Real Bands Use Real Synths

Do “Real Bands Use Real Synths”?

That’s the claim of keyboardist Jeffrey McFerson, part of the So Cal band Northern Labour Party. They have just released their music video for their tune Less Than Three.

McFerson sends word, via that Submit A Story page, that the Northern Labour Party hasn’t “succumbed to the iPad and soft synth craze. They still use the Minimoog Voyager and Alesis Andromeda for both live gigs and studio recordings.”

While it’s great that McFerson is carrying the banner for live synth performance, the anti soft synth rhetoric is a little harsh. A band can suck just as hard using hardware synths as software synths.

What do you think? Do “Real Bands Use Real Synths”?

And, if you’re in a “real band” that uses software synths, how about sharing some mind-blowing performance videos?

62 thoughts on “Real Bands Use Real Synths

  1. I think it's a bit condescending that they think that only REAL bands use REAL synths…beings
    just about any very famous electronic artist openly admit to using software based instraments
    somewhere in their music…Thomas Dolby, Gary Numan, JUUUUUUSSSSTTT to name a couple…I've never heard of the band Nothern LabOUr Party…

  2. Why on Earth does it matter?

    Play whatever you want. If the record or show sounds good, then congratulations! If it doesn't, dropping $2500 on a keyboard is probably not going to solve your problems.

  3. I figured a band that would make a statement like that would make cliche indie pop. I have to admit that when I see a band live, a laptop is a turn off. I just feel that watching a guy surrounded by hardware (and USING that hardware) makes the experience much more immersive. But when it comes to recording I say use whatever you want. For some reason in my mind using software synths seems natural when composing music. But truly, you can do whatever you want. REAL art should have no pre-determined limits.

  4. By the way, what do they mean by "real" synths? Does that mean modular synths with modules they built based on their own designs?

  5. I kind of agree, i think soft-synths and ipads and such can kind of act as a crutch for lesser musicians, but a good musician is good regardless of the equipment they use.

  6. As a lesser musician who played nothing but soft synths on my band's latest release, I can assure that VSTs are NOT my crutch. My crutch is booze…and occasionally some of those little red and green pills – the ones like look like tiny Christmas trees. God, what are those called?

  7. Sounds reminiscent of the old, "synthesizers are not real instruments" crap I've always heard. "Electronic music is not REAL music." "Synthesizers are a crutch." "Real music is only made with REAL instruments." and so on. Give it it rest.

  8. "Reality" or "realness" or "authenticity" is usually the true enemy of creativity!

    Having said that, I definitely prefer seeing bands playing actual hardware synths live. A laptop on stage always bums me out.

  9. No reason you can't make great music with soft synths – most ot todays music is.

    I have yet to see a great laptop performance, though. Electronic musicians need to bring more musicianship to their performances or it looks like laptops are a replacement for talent.

  10. By this dorks logic, a real keyboardist should actually play a piano, made by his own hand, because anything else is somehow inauthentic and selling out. And the band should also hand paint their own videos, instead of getting caught up in that video camera craze. And that doesn't sound like a lute and animal skin drums I hear.

    This is a dumb argument in the first place, but even weaker when it comes from a performance I would barely categorize as "a real band" due to it's poor musical skills. Never mind what gear they use!

    Sorry to be harsh guys, but you say stupid and abusive stuff, I'm going to hold up the mirror.

  11. So, "sex it up" a bit. Use a big-ass screen instead of the laptop screen. Use a big, full-sized keyboard controller or, dare I say, a keytar. Maybe two or three controllers just to make it look like you have more gear. Heck, project a huge image behind the band of the software interface with all those cool, blinking lights and level meters and what not. Stand on your head and play it with your toes. Yank on your nipple rings and make funny faces at the crowd.

    Performance is not about what it is you are playing, it is about how well you are playing it. What the f*** is the difference whether it is a MIDI keyboard and a computer vs. a "real" synth? Hell, aren't most of today's digital synths just self-contained computers with some dedicated buttons and a keyboard anyway?

    Showmanship is important to be sure but, musicianship is what really counts in the end. The particular instrument on stage is secondary to how well the musician on stage is playing it.

  12. Sounds to me like somebody has an inferiority complex. I would think that if they are so avid about "real" synths, then maybe they should take a look at their Andromeda and throw it out for a Cwejman, because I'm pretty sure I've heard that lame battle cry about analog versus digital synths a million times. Reminds me of DAW's vs. tape, get over it, get over yourself. If it sounds good, then it is good. These guys need to do some research on the history of audio synthesis and quit running traps. Pretty tame set up for a "real band" I might add. Hipsters, meh.

  13. There's no problem with using software instruments in the studio and hardware instruments onstage…even if they're hardware samplers playing samples of your soft synths.

  14. Good music is made by people with talent, not people who happen to own certain tools. I mean, check the hundreds of boring videos of Buchla owners on Youtube. Great tool, no talent.
    And the song is not very good, sorry guys.

  15. and in any case a fantasy band performing with fantasy instruments in a totally unreal way would be an intriguing experience

  16. I could imagine myself agreeing that maybe just using a single iPad (or similar device) might not be the best choice when it comes to playing keyboards, but playing modern analog instruments with digital control and preset storage whilst looking down on people who use software synths (whether it's a fully or mostly digital keyboard or module or some plugin or stand alone software for your computer platform(s) of choice) is quite funny, to the point of being ridiculous. Maybe even more so than the iPad hype he's criticising. That's like saying that you cannot make good or real music with samplers or digital synths like a DX7, Microwave or K5000.

  17. Ridiculous. I prefer hardware as well but I also prefer "real bands" that don't depend on some tired 80s blueprint for songwriting. And really does it matter? For this sound they could be playing 90s Roland romplers and it really wouldn't matter. Why didn't these snot bags just say: "real bands spend $6k on their synths that they don't bother programming".

    Never thought I would defend iPad.

    One thing is for sure; "real bands" sleep with their socks on if you know what I mean.

  18. Any synth can act as crutch for someone with no talent, but i'd be more entertained by what a 4 year old would do with a Voyager. Also, what is a "lesser musician" ? Is a sound designer a lesser musician? I see plenty of great players that couldn't program their hardware to save their life but I'd rather hear a lesser player that understands sound design.

  19. Personally I love hardware synths, but I would never jump to such a stupid conlcusion.
    What makes hardware great is more something between you and the instrument, which can infuence the music of couse, but more because if you create yourself a good workflow with it, and hardware is what makes that workflow possible for you, then that's good for your music as well (probably). In the end it boils down to what sound you are looking for, the way you prefer to interact with it and what you want to say with itso there is no right or wrong, just artistic decisions.

  20. I look at it like this… If I'm in a burning building,and a firefighter uses a ladder and some high tech gear to find and save me, I'm not going to complain. If I want to listen to music, the music itself comes way before the way it was created. The tools to create music are simply that, tools. It's a means to an end, the end is what is important. I won't deny the warmth and character of a hardware analog synth, but sometimes I think when people say things like this it is because they feel threatened by the people that now have access to the same sort of tools that they use. Soft Synths bring the realm of synths to people that can't shell out thousands for some nice old hardware synth. It's good for music as a whole.

  21. Anybody who utters "real" as a prefix to anything gear related is an idiot. Real djs use vinyl, real producers use hardware, only analog synths are real, blah blah blah. It's ego BS and nothing more. YAWN.

  22. exactly, an old sig I used a while back
    " It doesn't matter what process or tools you use, it's the end result that matters "
    Do we really care what a car manufacture ises to assemble a car ? no…what we do care about is, the actual quality of the car.

  23. Good for them, but I like when something is so good it seems unreal.
    I guess he's trying to say that a real man can carry all the bags.

  24. "Real" photographers only use film. "Real" surfers use wooden boards. "Real" carpenters use hammers and not nail guns. I literally could go one for hours….

  25. I like all kinds of music made with all kinds of tools. I just PREFER to see bands playing hardware synths, and I'm even happier if those synths are analog. Just my preference. Did you read my first sentence?

  26. Snork. Such a silly question. When the music is right, really right and you are having massive sex right in rhythm with it, you don't notice tools. You might as well change it to a poll – "Are all those guys with the laptops wankers, or musos?"

  27. Software is awesome… so is hardware… and they also both suck.

    I think that the argument is kind of superficial and the real question is one of interaction and interfacing.

    Hardware guys are currently winning when it comes to user-friendly interfaces (they have knobs and sliders with no techie knowledge required.) They also have the "mojo-factor" going for them (each synth is analog or has it's own converters separate from the sound card). Hardware also doesn't crash as easily.

    I'm more into software. There are more options available, price is better or free, sound quality can be great, and less gear to hook up/transport.

    I think that the future will bring us somewhere in between… things like NI maschine, MUSE receptor and the Access virus ti are great examples of combining the perks of hardware and software.

    At the end of the day, if it makes production easier and more fun, who cares?

  28. Actually didn't mind the song, the video clip was a bit odd though. Weird how they kept doing morph style effects between frames, though it looked cool a couple of times. Also, I thought that that lead synth sounded pretty thin and 'digital' considering their claims. Though I guess these things are subjective. Personally I use hardware and software, analog and digital, and they all have their strengths. To ignore any of them seems like a waste to me.

  29. I was going to get deeper into this discussion, but you summed it up excellently, Xtopher.

    Same old formula: Dumb statement + lame band = welcomed publicity. No such thing as bad press. Win win. PR guy cashes bonus check. Next!

  30. i kind of agree with this band's mentality. i'm the synth player in a band and i have never successfully used a soft synth. it's not bad that others do, by all means go ahead. but soft synths feel and sound sterile to me… there's no connection between the musician and a VST as there is a synthesizer one can program/touch/etc.

  31. I've just read the title. Don't care about any "real" synth, singer, band, catpoo, etc crying. Wake up old fashioned people, future is here!

    By the way, dont forget to check out NI's Razor. It's amazing! 😉 😛

  32. Bit of an odd comparison though, isn't it? Of course in that dire situation you wouldn't care what the ladder was made out of or from what steel the axe used to break down the door was forged. But to active, prolific musicians (those composing, editing, creating, tweaking, patching, sampling, sequencing) who are immersed in technology and the gear used to produce sounds used to hone their craft and musical palette, SOUND (and the source of the sound) is a huge component in determining an end product. These are the building block elements of which they speak, and they have earned the right to their opinion via experience. The individuals in this forum who feel an iPad is an end-all solution for everyone or that it can somehow compare sonically to the sound of an Oberheim SEM/Pro One/Moog are lacking in either real experience or the financial fortitude to come to a rational decision on the matter. There is simply no comparison between "real synths" (analog(ue) vs. digital recreations (iPad, VSTs, etc.). However, the point is, some people will use the recreations/emulators and manipulate them in a creative way apart what was perhaps intended by the manufacturer. This is where the beauty in cheap software comes about. Don't compare it to the untouchable synths of the past, but use it in complementary ways that fill out your music or to fill in gaps where digital might fit the bill ..02.

  33. Huh, I remember 30 years ago the trope that real musicians didn't rely on synths, that there were a crutch to creativity – this was the general response to the Human League, Soft Cell, et al. I don't know from this guy or his wittle band – it just sounds, well, kinna (insert vaguely derogatory un-pc term here). If he were a real man (which is what this amounts to – 21st century macho posing), he would use vintage synths with no patches or memory in them. That what I used to use with my real band back in the day, a note book crib sheet was as close as we got to software. And we didn't rely on social networking sites like this site or Submit a Story (or YouTube) to be an ass. Real bands used newsprint fanzines and public access tv for that.

  34. I hate using software on stage. I find it unreliable even if it's not. All the crap that comes with having a laptop on stage just scares me. A hardware synth feels like a real instrument compared to a laptop with a midi keyboard. It just feels different.

  35. Nicely put, I agree. There is clearly an undeniable "magic" (for lack of a better word) to the analog hardware, and if experience isn't there to inform, then maybe the demand can speak for it. I think the shock of the statement lies in its rhetoric, "real bands."

  36. Our 'band' has a policy of no instruments what so ever, reality sucks.
    i have no problem with people who want to appear to play though….
    Just do your thing… whatever that is.
    Its about results.

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