Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

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beats me
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by beats me » Wed Jan 29, 2014 4:39 pm

Nick the Zombie wrote:
beats me wrote:I greatly admire sound designers in pro studios who the engineer can just go to with “I need a …” and done.

But imagine having that skill but not being able to compose a decent track. :x
Exactly. I neglected my composition for a long time in favor of making cool sounds, so now I'm playing catch up with my songwriting. It's been an extremely fun learning experience, but I wish I had been writing a lot more music over the years, too.

Hopefully you’re getting some solid tracks cooking. You’re sound design tutorials are great. :)

And I also hope your extensive knowledge of sound design and the sounds you’ve made help speed up your composing.

Nick the Zombie
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by Nick the Zombie » Wed Jan 29, 2014 4:43 pm

beats me wrote: Hopefully you’re getting some solid tracks cooking. You’re sound design tutorials are great. :)

And I also hope your extensive knowledge of sound design and the sounds you’ve made help speed up your composing.
Thanks man, I really appreciate that! The music is flowing like crazy, thankfully. My only goal these days besides making tons of tutorials on Youtube is writing as much music as humanly possible. I might even.. GASP... finish a song pretty soon :lol:

reeloy
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by reeloy » Wed Jan 29, 2014 4:45 pm

...there are presets that are so fancy....
and there presets that are just the right tool...

it does'nt matter how do you get to your results if you end up with something that works, sounds individual and got some spirit involved....

you'll never get there, if you only pick fancy presets and start to puzzel with them.....
and of course you'll never get a name of your own, if each track of yours sounds like most of the rest out there...

one or two one to one used presets can't destroy a good idea....

and learning the synth from scratch is always a good idea....you'll catch up the time it takes longer in first place later when you start writing real tracks of your own....

end of the day, scrolling through presets takes longer than knowing what to do straight away to get the results you're thinking of.....

legbiter
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by legbiter » Wed Mar 16, 2016 7:38 pm

Back in the day we used a B3 Hammond, a Fender Rhodes, even our Stratocasters had a stratocaster sound (would you believe it) - I guess we were all cheating then????

No, absolutely not! Pink floyd didn't sound like Status Quo and ACDC didn't sound like Styx. So the truth of the matter is you should do what sounds good in your song. Presets are the perfect place to start and as soon as you tweak the preset it becomes your sound. Basically, all companies which sell presets are just twaeaking the synth's own settings or sampling something and then using the synth's settings to make the sample work in a specific sound environment. There's no magic in it at all. It's all down to your ears.

By the way, a synthesizer is an instrument designed for you to play music on so how can it be cheating.

inkjt510
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by inkjt510 » Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:11 pm

art has no rules

presets are a pretty great way to sound exactly like every other chucklehead who downloaded a DAW though. in my opinion you should try to be original

doghouse
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by doghouse » Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:19 pm

Considering how many hit records over the years used presets, I guess it's not cheating for professional recording artists. It's only cheating if you're an amateur who also posts at gearslutz.com 8)

sana48
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by sana48 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 4:17 am

Its cheating- I started by using a drum machine and then I figured that was cheating so I bought real drums and then realized that was also cheating so I bought some leather and some wood to make my own drum and as you can guess realized that was also cheating so I planted some trees for wood and bought some goats to use their skin....I think that is also cheating but now I am trying to figure out what the f*&k to do with the damn goats... you get the picture right? (btw the above metaphor is not my own)


Cheating is claiming that someone else's music is actually yours when its not..

Machinesworking
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by Machinesworking » Thu Mar 17, 2016 5:07 am

I'm not sure what is meant by cheating? Are you being original by using presets? no, in fact that's pretty much as straightforward as you can get, if someone else tweaked a synth to get sounds for you, that's not 'original'. Like someone mentioned though, a lot of what music is about is familiar sounds, it's part of the tapestry, using an organ or piano or string or even a standard Moog or Virus etc. sound taps a song into a territory musically etc.

Conversely though if all you use is presets it becomes obvious and generally makes for a too formulaic sound. I think in the end of the day you as an "artist" know when you're making a song that's devoid of soul for lack of a better word, and at least in my case that's usually due to it sounding too polished and too much like every other song out there. There's a balance with synth presets specifically for me when it comes to tweaking or using one created by someone else, it's too cookie cutter for my tastes if I don't at least have a few of my own in there, but I've been messing with synths for a long time and I'm really comfortable diving in for the most part, I can see how someone would want to just tweak here and there, especially with the insane range of synths out there. I think for the most part it should be a choice to use presets though, not a necessity, you should as a producer know how to use the synths you own.

sana48
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by sana48 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 5:39 am

Machinesworking wrote:I'm not sure what is meant by cheating? Are you being original by using presets? no


So, using this logic we can also assume that every drummer that buys a drum set is not being original; and every pianist who plays a piano is not being original et.. etc... etc...

Such b.s.

Its how you use the instrument that makes it original..

this argument always ends up with someone making another musician feel incompetent by stating that playing a sound only is not an adequate form of original expression- you also have to know how to f'n synthesize the sound from scratch or at least change one knob for it to be original...

ridiculous... I am not even sure how anyone- especially myself- could ever claim to be so beyond competence that I am now able to judge another's art.

My advice bro (op) stop worrying about such irrelevant topics and produce.

timday
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by timday » Thu Mar 17, 2016 9:47 am

It's not cheating but tweaking the sounds will often get better results. For example you may have a sound you want to use, but when you put it in there is too much (for example) low end so it clashes with the rest of the mix, and a bit of high pass filter or a tweak to the resonance to make the top come through will make it sit better. I generally find that presets are almost, but not quite, right.

The other thing is an aesthetic thing and therefore a matter of choice. I find that musically the best results for me come from rubbing up agains limitations (even self imposed ones) - for example I have done tunes where I have decided that part of the overall aesthetic of the tune is that it should be made up entirely from found sound. Currently I'm writing stuff that is done entirely on outboard hardware. It doesn't make the tune "better" or "worse" necessarily, and none of it is cheating (you could even say "right, I'm going to write ONLY using presets"), but I kind of think it helps me to try to have have an identity or aesthetic as a producer or musician - "this is who I am" or "this is what this project is", kind of thing. Otherwise you can get completely drowned in possibilities.

Getting into philosophical stuff there, I guess, but I find it works for me.

Stromkraft
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by Stromkraft » Thu Mar 17, 2016 10:14 am

debrice wrote: I'm interested to know if people think that using preset sounds is 'cheating' in a way and if it might be bad in the long run to use them. Do most people on here make their sounds right from the ground up?
There are different kinds of presets. Few would argue that for example a (Synth) Piano is a sound that you must do from the ground up in order to make it your own because this type of sound is a classic instrument that people recognize yet do not attribute necessarily to a specific artist. It can be reminiscent yet feel unique.

How unique depends how successfully you make a preset sound your own. How you play it is likely a strong influence on this, so if you do play physically that potentially sets you apart already with that. If you don't play per se it's harder but not impossible to evolve your style instructing a sequencer or other machine player how to play.

Another aspect is composition. Even with very familiar sounds you can make a unique composition that sounds novel.

Now, if your songs rely on composition and your playing rather than exploiting specific sounds then the risks of using presets of the general classic instrument types — of which there are classical synth sounds as well — are probably significantly smaller than if the value of your music is relying on the richness of the sound itself, of which the preset may be a major part — it really comes down to the rest of your instrumentation and what the part do that you use this preset for. If you rely on sound itself, then making your sounds from the ground up or tweaking presets beyond recognition are probably very useful approaches.

It happens that I start a composition with some factory presets and decide I don't want to use a sound that others may have used before me. I have currently a few methods to make it my own sound or make a new sound
  • I play the preset in a way that few (likely) will do, like for example using it for a rhythmical part instead of what I assume it was made for, say a lead part.
  • I use automation or expressiveness as an integral part of controlling the sound beyond the capabilities of the preset/patch itself, building on it yet keeping the original.
  • I recreate a similar sound in another synth, which makes me analyse the patch and decide what I like about it, abandon what I don't. In the process I learn about the similarities with the original synth and the one I use for recreation and also pick up how to make sounds I like from the ground up, using the original patch as a guide.

    Because of my personal taste and the choices I make and the limitations in both synths I always end up somewhere else, with a usually better sound (to my ears anyway).
  • Similarly I tweak the preset to suit the track, either just enough or with time I go beyond recognition effectively evolving my own preset from the starting point of the original preset
There are artists out there that take original sound very seriously. I seem to recall James Holden refusing to listen to an artist as soon as he'd detected the artist had used a preset known to him. I think some parts of the audiences too, but a very small number.

Most of the audience are hopefully focused on the emotional or energetic content of the music, rather than the sound design itself. However, a sound can make or break a track, but that's a given.
Make some music!

Stromkraft
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by Stromkraft » Thu Mar 17, 2016 10:57 am

debrice wrote:I'm currently going through each synth on Ableton pretty much one by one, starting with Analog and am trying to learn best by trying to make all sounds without using preset sounds. It means I'm making less stuff and it's taking me longer but the reason is that I want to learn synthesis and learn the software properly.
There's nothing wrong with this approach per se except that it takes a whole lot of time. In order to create something in the style you want there's a lot to learn. Some of it you really need to get into to be able to get some traction, but there's so many levels that you'll likely need to rely on the work of others to some extent while you're evolving.

I'd argue though that composing new musical material is central to make great music. I suppose a trick could be to make exploration of technology and composition different aspects of the same playful process, that is creating tracks that you like or hate, use or abandon, while you're exploring and learning about the specific technology you have chosen to use. Specific here could mean you need to set limits on what you use, because you can't learn everything at once. Much, but not everything.

To be track focused means you might not learn to understand every aspect of the tools you're using before you make music, but it will be easier and easier with time when you manage to finish off tracks to recognize where you need to deepen your knowledge and set of skills. Then you can set aside time for that and work on acquiring this separately and add these to your production tool set.
Make some music!

Machinesworking
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by Machinesworking » Thu Mar 17, 2016 4:42 pm

sana48 wrote:
Machinesworking wrote:I'm not sure what is meant by cheating? Are you being original by using presets? no


So, using this logic we can also assume that every drummer that buys a drum set is not being original; and every pianist who plays a piano is not being original et.. etc... etc...

Such b.s.

Its how you use the instrument that makes it original..

this argument always ends up with someone making another musician feel incompetent by stating that playing a sound only is not an adequate form of original expression- you also have to know how to f'n synthesize the sound from scratch or at least change one knob for it to be original...

ridiculous... I am not even sure how anyone- especially myself- could ever claim to be so beyond competence that I am now able to judge another's art.

My advice bro (op) stop worrying about such irrelevant topics and produce.
you're intentionally reading what I wrote to be butt hurt. The elephant in the room is simple to comprehend, synths are made to be programmed, an acoustic guitar is not. You can go ahead and use presets all you want, but if it comes across in the music that you do, it might just be that you should learn to program your synth. Synthesizers are literally designed with is in mind, unlike drums and pianos.

Let's be honest here, if you freak like you need to defend yourself about using presets against the attacks of someone who said they use presets then you probably should take a look at why an essentially middle ground answer is so threatening. Read a book on synthesis etc. Again in my opinion it should be that you choose to use presets, not that you have to.

yur2die4
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by yur2die4 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 4:59 pm

It honestly doesn't matter.

Just depends on your personal musical goals.

If for instance you were making a track emulating a throwback to older music, it might be pretty handy to just collect tons of 80's or 90's dance hit presets and have at it.

A snob might hear it and cringe, but if you were not intending to show off synth skills, then they are the ignorant one for assuming your intentions were different.

This can be applied in all kinds of musical forms. There really is no way to be 100% original. Whether you're implementing 'common' time, standard structures, or trying to betray those, you always fall into and out of one category or another.

Nothing is sacred, and there are no rules in music (except maybe some copyright laws etc :P)

Stromkraft
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Re: Is using synth presets 'cheating'?

Post by Stromkraft » Thu Mar 17, 2016 6:45 pm

yur2die4 wrote:There really is no way to be 100% original.
Duh! No-one claimed there was necessarily so this is quite an anemic observation.
Make some music!

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