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  • A question regarding synth from a complete noob.

    So I've been playing keyboards for years so when it comes to playing the thing I am not a noob. BUT since I am a huge fan of 80s music and lately have been reading and seeing videos about synth. Overall I really like electronica and synthpop of the 80s.

    So what can one do with a synth and how does it work? for example the Roland Gaia. I mean I have zero knowledge and would like to know more but I am having problems with big words like oscilator, LFO, Amplifer (I know what an amplifier is, I use one for the band but I don't understand why it is mentioned in the instrument)... etc...

    So can you create beats with a synth? can you... I mean it's freaking 3 octaves you can't possibly play anything on 3 octaves right? I mean if the Gaia is merely a toy then why do people buy it?

  • #2


    So can you create beats with a synth? can you... I mean it's freaking 3 octaves you can't possibly play anything on 3 octaves right? I mean if the Gaia is merely a toy then why do people buy it?

    Oscillator, creator of the sound wave that the keys will play

    LFO, not needed but an added item to affect different parameters by applying random or repeated affects to the sound etc (varies greatly from synth to synth and some simple keyboards have more focused devices that just use the name of the audio effect so as not to confuse the player)

    Amplifier, adjusts the sound level of the played key over time

    The GAIA is designed to teach as much as play, so if you can afford one, it is a great starting point...

    If you want to get in to beats, the GAIA is not suitable, there are far better beat boxes to consider.


    • #3
      We've all been there, at the beginning terms like OSC, LFO, envelope, routing etc are unfamiliar. The more you get into synths, you'll learn what they do.

      IF you are looikng to buy a new, current instrument, for '80s / synthpop sound, I wouldn't be looking at the Gaia but at something analog like the Dave Smith Instruments Prophet '08, which also has a standard five-octave keyboard instead of a "performance-style" three-octave one. It is a modern version of a classic synth of the (late '70s and) early-mid '80s called the Prophet-5, which was widely used back then. You will get a more accurate emulation of the 80s synth pop sound with an analog synth as opposed to a virtual analog like the Gaia.

      If by "beats" you are referring to the drums used in the '80s, those are drum machines of the time - namely, Linn LM-1, LiinnDrum, Linn 9000, Oberheim DMX, E-mu Drumulator, Roland CR-78, TR-808, TR-909, TR-707, TR-727 etc etc. You can use samples for these, if you have a DAW / sequencer. Or you can buy a separate drum machine that can accept and play back samples.

      Or, you can compromise and buy a so called "workstation" keyboard that has synth, samplling, effects and sequencer in one box. For example, a Yamaha Motif, a Roland Fantom or a Korg M3 or the new Kronos. But keep in mind that these are all digital machines and you won't get a "true" analog sound like on an analog synth.

      Also note that "that" '80s sound wasn't only achieved with analog synths (although that's the main ingredient), but also with Frequency Modulation instruments like the Yamaha DX7 and its lineage, early samplers with low bit-rate like Fairlight, Emulator, Ensoniq Mirage etc, the drum machines mentioned, and also classic early digital effects of the time. It all depends how accurately you want to be able to reproduce those sounds. If you're looking for an approximation, Gaia is perfect, and the Prophet '08 is even better.


      • #4

        LFO, not needed

        DOOOD! No! Without an LFO you might as well just play one of those cheesy department store organs that Yamaha and Casio put out.
        SPAM - Spunkytoofers Rabbit Hole (circuitbent PS-2) $300 shipped CONUS
        E-Mu Ultraproteus, power cord, good shape (minor rack wear) $225 + shipping


        • #5
          DOOOD! No! Without an LFO you might as well just play one of those cheesy department store organs that Yamaha and Casio put out.

          Grrr... LOL


          • #6
            Tell us what music you actually do like now (80's still covers a wide base)



            • #7
              What kind of keyboards have you been playing then?
              Life for its own carnal pleasure.Synths: Novation KS4 & Maudio Venom. Guitar: BC Rich It Warlock.. Bass: BC Rich Warlock. Sight: Aerial lasers by Omnisistem & Chauvet,. Geometric lasers by Extreme.


              • #8
                I mean if the Gaia is merely a toy then why do people buy it?

                It's definitely not a toy, although if all you wanted was a toy it would be a good one.

                There are two big things about the GAIA for me:

                First, it has knobs and sliders for all the functions, so I can just grab them and move them during a song without having to peer at a menu screen.

                Second, it has three full signal paths which allows me to make sounds I couldn't otherwise do without a modular synth, by using separate LFO rates and different modulations in the same patch.

                (Third (ok, three) the Sweetwater patch library comes with an amazing analog string machine patch. I'm not one for other people's presets normally, but this is great. I use it straight where I want a string machine sound, and transpose down an octave for bass notes with string-like feel for other numbers. I'm actually contemplating getting a second GAIA at some point so I can dedicate one to this patch and use the other for the rest.)

                Assuming this is not a troll the Second there uses terms that you're asking about. Here's how one of my GAIA patches is set up, which might help you understand it:
                -- One oscillator (generates a sound wave) runs a sawtooth wave. The low frequency oscillator (LFO) for that voice modulates the filter cutoff slowly, so it drifts from "ooh" to "aah" and back.
                -- The second oscillator (I'm only using two of the three for this patch) generates a square wave. The LFO for this voice modulates the pulse width slowly, so this sound drifts from hollow to thin and back.
                -- The two LFOs are running at different rates, so the two sounds drift in and out and around each other to produce a drone that's constantly in motion.
                -- I use the key hold to run that as a drone while I play the other synths in my rig, and I can drop my left hand back to it to
                -- Then for one song, I crank up the filter resonance on voice 1 to add a light whistle at the filter cutoff pitch, shifting up and down as that LFO modulates it (this is where you can tell it's digital and not a true analog, it tends to step rather than move smoothly. Actually suits the song better that way...)

                Anyway, tl;dr version: The GAIA is a serious musical instrument that makes sounds I couldn't do without spending about $3000 more.

                But if you're doing beats, it's probably not the right machine. You can certainly do them on the GAIA, but I imagine you'd want something that makes that easier.

                Martyn Wheeler (playing synthesizers/organ like it's 1973 in England)

                now: Fredfin Wallaby
                was: The Gonzo Symphonic