Keyboard controllers, Synths and Soft Synths

The keyboards role in the studio can be quite crucial for many thing other than the obvious.  Of course if you want to record traditional keyboard parts like piano, organ then a keyboard is a must be also you can use it for laying down string parts, bass parts and even drums.

Analog synthesizers once were only found in vintage shops at hefty prices but these days many of the traditional manufactures like Korg, Roland and Yamaha are now making reproduction of some of their famous designs.  This means they are more available and more affordable to those who like to tweak away and creating new sounds combining wave forms and effects. For the uninitiated, sound synthesis can be a very daunting proposition and for some actually quite dull.  The antidote to this is the ‘preset’ on the now extremely common and abundant ‘soft synth’.  A soft synth is usually an emulation of an old analog synth devised as software on the computer.  The convenience of soft synth is that you can instantly recall many 1000’s of preset sounds instead of the old way which was to turn everybody knob and slider to a pre determined position in order to recreate the sound you need. 






         Arturia  Software version                                     Vintage Minimoog 



Purists would argue that it doesn’t sound quite the same and that there nuances to analog devices that aren’t fully recreated by its software counterpart.  This is of course true but how much do you need in terms of quirkiness when just starting out.  My advice here is to try out lots of different soft synths and find out which engine suits your music best and maybe one day in the future if you’re really into synthesis you will be in a position of knowledge to choose exactly what you want.

If you do go the softsynth route then you will need some form of keyboard in order to get sounds out of it.  For this you will need a controller keyboard which is a keyboards with no actual internal sounds but does have lots of knobs, sliders, pads and of course keys.

There are many different configurations of these controllers and what you choose depends on what features you need.  Some manufacturers even create their own dedicated controllers that are specifically for their own software so integrates seamlessly.  The Arturia keylab is a great example of this.