has less to do with thoughts about personal psotions regarding music & art.


The main issue is time (in my example budget would apply when you hire live musicians or a programer). Presets can be a time saver when you are against a deadline. I have used plenty when needed, but I would've prefer programing those loops and synth sounds myself. That's why for more artistic projects or when I don't have to worry too much about a deadline I rather spend some time creating sounds. I always feel the end result is more organic and personal this way.

Thanks for the comments btw, some interesting opinions about that subject.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Freds 1030 wrote:

The main issue is time (in my example budget would apply when you hire live musicians or a programer). Presets can be a time saver when you are against a deadline.


That's true, for me it also applies to getting a melody in place before I forget it. I sometimes make up melodies in my head, and I need to note it down in a DAW or sequencer before I forget it, which for me happens easily - a newly formed melody is a frail existance in my short-term memory. When I note it down in a DAW, I need to be able to do it fast and in close resemblance to what I hear in my head. To get stuck in patch tweaking at this point is devastating, it will chase the song away. A good bank of known presets is valuable here.

Once I have the song noted down, I sometimes find that the presets did the job well enough, and when I try to tweak the sounds it doesn't improve anything. So I leave it as it is.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

XCenter wrote:
So you think a Mellotron sucks or a Solina string etc pp? :wink:


No, I'd even use 'm when I'd have 'm ... but for the things I do on the G2 I just had to start by erasing all factory patches. Not really because they suck, but I want to make my own.

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Winstontaneous



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

If presets inspire me, I'll use them.
I like it when a sound designer's work resonates with me.
More often than not, I'll tweak them into my own sounds, or start from scratch.

Electronic music can do weird things to peoples' heads/priorities.
I know people who were skilled instrumentalists/songwriters, discovered electronic music, and now think that anything non-electronic is old-fashioned.

Also I find it ironic when people get obsessed with not using synth presets, but crank out formulaic house, "psychedelic" trance, dubstep or whatever following stylistic presets/cliches.

I agree with the poster who's used the same preset on the acoustic piano for years...me too, and the darn thing STILL sounds different when my wife or teacher plays it.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2011 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The quick and easy answer is that storebought synths offer naff presets which either 1. attempt to emulate some other instrument, or 2. make some generic techno sounds. Either way I think it can be a disadvantage to have your music evoke a strong connection to... everybody else who uses the same preset in their work.

I tend to not use presets, or even found samples. But how original can we afford to get before nothing gets done? The reduction can get absurd when you need to refine ore to make your own wires and semiconductors that don't rely on off-the-shelf parts... I am not a circuit designer really, so I am actually "copying" bits of electronic design work. When I made circuit-bent devices, perhaps I was simply "remixing" existing musical information at a very low level. And I have edited bits of found MIDI data and subjected them to algorithmic processes and further editing where the results felt and sounded very much my own - yet they would not have existed without the work of another artist.

Personally I can tinker and get so lost in engineering type BS that no music gets done for a long time. So sometimes I will give up and go with presets just to get myself busy making some actual music (or as close as I can manage). I can work on making the perfect synth patch, location recording, sequence data, etc for months and never finish before I get sidetracked to something else. This is also why it is hard for me to use a computer because it is very abstract and there are too many distractions. Time to work on my modular again! Presets can save time but if I have the time I prefer to try out my synthesis ideas, even if many of them don't pan out.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2011 7:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Presets are neither bad nor good. They simply are. Some have been overused in popular music and as such, they can ellicit a negative response from the listener - "heard that!".

However, think back before the days of synths and their presets - why would anyone ever want to hear one piano concerto after another? Especially played on the same piano? There are no settings to change on a piano - it's got one big preset - being a piano.

And why is it that when performer A plays and then performer B plays (on the same piano if you like) one can sound better than the other even if the same pieces are played? After all, like presets - the instrument is the same, it doesn't change.

The difference is the musician. Music is in the musician, not the instrument.

So if you have a preset you like and it fits in your composition, then use it. Otherwise, ignore it.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I use presets and also my own patches. I think my best music comes from my own patches.

There is a third category - other peoples' patches. The huge Nord Modular patch archive on electro-music.com is a great resource. I love some patchers' work. Very inspirational. It's not cheating to use them cause I post patches there myself. This makes me feel like my music is community based.

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Freds 1030



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Good point! Using community patches is definitely more interesting that stock patches.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mosc wrote:

There is a third category - other peoples' patches. The huge Nord Modular patch archive on electro-music.com is a great resource. I love some patchers' work. Very inspirational. It's not cheating to use them cause I post patches there myself. This makes me feel like my music is community based.


Heartily agreed! The talent of several patch authors in the community is awe-inspiring Hail the Master

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

JovianPyx wrote:
Presets are neither bad nor good. They simply are.

The difference is the musician. Music is in the musician, not the instrument.

So if you have a preset you like and it fits in your composition, then use it. Otherwise, ignore it.


Well said, Jovian. I admit that i can be a bit of a hater and I get pissed when people take the easy road out. Sh*t, I even think most software makes things too "easy". But what it really boils down to is: if it helps to tell your musical story, then do it. If your story is "i use all garage band presets to make pop music that sounds like pop music", then that is your story. If your story is "i only use complicated mathematical processes on software that i coded while underwater at MIT to make experimental timbres understood by aliens and geniuses", then God bless you too. I'm somewhere in the middle.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 22, 2011 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

There's a fair amount of academic writing (especially in pop music studies) about authenticity -- what is an authentic musical experience? What is "fake" music? What does the audience think is real versus fake, and why? A common theme (if I remember back to grad school correctly) is that people are hard-pressed to say what authenticity is -- but if they feel something is inauthentic (for whatever reason, and those reasons may be inconsistent from case to case), then they get very upset, e.g. the old Polow Da Don vs. Apple Loops controversy. So we have something that generates a lot of emotional intensity, but nobody can put a finger on the definition.

(I often think there isn't really any such thing as authenticity in music -- it's all packaged and manufactured in some way or another [except maybe the music of Central African pygmies]. A musical experience that's "compromised" by some degree of inauthenticity can still be deeply rewarding -- the miracle is when music making rises above. But if the idea of "pure authenticity" in music is a fiction, it helps explain why nobody can define it and why people get angry when the authenticity illusion is shattered.)

So, one of the equations up for discussion here is that (over)use of presets is (thought to be) inauthentic. Maybe it's useful, then, to step back from the preset question and hash out some opinions of what "authentic" electronic music making is like.

Possibly it has something to do with effort. In an acoustic instrument performance, we can see the performer's effort; in recordings of acoustic instruments, we can imagine the effort. If heavy reliance on presets leads the audience to suspect that not enough effort went into the music, then accusations fly etc. etc. (But, what is enough effort? Who knows?)

Maybe more later... got to move on to other things for now.

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