How often do you use presets?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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How often do you use presets?

Post by MrCravon » Mon May 12, 2014 8:04 am

I am wondering about how often you use presets in your production? Straight out of the box sounds?

Personally I am a knob twiddler and love creating sounds from scratch. Be it in softsynths, hardware synths or resampling and chopping. (Where do you draw the line anyway?) So much so that often I do only that, I sometimes sit day in and day out just making my own presets. Often when i make a new song my workflow is interrupted because i end up tweaking that one sound and working on it for hours. Some times when I come to my arrangement of the track I get bored and start on a new sound instead. Probably why I never finish any tracks.

On the other hand I really like some of the factory sounds you get form some of the VST's and HW synths. Some of the presets you can get free or from buying preset packs are really amazing and professional sounding. I however never use these. I feel less ownership towards my tune if i use presets. I feel guilty when using presets, it feels like something "anyone can do". Anyone else feel like this? I am thinking that if i sometimes do less of sound design and use more presets i might be able to actually finish some songs. Am I just silly not to use presets? Should i shut up and just use them, all the time?

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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by david.barker » Mon May 12, 2014 8:15 am

Hi Bud :D

I like to use presets,as I prefer to focus on the compostion side of things.I do tweak,but overall the quality of some presets are just hard to beat making them,ha,ha

I like to get fast results,using my Launchpad as a kind of sketchpad,presets gives me an idea of the overal sound or feel for what I am going for,ha,ha

You should not feel ashamed ,for using stock sounds,usally this leads to making music quickly and achiving a good result.

Its nice to have an understanding of how a sound or sounds are made,sure. But when your busy with work,outside music,you haven't got the time.

Better to use the time you have got spare to make music,learn new stuff ,and enjoy the experience,ha,ha

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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by Da hand » Mon May 12, 2014 11:53 am

It's a balance of things. If I need a rather common sound, say a string pad, I might go through a bunch of presets and choose one that is close to what I want and then tweak it according to my needs. I am not going to build a string pad from scratch just to say I can if it's going to take me 10 times longer while giving me the same end result. However, it is extremely rare where I will just throw a preset or loop into my track and not do anything at all to it and just let it loop. Maybe that was the case in some of my earlier tracks, but not really nowadays. And if I change the sound of a preset, automate it's parameters, add some effects, etc...whose to say it's not "my sound" now.

Of course, there are many things which I will take my time to build from "scratch" or record on my own because I want them to be my own in certain cases. But I think it's a case of picking your battles when it matters or makes a difference in the end result.

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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by re:dream » Mon May 12, 2014 12:11 pm

For me whether or not to use presets is secondary to something else - being able to have enough control / knowledge of my sound library so that looking for sounds / tweaking sounds does not derail my creative process.

I find that a lot of the sounds I come across in electronic music are actually very standardized. Acid squelches, 'lately' bass, sawtooth leads, grand piano sounds... they are popular for a reason; they have sonic characteristics that allow them to sit well in a mix. Whereas many of the enormously complex patches I encounter on Zebra tutorials etc are almost useless musically.

I have spent a lot of time in the last year learning how to create sounds from scratch, and I am not sure how much it has actually advanced my music making. It can be an enormous time sink. The one advantage is that I now have a better understanding of how certain sounds work and how they sit in the mix. And it has given me the confidence to take an existing preset and tweak / change it till it suits my needs.

But I am as likely to choose a preset as I am to choose a sound I designed. And then, as Da Hand says, mangle / shape / texture it so that it sometimes is completely changed anyway.

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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by Airyck » Mon May 12, 2014 6:30 pm

You are not a beautiful unique snowflake. Once you realize that and get over yourself, life will be much easier :P

It doesn't matter if you use a preset or not. If your goal is to make good music then you should take any sound source in any form as a way to make that happen. Just go for what sounds right to you, what moves you.

As with anything in life, practicing the entire process over and over and over and over is worth much more than putting a ton of energy into one single part.
If you dream of being a preset designer than by all means you should be focused on making presets. Otherwise make as many tracks as you can as quickly as you can until you've done it so many times that all of the work is muscle memory and you can focus on the important aspects, like the feeling, quality, message, etc...

So yes, I use presets, they usually get tweaked to fit the song better but sometimes they don't. Sometimes I think, maybe someone will recognize that sound but probably not that sound + note sequence combined. Even if someone did it's 1 in 10000 or 1 in 100000000000...
Don't worry about your integrity when it comes to being creative, results count for more in music.
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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by Richie Witch » Mon May 12, 2014 6:55 pm

I generally use presets as placeholders when I start conceptualizing a track. If I know I want an evolving, ambient sound or a particular flavor of kick drum, I'll drop a preset there to keep the creative flow going. Once a rough idea of the track is in place and my workflow is progressing, I replace or tweak the presets to better fit my final concept.
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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by Axl Nose » Mon May 12, 2014 7:06 pm


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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by Matt_Quinn » Mon May 12, 2014 7:27 pm

I only use presets when playing my guitar. ;)
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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by SLEEarts » Mon May 12, 2014 8:40 pm

I find the argument that it's somehow not legit to use presets to be silly. Did Bach and Mozart build all of the orchestral instruments they used in their music? Jeez.

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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by BobSubgenius » Mon May 12, 2014 9:08 pm

MrCravon wrote: I feel less ownership towards my tune if i use presets.
I have the same though I keep telling me it is ok to use presets. I try to avoid them but use them if I find something I like. I also do it to save time if I need to get an assignment done. Also when playing with bands I always preferred to do own songs, playing covers felt fake (just my feeling, I know it is not true).
I think using presets and choosing to not use them are just two different concepts of making your productions. I once was at a workshop with Robert Henke (one of the inventors of Ableton) and he said that the first thing he does with music software is to delete all presets because he wants to use his own sounds exclusively and he enjoys sounddesign.

So I think if you like making presets just go for it because one day you will be very quick and really good at it (maybe you already are) and it will be part of your style to work this way.

What I do to get songs done and still enjoy making sounds and presets is to split the process. First I spend some time making sounds and presets that I think go well with an upcoming project. THEN I make the music using the library I built. If I need something along the way I don't have in my library I make it if goes quick, or chose a preset if I find one.
Also I do sound design / presets just for fun and keep them in my personal library. If I need them they are ready.

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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by memes_33 » Mon May 12, 2014 10:44 pm

i use presets to quickly figure out what i'm going for and tweak from there. i understand why people would want to create them from scratch, but i am much more into making tunes than sound design. making every effect from scratch with the limited amount of time i already have to make music would simply be too time consuming.

if you want to create your effects from scratch, i would suggest dedicating time to do that and creating a library. then, we need some effects on something quickly, you can scroll through your own creations for something that works. obviously, this will not work so well for things like compression or some other effects, but at least you can tell yourself that you created them yourself (as you are likely the only person who cares)
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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by eyeknow » Mon May 12, 2014 10:52 pm

I love these threads!

Hell yeah, I use presets! So many people are so worried about the presets sounding too generic, well, now that I'm using the presets, I sound original.

Viva la presets!

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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by BobSubgenius » Tue May 13, 2014 8:10 am

memes_33 wrote:..., but at least you can tell yourself that you created them yourself (as you are likely the only person who cares)
Not that it means anything but Robert Henke who is one of the inventors of Ableton is a confessing preset hater. I met him once at a workshop and he says he never uses presets that he didn't create himself. He even erases them if he get's new music software.

I mean, who cares what he does (since we are not him) but I still found it interesting when he told about this.

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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by re:dream » Tue May 13, 2014 8:46 am

All power to him.

I think if you design all your sounds yourself you clearly have a lot of control over your timbral palette

It is a style of making music that is well suited to people who want to make more abstract, avant garde, technical and experimental music.

If you want to make edgy, experimental music that is about exploring sound textures etc etc then designing your own presets might be the logical place to start.

If you hear a tune in your head and you want to get it out to the masses, then using existing presets is the way to go.

Some of my most successful tunes (= the ones I like the most) started with me playing with parameters and designing a sound from scratch. But then many of the backing / accompanying sounds were stock ones.

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Re: How often do you use presets?

Post by Jay_NJ » Tue May 13, 2014 9:15 pm

I've personally never had an issue with using presets. It all depends on your interests and how you like to spend your producing time. I've got friends who enjoy spending hours or even days on a particular sound. It's just not my thing. What I'll usually do is find a preset that's close to what I'm looking for and then tweak it a bit.

Just because you use presets doesn't mean your stuff is going to sound like everyone else's. Consider how many classical pieces have been performed using nothing other than a piano.

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