What gear should I buy next to make ambient pads?
February 29, 2016 7:18 AM   Subscribe

I’m making ambient, evolving pads to score some films. I’m an editor not a musician so I’m new to this game. I’m debating between the Arturia BeatStep Pro and an eventide space delay. I realize these do two different thinks but which do you think is going to help my music evolve and offer me the opportunity to go deeper with my music? And why? My gear is a micro brute, a volca beats and kets and a Korg minilogue
posted by captainscared to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are you working in the box at all? Most of my recommendations at this point wouldn't be more hardware, personally. It might also be worth thinking hard about gear acquisition syndrome which past a certain point won't really solve problems. I think you can probably do what you want with the hardware you already have.

But, here are some recommendations, not for hardware:
posted by advil at 7:55 AM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding G.A.S....buuut...if your looking for some buttons to push (I checked out that minilogue (drool) you have enough knobs for now) check out the novation launchpad mini. Less than half the price and comes with Ableton lite. If, in the future, you decide you must have 'velocity and pressure sensitive' pads or the full Ableton then sell it on Craigslist and upgrade. (Also, pretty much all your gear is on my radar...hit me up if you're thinking of upgrading, I might be in the market, and am in the nyc area)
posted by sexyrobot at 9:33 AM on February 29, 2016

Best answer: If you want do ambient, evolving pads, get the Omnisphere 2 vst and spend a month watching youtube tutorials of how it works. It kicks the hell out of anything you're going to get in hardware for at least 10x the cost.
posted by Jairus at 9:55 AM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are a bunch of different ways you can approach this. "Evolving" to me implies timbres that change over time, and there are a bunch of ways you can accomplish this.

Your current synths are good; the advice above to head in the direction of software rather than hardware strikes me as good, also. Big, evolving, ambient sounds don't require lots of intricate sequencing, so I don't think the beatstep makes a lot of sense. Meanwhile, a single-effect delay box is good for some things, but I think it's too specialized.

You should consider getting into software. Even just Garageband (if you have a Mac) will let you put a big reverb on a track and jack up the decay, which will get you a lot of the way towards the sound I think you're looking for.

My personal approach: The software I know best is Ableton Live. I used its Instrument Rack features to layer several software synthesizers (with varying effects and modulation on each one) to get sounds like this, this, and this -- if that's the kind of thing you're thinking about.

The big DAWs (Ableton, Logic, Bitwig, whatever) can all accomplish the same basic things, but their workflows differ. You'll need recording software to host the abovementioned Omnisphere (and any other synth plugins you might use.) Whatever you're using to record your synths currently may suffice, or you may need to teach yourself.

Really truthfully, you don't need much more gear to make what you're talking about. I would suggest looking at youtube videos for the synths you own; familiarize yourself with the basics of ADSR envelopes, filters, and LFOs -- just mastering those parameters will get you a LONG way! Get some samples into your computer and start playing with them. Loop them, reverse them, chop them up. Granulate them. Take a simple beep, give it a long attack and release and put a huge reverb on it. You'll be most of the way there.
posted by Sokka shot first at 10:26 AM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sokka's advice is pretty good. If you do want to start getting into doing stuff ITB ('in the box', meaning, all inside your computer), you have about a bajillion options these days, a lot of it free or very low cost, if that is a concern.

But I would look at what you absolutely need, to start (ergo: wait, I need a DAW to record with, I don't have that, or, I need a computer for the DAW, etc), and then use what you have. Because over time, if you are not careful, you may find yourself constantly spending all your minutes looking at gear and software and never actually working on what needs to get done. ;)
posted by bitterkitten at 12:31 PM on February 29, 2016

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