These next few lessons are all about synths, so I combined them into one part for a review. I know absolutely zero about synths and never really cared, to be honest, but I’m here to learn!
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Synths with Deadmau5
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Deadmau5 says “the crucial thing to know about synths is that they’re all the same, more or less.” I’m not sure why we have four whole lessons on them then, but let’s see how it goes.
It’s important (in his opinion) to do at least *something* to synths so that they don’t sound exactly like they did right out of the box. He puts other EDM artists on blast for doing this exact thing, but I don’t know who they are so I’ll leave them nameless for now.
Also, he says that people who sign artists can tell when someone is using a preset. He has his own label and he can tell when someone puts little effort or creativity into their work. So make sure your synths sound original!
Waveforms and Filters
Deadmau5 says the quickest way to learn is to download some plugins and learn them. Most of us should already have plugins in our DAW, so play around with these and see how you can change the sounds! He recommends envelopes and LFOs, and I’ll give a quick description on each of these:
Envelopes are built into certain synthesizers. Some might not have them, but the ones that do control the volume or frequency. You can use these to change the sounds and create special effects in synths.
LFO stands for Low Frequency Oscillation. You know how a fan oscillates by rotating back and forth, this essentially moves the sound wave at a certain frequency. In singer terms, it adds a type of vibrato that gets wider or tighter depending on your settings.
He gives tips on a thicker bass using limiters (‘fat bass’ is super important in EDM, and also apparently to Meghan Trainor). Them we cover reverb and other effects, but these sections are probably better taken in the class because I can’t really review it without quoting him word-for-word.
Your First Synth
Once you learn how one synth works really well, those skills will transfer over to many others. Deadmau5 recommends just choosing one and really becoming knowledgeable on it. Then any other synths you use in the future will be easy because you already know how they work. I imagine this is similar to DAWs, you just need to have a general idea of what things do and then you’ll be relatively familiar with all of them.
Throughout the class thus far, Deadmau5 has been talking in front of a wall of blinking machines. It looks like a manic robot that could become sentient at any time and eat him alive on camera, but it hasn’t happened yet. In this lesson, we are finally introduced to the robot, which is known as a modular synth. He says it looks intimidating, but it’s really no different from a computer version. It’s basically the analog version of a digital workspace.
I tried to see a name brand of what he was using but couldn’t find one. Modular synths come in all sizes and prices, so you’ll want to do some research about what works for you. Honestly, I don’t have room or time for a modular synth, and I’m also afraid it would come alive in my sleep.
We watch him play around with his synth for the rest of the lesson, which is cool if you have one or are planning on getting one. It’s interesting to see his thought process as he creates music.
Digital vs Analog Synths
We then compare the differences between digital and analog/modular synths. The first one we notice is that the analog ones are not pitch-perfect. You could tune them, I guess, but why not just use digital? I don’t know if this is just my age talking, but I don’t understand why you would bother with anything analog in today’s day and age. Obviously you need live instruments and real people to make some music, but anything that can be digital, just keep it digital.
We compare the sounds in analog and digital and honestly there’s such a tiny, slight difference I have a hard time distinguishing A from B. I guess like all things music, it’s just what you prefer at the end of the day.
Synths in Snowcone
I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know what Snowcone was. I thought it was some type of DAW program or somethiing, but it’s actually one of Deadmau5’s hits:
So we review the synths used in the song, and he used a lot of analog synths in it. I guess that’s what made it sound special and cool, so I can see why and how some people would want to use it.
We end these lessons by again reviewing how much Deadmau5 hates people using out-of-the-box sounds. He says he knows a lot of people will be mad at him for saying this, but “fuck them,” in his words.
Here is my video on this week’s class:
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