5 Myths Of Synthesis, With Marc Doty

Knobcon 2016: At this year’s Knobcon synth convention – held in Chicago Sept 9-11, 2016 – Marc Doty shared his take on five myths and misconceptions that exist in popular synthesizer culture.

Doty is best known for his synth demos, shared on his Automatic Gainsay Youtube channel, But he is also the Archive & Education Specialist at The Bob Moog Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on preserving the legacy of Bob Moog and his work, which gives him some unique insight into the history of synthesis.

The video is an hour+ lecture – so give this a view when you have the time and then share your thoughts on Doty’s Five Myths of Synthesis.

via TheWindyTown Videos

36 thoughts on “5 Myths Of Synthesis, With Marc Doty

    1. 1. Who invented the synthesizer, Don Buchla or Bob Moog? Or someone else?

      2. polyphony – what exactly is it? (Pretty sure I disagree with Mark on this one)

      3. What is “fat” as it refers to synthesizers?

      4. “The Teala Syndrome” – are the synth pioneers actually the heroes/great guys they’re made out to be? Who stole what from whom?

      5. The keyboard as synth controller, how much did it limit the evolution and usefulness of the synthesizer.

      Marc is an excellent historian, albeit pretty long-winded.

      1. I totally get that Marc Doty want to put Polyphony in to clearly defined categories.
        But there would simply have to be too many categories, so it is probably rather pointless to try… because most people even interested in synths would not be able to tell them all apart.
        He also misses the point that many of the synths that could play all notes at once did not even have 88 key keyboards (I’m not sure any had), so they still would not be fully polyphonic in relation to the typical grand piano. But then who is to say that the limit should be 88 Keys, since there are ocs that go lowe and higher in frequency, and 88 keys, would then be a limiting factor.
        And here he kinda claimed that paraphonic synths have divide down oscs, but there are several of paraphonic synths that have a limited set of independent oscs and no divide down oscs, or perhpas a single Sub-osc, but they are then limited to a really low maximum of similtaneous notes.
        And what if a synth uses a limited number of voices, but cycles trhough them and allow for one key to actually layer itself by being triggered more than once, by sounding with different voices. What kind of polyphony is that. Those synths can do something that a “fully polyphonic” synth can’t in terms of polyphony. So for something to be truly fully polyphonic it would not only have to be able to prodouce a sound for every key, it would have to be able to trigger every key several of times before it runs out of polyphony.

        I also disagree on his point about “Fat”. It is not a good term for describing any Moog characteristic that somone might find in some sounds on some Moog synths. Even if that characteristic he is referring to is a rich sound with a lot of bottom end, there are other synths that does that, but still sounds different, so it would have to have a specific description, and fat isn’t.
        Personally I also feel that the “Moog sound” was and is a bit of a hype. Not only were there and are there other “fat” sounding synths that don’t sound Moog, there are also lots of synths that do sounds that few if any Moogs can. But perhaps if he made this talk again now that he doesnt work for Moog, he would phrase that part differently to make it clear that others also had desirable charachteristics, and that other synths that are not moog sounding, can in fact be “fat” sounding.

        I also wish Youtube had a digital synth counterpart to Marc Doty. I’m not sure he thinks digital can’t sound good, but he has limited his focus on analog synths, and no one else I have found goes in to the same depth on digital synths. Sure, the Sledge Tutorial series is probably even longer in playtime even compared to Marc Dotys Matrixbrute series, but that is not an in depth review, it is a programming tutorial series, and only of a single digital synth. Novation have started their own version of it for their hybrid synth Peak, but I don’t think they will do 50+ episodes and counting.

    2. Myth: There are synthesizers that are not made by Moog.
      Reality: Untrue! Anything not made by Moog that claims to be a synthesizer is actually repurposed landfill that will make your ears explode if you try to listen to it.

      Also, the internet is a thing.

    1. right. he´s a regular at nick batt´s sonictalk show, but i have to say he seems out of touch when it comes to new stuff like electribes 2s, jd-xi etc. i guess he´s living in a cocoon inside of an ivory tower.

        1. I honestly doubt I would recognize it at all. There is pretty much nobody writing about synthesizers who ought to putting on those kind of airs. But, however important you think you are, the fact remains that you are not only commenting upon but also actively monitoring a post about Marc Doty.

    2. You do know there is an entire world out there of people with graduate degrees that do this kind of thing for a living? Lecture, research, hold positions in foundations.

      To be able to do that about synthesis sounds pretty amazing. Anyway Marc’s fun.

    3. So jealous?

      Everytime I see similar comment that someone can’t play good or sing good I want to ask to share a commentator his/her own work.

      Mark Doty presents good synth demos and is a true synth music and technology popularizer

  1. Thanks Mark for informative talk .
    Whilst not a geek myself I’m more educated thanks to your lecture ,
    & I better realise the importance of documenting this history at this time ,
    as the passing of time has lost us more & more of those protagonists .

    The most obvious case is that Don Buchla was alive at the time this was filmed and referred to in the present , but sadly by the time this is published he had passed .

  2. 5 Myths Of Synthesis – from Cresshead

    1. only analogue can sound really great
    2. modulars can make music not just bleeps and pharts for several thousand dollars
    3. moog is the pinnacle to aim for in designing a synth
    4. having a LCD display means you failed in designing a synth
    5.you have to have a filter to make a synth

    1. 1 – People who loves synths have all different types. I have lots of modular, FM, subtractive, wavetable, etc… but I do prefer the sound of analogue synths when it comes to subtractive synthesis.
      2 – modulars can make sounds that most people would consider music. They often do but not always.
      3 – Moog is definitely one of the best out there. In the same way a Steinway is a great acoustic piano – a MiniMoog is a great subtractive synth. They are instruments.
      4 – sometimes it can do – if it means lots of menu diving and hidden parameters then ya that’s a bit of a fail for me. LCD’s are okay in small doses… YMMV
      5 – You have to have a filter to make a subtractive synth – ya obviously

        1. Yes.. but they are not analogue. You don’t have to have a filter to have a great synth but to have even a shitty subtractive synth then ya you have to have a filter. It’s in the name – subtractive = filter. Filters are great why would you complain about them. FM is great, PD is okay, Wavetable is great, Granular is great. They all have their place… but it’s hard to beat the menacing excitement and speaker busting pressure of a good analogue subtractive synth.

  3. If you disagree with someone you can focus on the argumentation and do it in good faith for the sake of reaching a conclusion. If you simply don `t like someone`s face, style, trousers, smell, voice, opinion etc you can navigate away from the page, nobody is forcing you watching him, even less commenting. Making comments in bad faith is a waste of everyone’s time.

  4. Reading a lot of the comments on here is really depressing and shows what a sad world we live in. Why all of the personal attacks on Marc? Do you KNOW him? And at the end of the day if you don’t enjoy his talk… turn it off… if you don’t agree with what he’s saying either turn it off or post a reasonable discussion/argument with points that are valid, accurate and worth reading.Accept that 99% of the time, when it comes to these matters, HE has access to fact, papers and people that WE don’t. And regarding his views on Polyphony, “Fat” etc these are opinions (some of which I disagree with)… but he’s entitled to air them… as WE would be entitled to air ours if WE were given that position at that event. Instead we have THIS platform… so keep it on subject, keep it civil, keep it interesting and knowledgable.

    But PLEASE don’t just be a twat, ranting total crap that makes you feel big in your bedroom.

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