Would Complex-1 be a good way to learn about synths / synthesis?

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CloudsOfSound
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Post 06 Feb 2019

Hi there!

First impressions count, or so I've heard...
This is my first post in here, so I'll try not to sound like a complete moron, but this post will be too long for most people, so just skip to the main question after TL;DR; if you're not the type who cares about introductions...

I'm a software developer (day job) and a hobby musician at nighttime and in any spare time-slot I can find in my schedule.
I'm not much of a musician, but I've played guitar for a few years. I'm 42 now and started when I was 13, so a few years it is.

When it comes to DAW's I've been hopping around, trying to find The One Package that magically turns me into a fantastic, hit producing, music machine, but reality has a tendency to creep up on me, and I realize that this is off course wishful utopia at best.

I just sold my Ableton Live Suite license, went all-in and purchased Reason 10 together with a couple of RE's.
Ableton wasn't for me. I'm not a DJ, so all the session and push related stuff isn't my cup of tea, besides I think the UI is awful.

Always been fascinated by Reason, but never really "got it", but it's starting to come together now, and I'm loving the creative flexibility that the design of this unique software gives me.
It's just amazing to actually enjoy learning about a DAW for a change. Each new video I watch on Groove 3 or Ask Audio Academy gives me "a-ha moments" that I immediately can put into use and have fun with.

TL;DR;

Get To the Point!

I've never really understood much about synths. I've been the kind of user that buys a VST and get a bunch of presets and find something that sounds cool.
Now I want to get a deeper understanding of how the different types of synths work and what they are used for and why.
Why are there so many if they all can do pretty much the same thing if set up correctly, and why is one virtual synth considered "better" than another?

So I'm thinking about starting from the basics of oscillators and work my way through wavetables, filters and all that stuff.

Complex-1 is marketed as a "Modular Synthesizer", so I interpret that as a way of saying it can work as either type of synth (subtractive / additive) and that it's possible to start with a "clean slate" so to speak and build up the basic components with modules and learn how they work together along the way? Or am I wrong?

I'm currently watching a series about synthesis on ask.video called "The Foundation Of Synthesis" which should be a good starting point before moving on to the more concrete stuff, like the "Reason - Synthesis Explored" series and other more detailed courses.
I've also purchased a course from ProducerTech Beginners Guide To Synthesis, so I'm in for a couple of days of synth theory I suppose.

My main question boils down to:
Is Complex-1 a good way to learn how the components of various synths work, and if not so, what would be the best synth to use for exploring the concepts while following the video courses?

I guess I could start with Subtractor, and move along with Maelstrom or something, but if Complex-1 is what I think it is wouldn't this be a great way to explore the world of synthesis?
Combined with using Syntorial maybe, I don't know.

Appreciate your opinions on the subject!

Happy Reasoning! :reason:
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kinkujin
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Post 06 Feb 2019

I'm not sure if you know of it, but Syntorial is an excellent learning tool. I have it on ios and find the lessons fun and very helpful.

Also, Rob Papen has a book that I found to be a good resource. It's called The Four Element Synth.



https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... ygQAvD_BwE

Best of luck with your journey!

j00lz
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Post 06 Feb 2019

Hello, first time posting here but long time Reason user...
In my opinion if you start straight away with Complex-1 it will be like jumping in at the deep end of the pool....

It's a great idea to invest some time watching tutorials. Then start playing with Subtractor and then move onto Thor, which is semi modular and pretty powerful.

My point is you don't need to spend a hundred bucks on Complex just to learn the basics of synthesis.

Cheers,

j00lz

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rcbuse
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Post 06 Feb 2019

I would suggest something waaay simpler. Yes, try Subtractor, its been there since the beginning, and has all your basics. The Reason manual's section on subtractor almost reads like a introduction to synthesis, probably left over from Reason 1's manual.

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Zac
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Post 06 Feb 2019

Edit... Mr Panda got there while i was writing..

It won't be as exciting as using Complex-1 but I would recommend learning Subtractor. Or, if you have it KHS One.

If you take it section by section and figure each out you will have a nice overview of Subtractive synthesis.

Because it is basic it will make working out what is happening easier.

Just my view.

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CloudsOfSound
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Post 06 Feb 2019

kinkujin wrote:
06 Feb 2019
I'm not sure if you know of it, but Syntorial is an excellent learning tool. I have it on ios and find the lessons fun and very helpful.

Best of luck with your journey!
Yes, as I mentioned in the post, Syntorial is one of my possible options, but its quite expensive.
Probably worth it, but funds are limited after purchasing Reason and some new gear... :|
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CloudsOfSound
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Post 06 Feb 2019

rcbuse wrote:
06 Feb 2019
I would suggest something waaay simpler. Yes, try Subtractor, its been there since the beginning, and has all your basics. The Reason manual's section on subtractor almost reads like a introduction to synthesis, probably left over from Reason 1's manual.
Sounds like a good idea.
If it's that well documented I guess it could replace the need for other books on the subject as well... ;)
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CloudsOfSound
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Post 06 Feb 2019

Zac wrote:
06 Feb 2019
Edit... Mr Panda got there while i was writing..

It won't be as exciting as using Complex-1 but I would recommend learning Subtractor. Or, if you have it KHS One.

If you take it section by section and figure each out you will have a nice overview of Subtractive synthesis.

Because it is basic it will make working out what is happening easier.

Just my view.
Never tried KHS One, but I'll check it out. I see it comes as a RE, so I can add it to my subscription...
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Baylo
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Post 06 Feb 2019

+1 on the suggestions above. I, too, recommend Syntorial - wish I had found it years ago. It's a little pricey but has a demo that gives access to the first bunch of lessons for free so you can see if it meets your needs. While it obviously covers off on the same theoretical topics that books and videos address, its focus is on training your ear and knowing what adjustments to make in order to hear the sound that you imagine. Really practical.

If it were me, I'd be inclined to work with Subtractor, then move those concepts on to Thor, and then onto Complex-1 if it was appealing.

I kind of view Complex-1 as like buying a kit car with a disassembled engine. Sure, it's great when you know how it all fits together. But if you don't know what you're looking at, it probably won't make much sense and trial and error can be a frustrating way to learn. :-)

Mark

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KirkMarkarian
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Post 06 Feb 2019

Agreed - Subtractor is a simple enough synthesizer to start with. It can make most bread and butter sounds, and some more complex ones after you get the hang of it. It can also do very well as a percussion synthesizer. It's not the most simple synth, but it's very useful to apply the techniques you're studying to it's structure. NN19 is almost the same, except you replace the oscillators with a sample. Techniques will be the same. Good luck!

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CloudsOfSound
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Post 06 Feb 2019

Thanks to you all for giving good advice!

I'll do the Syntorial Demo, see if it's something I'd like to pay for, while watching the courses mentioned in the post and working with Subtractor and read the Reason manual section on it as mr Panda suggested!

Awesome 👍
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napynap
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Post 07 Feb 2019

Good responses here, and since you provided a detailed background read (yes, I read it all!), then let me provide you with a background of how synths originated. Watch a great documentary called 'I Dream of Wires'.
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Loque
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Post 07 Feb 2019

Complex-1 is a too complex one to start with. Subtractor is good and this is often too complex for ppl to start with synthesizing sounds. Learn some basics about oscillators, envelopes and filter. Learn, that most basic sounds consist of 3 parts: the attack, decay/sustain and release phase, where the attack phase prominently defines the type of sound.

I really liked this one here, but i think this is also too much to start with: https://www.soundonsound.com/search/art ... ect%3A8106

Best thing, get a basic understanding, open some patches you like and try to recreate them on another synth. Do this 50 times and you get it.
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Micha1973
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Post 07 Feb 2019

Subtractor is the one. when you know what Sub makes with knobs and all the things...then went first to thor and when you know this one to complex.
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CloudsOfSound
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Post 07 Feb 2019

napynap wrote:
07 Feb 2019
Good responses here, and since you provided a detailed background read (yes, I read it all!), then let me provide you with a background of how synths originated. Watch a great documentary called 'I Dream of Wires'.
Thanks! I'll definitely check out that documentary!
Ask Audio also has an interesting series on the history and evolution of synths from The Bob Moog Foundation, called
"THE FOUNDATION OF SYNTHESIS" that I'm currently watching.
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motuscott
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Post 07 Feb 2019

plus one on the Gordon Reid Synth Secrets, a great free resource.
Sometimes a cigar is just a synth that's on fire

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emilng
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Post 07 Feb 2019

For me the most essential tools for learning synthesis are tools that let you see what your audio and CVs are doing.

When I'm trying to figure out what sound is doing I try to have a spectrum analyzer open along with an oscilloscope.

Europa is probably the best free (since you already own Reason) way to get visual feedback on what your sound is doing as you're changing parameters. It can get pretty complicated, but if you right click on your device and choose "Reset Device" and change one thing at a time it can help you see how those changes are affecting the waveforms of the sound. If you keep your spectrum analyzer open you can also see how the different changes affect the frequencies.

Also absorb as much information from as many different sources as possible. If one way doesn't stick it just might not fit your learning style.
mostly modular experiments: https://www.youtube.com/user/maztik8r

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ScuzzyEye
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Post 07 Feb 2019

emilng wrote:
07 Feb 2019
For me the most essential tools for learning synthesis are tools that let you see what your audio and CVs are doing.

When I'm trying to figure out what sound is doing I try to have a spectrum analyzer open along with an oscilloscope.
I agree with this, with the caveat that spectrum analyzer is for audio and the oscilloscope is for CV.

Looking at the waveform of audio tells you nothing about how it sounds. (Outside of the basic shape, sine, square, saw, etc.) Spectral content, and amplitude of those frequencies is what you need to know. This can be the 2D graph like the analyzer built into Reason. Or scrolling spectrogram to get a better idea how the spectrum changes over time.

CV on the other hand, is all about the wave shape. Since it's usually used to change a parameter, you want a good idea about how the voltage level is moving up and down. Even something as simple as a 1D meter moving up and down, can give you all the reference you really need. In the case the oscilloscope is more like the spectrogram showing the change over a window of time.

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CloudsOfSound
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Post 07 Feb 2019

emilng wrote:
07 Feb 2019
For me the most essential tools for learning synthesis are tools that let you see what your audio and CVs are doing.

When I'm trying to figure out what sound is doing I try to have a spectrum analyzer open along with an oscilloscope.

Europa is probably the best free (since you already own Reason) way to get visual feedback on what your sound is doing as you're changing parameters. It can get pretty complicated, but if you right click on your device and choose "Reset Device" and change one thing at a time it can help you see how those changes are affecting the waveforms of the sound. If you keep your spectrum analyzer open you can also see how the different changes affect the frequencies.

Also absorb as much information from as many different sources as possible. If one way doesn't stick it just might not fit your learning style.
Yes, I was looking into the Europa synth, and it seems that it can be configured pretty stripped down, using only one engine and one oscillator etc, and build upon that as I get a better sense of what's going on behind the scenes...

Any advice on where to get this spectrum analyzer and oscilloscope thing? Does it come with Reason?
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ScuzzyEye
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Post 07 Feb 2019

CloudsOfSound wrote:
07 Feb 2019
Any advice on where to get this spectrum analyzer and oscilloscope thing? Does it come with Reason?
Hit F2 for a spectrum analyzer. I think there's at least one free CV oscilloscope in the shop.

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emilng
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Post 07 Feb 2019

CloudsOfSound wrote:
07 Feb 2019
Any advice on where to get this spectrum analyzer and oscilloscope thing? Does it come with Reason?
What ScuzzyEye said on the spectrum analyzer. Europa already includes oscilloscopes in the UI to let you see what the waveforms are doing and how envelopes and LFOs are affecting things which is why I recommended it. If you want to see the envelopes and LFOs themselves you can route them to the CV outputs and use something like https://www.propellerheads.com/shop/rac ... -analyzer/ to see what they're doing.
mostly modular experiments: https://www.youtube.com/user/maztik8r

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CloudsOfSound
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Post 07 Feb 2019

Ok, this is starting to go over my head, but I've installed the CVA-7 CV Analyzer, and getting ready to nerd out completely in the world of synthesis... 🤓
I'll use subtractor until I'm done with the basic courses I'm watching and read the Reason Manual's section on Subtractor and get a basic understanding, then move on to Europa to explore the more intricate stuff.

I have a pretty high resolution screen on my MacBook Pro, so the GUI components in Subtractor gets really tiny, but with Europa I can load the VST which is scalable and more comfortable working with. I'm also considering to add the KHs One Synth to my subscription, as it looks plain and simple...
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EnochLight
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Post 07 Feb 2019

CloudsOfSound wrote:
07 Feb 2019
I'm also considering to add the KHs One Synth to my subscription, as it looks plain and simple...
KHs One is like Subtractor 2.0 - it's just a fantastic subtractive analog synth. That said, with the RE you likely won't be able to see any clearer when you zoom in. The VST's GUI/UX is slightly larger/crisper, though.
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brand
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Post 07 Feb 2019

I use syntorial. I think it’s really good and as was mentioned the demo is pretty generous. Nothing to lose with that. I had the demo and then around Christmas it went on sale. I hadn’t even finished the demo but snapped it up at sale time. Who knows, might go on sale again ... it’s fun I think and Joe Hanley knows his stuff. Starts easy but it gets more and more difficult.

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antic604
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Post 08 Feb 2019

Definitely, although one has to at least understand the basics (oscillators, filters, amps) because Complex-1 is best suited to experimenting with more unusual concepts, like those:

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