I am very happy with all the elements of my setup. the roles that my synthesizers and gear play, as it covers a lot of different sounds. I have two separate lead synth voices, separate decent pad/string source, two separate bass voices and two separate drum synths + a bunch of effects. All controllable, synced and ready for live performance.
I am always trying to avoid falling into the GAS scheme (from Wikipedia), the Gear Acquisition Syndrome, which has been defined as the all-consuming desire to expand your collection of gear. I try to follow the rule which once Adrian Utley mentioned (by the way - standing in a room full of synthesizers) - If I do not use this piece of gear, it got to go.
For me, having a limited setup is an inspiring, a more creative approach, so I am not looking at new gear and what kind of new sounds it could bring, but rather - how to achieve a similar effect using what I have and if I am unhappy with the results, I exchange the gear. In this regard, I am much keener on eg. sticking to TR-8 rather than buying a new TR-8S (the first model is basic as shit, while the TR-8S is a TR-8 + sampler with almost full automatization).
However, I broke the Utley's rule this year. Luckily I cannot afford to break it more than once a year, as tax income doesn't happen more frequently ;)
In my opinion, the most important sound in club music is drums. You can make a whole set using only one drum machine and a reverb or delay (this) or even taking it to the extreme. Just two weeks ago during one rave (Forest People), the crowd went mad when for few minutes the artist played a very heavy 4x4 bass drum only...
So the drums.
I had two drum machines - the rhythm performer TR-8 and the drum synth in JD-Xi. Actually, you can look at it as one and a half, as the JD-Xi, despite having excellent quality sounds, is a menu-diving synthesizer, so you usually just set additive loops of drums, rather than controlling separately parts of it like hi-hats, toms etc.
I had an intensive few weeks of looking for a piece of gear which would fill the gaps - various (not only Roland legacy sounds) drum sounds, one-shot samples, field recordings, a gear which can allow me to separately control as much as possible (number of steps, tempo, effects etc). and which is small (did I mention it always needs to be used or as cheap as possible? Music is not my only addiction). There is only one thing that comes to my mind when I think of all these qualities - a sampler/rompler (ROM player - a synthesizer which uses one-shot samples to create sounds).
One got most of my attention - KORG Electribe. They are usually used as jacks of all trades, the groove boxes (you have all types of one-shot samples and sample loops of different kind of sounds, bass, leads, drums etc. and you can compose or perform using only one piece of gear). Jack of all trades, master of none. I finally decided on getting an Electribe 2 Sampler. Here is why.
Having all other gear in my setup doing their role quite good, I decided to give Electribe sampler a specific role. To devote it to become a drum sampler/rompler only. I wiped all stock samples and patterns and recorded a set of my own sounds and variations. All of the sounds are only one-shot samples, not ready-made breaks or loops because I need a drum machine not a sampler per se. Therefore, the sampler changed to a drum machine or a rompler drum synthesizer. It is amazingly doing well in that role.
Why not TR-8S? It costs more, plus concentrating all drum sounds in one instrument, will make it much more limited to operate/adjust them individually. Why not a regular sampler like SP-404? Because it does not have the flexibility of groove box nor synthesizer, which I am looking for. Not to mention that both cost at least €250+ more. I also had to get a larger mixer so money was (luckily) a game changer.
Electribe 2S is limited, but as a drum synthesizer, it works amazingly well. A very common problem is that, despite having 16 pads, some sounds "consume" other and if you use many pads + effects at once the gear becomes unreliable. I have prepared mono (smaller) samples which did not last longer than 1 second? maybe 1,8? Problem is gone.
I love the fact that each pad is like a separate line - separate sound filter mods, effects, and length (the whole pattern might have eg. 16 steps, but each part can have its own length eg. 8, 14, which is excellent!). Electribe 2S also has a very limited memory - 240 seconds? However, you can load different sets of sounds live renaming the /KORG/e2SSample.all file on the sd-card. So you can have 240 sec x whatever you prepared. It takes around 30 seconds to open a new kit, while other gear is playing. My Electribe 2S shines.
When Improvizards kicked off in 2016, as a synth-turntable duo, the act was quite focused on the melody - we were leaning more towards house and funk or the infamous tech-house. I was "tuning" to the track which was played on a turntable. Since November I only focus on making techno music and the Improwizard acts are changing with me. I started focusing on the rhythm - the soul hidden in the charismatic arpeggiated pluck synths, sophisticated drum patterns, bass pumps etc. A so-called one-shot minimalism.
This approach turns the tides of the live act. The lass melody you put the more "technois" it becomes. But this is probably inevitable when you play improvisation and you have a bad day eg. you broke up with your girlfriend, got sacked from your job or any other miserable bullshit, then the crowd might have to "listen all about it" during your live act.
I do not know where am I and who am I. But I know what I am doing at least... and one thing is sure for me now - dark and deep are becoming my colors :)
Ever since I started playing with more than two synthesizers I started lacking the second pair of hands. Modern synthesizers are all interconnected with MIDI, self-triggered and easily programmable even in live situations, to run complicated sequences and arpeggios, so playing few instruments at once is not a problem. The real problem is that letting all the machines go in an auto mode as they are, only modulating eg. the filter or resonance of a specific part, from time to time.... shortly speaking having only two hands is a big limitation when you have to control a dozen of knobs and another dozen of buttons. If you do not keep your hands over one instrument, it is very hard to get the full potential out of it, hence the music might be not as full as you know it could be. Contrary to belief, even playing dark techno, which bases on short, automated industrial sounds and glitches, needs a lot of modulation and additions eg. of sudden filter movements or reverbs.
I have been often joining some live, electronic jams in Warsaw or watched local forums to look for partners to collaborate - yes, the mocked wanna collab, bro? - yet I never found a right person even to try to ask for it. To my surprise, a lot of participants of jams or forums were people not really knowing what they are doing, or people more interested in sound synthesis as a process, as a technique of creating sounds and sound sculptures, rather than creating a band to play live. If anybody was interested, they were either having a new baby or they were right in their life-changing business career turning point, whatever. Guys who had time and talent did not know jack about music, some even not able to name keys on the keyboard. What is an octave? A car model?
Dreams come true sometimes when you really want it, I suppose. I have met a lovely girl who is also a very good cook, so I showed her yesterday how to cook techno. I should mention that she is a professional musician, a cellist, and as everyone who has been educated in music, she has gone through hundreds of hours of piano and composition lessons. I could not believe how accurate and great companion she is, how easily she could add new sounds, somehow knowing exactly how to bite it.
I guess I found a co-pilot for my techno shuttle.
The techno movement, as a club scene, started in warehouses. That's how the abbreviation house got its way into music culture. Soon after that came techno. As if from psychedelic feelings a futuristic statement was born. Techno then was apparently very different from what is considered to be now. If you are old enough to see the beginning of electronic music history, you know that it is different and far more complex.
Since the process of making music in my case is similar to how pioneers recorded (hardware synthesizers recorded on some device, in my case, it is a two-track software program, without further coloring & mastering), with a lot of influence from jazz, funk, modern classical and film music, not from electronic music, I tend to put a lot of feelings, more specific content, rather than focusing on automatisation - more breaks + more melody.
"It's all techno" and "What is techno after all?". Why so many types of techno exist? Word "techno" no longer serves as a description of strange sounds, structured rhythms, and futuristic landscapes combined with characteristic 4 on the floor beat. The slight differences between genres of this specific electronic music tell us only how very different this music is, and electronic music in general. It is understood often by the context of the party or philosophy of a club, by the personality of the crowd. "This club gives me this feeling, I like it, therefore I like this music too". Listeners often categorize it by the aesthetics of the event and place, not the music itself. This is all because electronic music is far too complex, it is too big, for everybody to understand it. If you open a catalog in a music store labeled eg. ambient you will find a large number of different styles and genres within each genre - a space within.
"Genre, we might say, is a set of conventional and highly organized constraints on the production and interpretation of meaning"
John Frow, Genre, 2005.
Every day some musician drifts from this non-abstract quality of certain electronic musical genre, inspired by modern social relations and even typical consumer's decisions. This is why, in my opinion, sticking genre labels to electronic music are only a tool for marketing purpose, which can help the audience to expect a certain type of party, of overall aesthetic experience, music comes with the package. It might bring large expectations from the side of the audience as well. Like word - minimal. It comes from minimalism and it can mean very different things if we speak about ambient or techno music, very different expectations.
Can techno music get the more proper context? Mean something again. Or is it only a color?
The goal is, of course, to come up with new sounds that haven't been heard before. I run stuff through as many plug-ins and as much hardware as possible.
Francis Preve, The art of extreme noise, Keyboard Magazine 29/9, 2003.
Some musicians are experiencing this strange frustration on the origin of sounds they use in music creation process. I am talking about stock patches which are considered almost a taboo. If you go to a local electronic live jam and tell everyone you are going to use the presets only, you will get ostracized and tagged as an uncreative noob. This approach is full of bullshit.
Take into consideration a characteristic 808 or 909 bass/kick drum sound. It is so classic that it became a golden standard of every four on the floor, and not only, electronic music. Or a sawtooth wave lead synth with high resonance. Or a sine wave deep chord with delay effect. These sounds are used in so many electronic compositions, yet we do not call them stock.
We are experiencing now a very interesting process during which, in a very short time, electronic sounds, considered to be unlimited, have reached a certain moment during which they are crystallizing as a distinguished structure, which will be now polished for next couple of, not centuries, like in case of classical instrument, but dozens of years. There will be new eras and new happy mistakes which will lead to modification of certain instruments and invention of new structures, new sounds. Think about new interfaces which will be used in the future... For classical music, these were the skilled carpenters, luthiers, and skilled musicians. In case of electronic music, these are engineers and kids from your neighborhood.
The majority of my time (dozens of minutes) I spent in front of synthesizers is focused on creating sounds. My own personal sound. Which is, as a matter of fact, created from those standard stock sounds, which are so characteristic and well known, that you can distinguish them and name them specifically. A quick idea and few minutes of ad libitum. I am wondering if it is not a waste of time.