The Synthmorph concept
When browsing through the factory presets of a synthesizer I often realize that 60-70 percent of synthesizer presets are just the dull recreations of the past or dictated by current popular genres. This is unsurprising as instrument developers play on the safe side and satisfy the need of the "general musicians". As a result, we have tons of supersaw, pluck, pad, etc. sounds in synthesizers that sounds very similar or just measures up to the popular genres. Some of them are charming, but most of them are just ok, without the "wooooaaaaa" effect. They may work perfectly in sequenced musical context, but they do not inspire you to play... to play... to play... (for hours), which is the privilege of only the fraction of the sounds amid the many filler presets. Even sequenced, most of them just sounds like everyone else.
So there is a definite place for 3rd party presets, if they can really expand the horizon of usable sounds beyond vanilla and not just repeat the same type of sounds we have anyway among the factory presets. Moreover, it is also important and basic to use the standard real-time modulation capabilities of an instrument, like assigning certain parameters to the modwheel, aftertouch or a dedicated tactile knobs, faders, etc. in order to provide instant expressivity for the musician. I adhere to this practice when it is sensible musically and aesthetically during preparing a Synthmorph preset.
But sound design does not end here in case of a Synthmorph sound set.
It is a bit harder to create something original sounding using just the built-in tools of an instrument unless they are really advanced. I mean only a few sophisticated synthesizers comes with built-in motion sequencers, vector controllers, step-sequencers modulating parameters, morphable LFOs' etc. and even these are still usually limited to one certain type of cyclic modulation. Standard cyclic modulators (like basic LFOs' waveforms) are not the answers either: they do the job in several situations, yet they sound a bit predictable and boring when used in a very recognizable, obvious form.
I studied and implemented methods that use the built-in features of an instrument plus additional external modifiers based on human experimentation, both morphing the final sound into something you usually do not hear. I believe that you can breathe a new life into any MIDI-driven synthesizer by cleverly combining these internal and external modulators plus a MIDI file into an organic, alive sound. Hardware or software, analog or digital - it does not matter as it is more about the way you control. In my view, tactility is important but not the way hardware lovers evangelizes: moving a single knob by hand looks cool and may have an appealing effect on the sound, but moving multiple parameters parallel in a conscious and controlled way is a step toward a more modern and experimental sound. This way it is possible to perform complex yet controllable timbral structures that works well in musical scope.
Example of Synthmorph MIDI sequences:
Synthmorph sequences with dozens of moving parameters could not be made without a focused real-time human interaction. This is an art itself, includes:
- the thorough understanding how a certain instrument works,
- what are its main strengths and weaknesses soundwise,
- what are the characteristic attributes of the tone engine that makes an emotional impact on a sound and
- how these parameters affect each other when they are moving together.
The result is a set of unique preset + sequence pairs that are fully re-usable, customizable for the ongoing music situation and are also great tools for experimentation and learning.
This is what Synthmorph about - the next level in organic MIDI & synthesizer preset design.