Buying Synthesizers

So I have been using Synths for the last 7-8 years in marching band and wanted to also share some pointers here as well. . .

So after doing this and seeing the crap my synths go through year in and year out, I have decided to do this differently the next time my boss says I can spend a lot of money. (Which I hope is sometime soon because my triton is about to bite the dust!)

Many of us are using the various flavors of the following synths:
Roland Fantom
Yamaha Motif
Korg Triton
Korg M3

After watching my 3 expensive synths be destroyed by heat, loading, unloading and the various other things that happen during a marching season, here is my plan for the future when I put these puppies to rest.

Step 1. Purchase 3 Casio CDP-100 - These are the cheapest weighted 88-key Keyboards on the market with a sturdy construction. (That I have found) 299.99 each
http://www.guitarcenter.com/In-Store-Used-USED-CASIO-CDP-100-KEYBOARD-106049396-i1622201.gc
Step 2. Purchase The Quadra Merge by Midi Solutions 99.00
http://www.guitarcenter.com/MIDI-Solutions-Quadra-Merge-101525293-i1154390.gc
Step 3. Purchase my module of choice - Either an M3 or a Motif or the Roland (Pick your Poison)

[b]M3[/b]
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Korg-M3-M-Tabletop-Music-Workstation-Sampler-104478755-i1175414.gc
[b]Motif[/b]
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Yamaha-MOTIF-RACK-XS-1U-MOTIF-XS-TONE-GENERATOR-104984067-i1403505.gc
[b]Roland[/b]
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Roland-Fantom-XR-Sound-Module-706721-i1598366.gc
Step 4. Purchase a Road Box to protect the module from the elements.
http://www.guitarcenter.com/SKB-4-Space-ATA-Rack-Case-100017852-i1152063.gc


Run the 3 Casio Keyboards into your module of choice via the Quadra Merge and the quadra merge talks to the Rack Module.
http://www.guitarcenter.com/In-Store-Used-USED-CASIO-CDP-100-KEYBOARD-106049396-i1622201.gc

Assign the individual keyboards to output on any of the 4 or more direct outputs of the module and you've got 3 MOTIF's, 3 Korg M3's or 3 Roland Fantoms. :)

THIS WAY . . . If one of your CASIO keyboards takes a DUMP you've only lost 299.00 and not 2k-6k which you would've put on the REAL synth.

ALSO if you wish to upgrade in the future to a new module. . . You can SELL your old module on Ebay or Craigs list and it will be in great shape. Just put the money towards the upgrade! :)

Hope this helps you guys in some way!

Good luck this season with all your marching band endeavors!


Laptops can be locked down, or it could also be a desktop in a rack-mount case.  A [i]very[/i] fast PC with capable specs could be built for under $600.

For example:
Core i5 cpu - $170
mainboard w/ integrated graphics- $80
rackmount case w/ power supply - $110
4 GB RAM- $70
64 GB SSD - $110
DVD drive, keyboard, mouse - $50
Total: $590
Eric-

MacBook Pro should work out of the box, absolutely fine. The only thing that would be even worth upgrading is the hard drive to either a solid state drive or a 7200 rpm drive. It should work just fine out of the box though... I used mine like that (5400 rpm) for a long time!

Logic STUDIO is absolutely the most important part. I'd also check the colleges in the area, as UNT sold it when I was there for $150 (they subsidized the price!) The massive amount of sampled instruments (it comes with all 5 garageband jam packs) as well as the synth instruments in there too are all awesome. The main reason Logic is the most important is MainStage. It makes it so much easier to program keyboards and controllers than any other program, and looks good doing it :)

If budget is a problem, then Kontakt should be perfectly fine. I like Komplete because Absynth has some great sounds, and I also use Battery as my main sampler. However, there is much overlap between Logic and Komplete, so you'll probably be fine with only Logic and Kontakt.

VDL will perfectly integrate into that setup. I'll actually be starting to play a pit orchestra gig next week using chimes, timpani, crotales, bell tree, and thundersheet through VDL :) It works like a charm!

the laptop can be locked down with a kensington lock (that's the slot next to the DVD drive!)

And Robbie, I'll be in Nashville too. Definite hang!
So, if I went with the Motif rack mount, and 2 of the Casio keyboards, would that also allow me to load and use my own samples?  Our show requires a lot of different synth effects that switch rapidly, as well as samples provided by our composers.  Our needs require a fast method of switching between sounds and the ability to trigger our own samples that we load.  I am not all that technically inclined when it comes to synths and electronics, so I am sorry if I am not clear or not using the correct jargon.  Thanks for the great info and any help!

Dimitri

[quote author=RGreen link=topic=3825.msg20187#msg20187 date=1285369181]
So I have been using Synths for the last 7-8 years in marching band and wanted to also share some pointers here as well. . .

So after doing this and seeing the crap my synths go through year in and year out, I have decided to do this differently the next time my boss says I can spend a lot of money. (Which I hope is sometime soon because my triton is about to bite the dust!)

Many of us are using the various flavors of the following synths:
Roland Fantom
Yamaha Motif
Korg Triton
Korg M3

After watching my 3 expensive synths be destroyed by heat, loading, unloading and the various other things that happen during a marching season, here is my plan for the future when I put these puppies to rest.

Step 1. Purchase 3 Casio CDP-100 - These are the cheapest weighted 88-key Keyboards on the market with a sturdy construction. (That I have found) 299.99 each
http://www.guitarcenter.com/In-Store-Used-USED-CASIO-CDP-100-KEYBOARD-106049396-i1622201.gc
Step 2. Purchase The Quadra Merge by Midi Solutions 99.00
http://www.guitarcenter.com/MIDI-Solutions-Quadra-Merge-101525293-i1154390.gc
Step 3. Purchase my module of choice - Either an M3 or a Motif or the Roland (Pick your Poison)

[b]M3[/b]
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Korg-M3-M-Tabletop-Music-Workstation-Sampler-104478755-i1175414.gc
[b]Motif[/b]
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Yamaha-MOTIF-RACK-XS-1U-MOTIF-XS-TONE-GENERATOR-104984067-i1403505.gc
[b]Roland[/b]
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Roland-Fantom-XR-Sound-Module-706721-i1598366.gc
Step 4. Purchase a Road Box to protect the module from the elements.
http://www.guitarcenter.com/SKB-4-Space-ATA-Rack-Case-100017852-i1152063.gc


Run the 3 Casio Keyboards into your module of choice via the Quadra Merge and the quadra merge talks to the Rack Module.
http://www.guitarcenter.com/In-Store-Used-USED-CASIO-CDP-100-KEYBOARD-106049396-i1622201.gc

Assign the individual keyboards to output on any of the 4 or more direct outputs of the module and you've got 3 MOTIF's, 3 Korg M3's or 3 Roland Fantoms. :)

THIS WAY . . . If one of your CASIO keyboards takes a DUMP you've only lost 299.00 and not 2k-6k which you would've put on the REAL synth.

ALSO if you wish to upgrade in the future to a new module. . . You can SELL your old module on Ebay or Craigs list and it will be in great shape. Just put the money towards the upgrade! :)

Hope this helps you guys in some way!

Good luck this season with all your marching band endeavors!



[/quote]
I would not use the synth as a sampler if you are needing to do what you are wanting to do. Is it possible. . . Yes. . .Is it easy to set it up. . .Not really.

I would purchase one of the two samplers below. . .run your samples from here and keep your synths dedicated to music instruments. It's also easier to manage on the board when you want to have multiple instances when you need to separate and balance the levels of music and text.

http://www.roland.com/products/en/goPrd.cfm?sSrchBy=func&sFunc=0000000900&sRPage=finT1

Easy Drag and Drop interface for importing samples and it's fairly rugged (student proof) compared to other samplers.

Hope the helps
Or if you want to go a step further, and a have a little more money to spend, many people are now using the Yamaha DTX MULTI 12, which is essentially an electronic drumpad that also allows you to load your own samples via USB media.

The benefit to using the MULTI 12 would be that it can be integrated into any percussion setup and rather than pressing buttons to trigger samples, the performer can simply strike it with the stick or mallet they have in their hand.

Just another option, and it also comes with some pretty decent built-in sounds as it is. It's a bit more expensive than the Roland sampler models Robbie memtioned, but you get a bit more bang for your buck, as you're also getting a compact electronic drumset.
I would also recommend the use of the DTX 12 MULTI as the sampling unit of choice.
The interface is very easy to use and it has a lot of on board sounds that are great (Chimes, timpani, ethnic percussion, etc-not to even mention the drum sets).
We have used these units for the last 2 summers with the Cavaliers, I used one at Broken Arrow, and we used one at MCM.  It was great in every instance.
They are extremely durable.  I would recommend the SKB case and possibly an additional power unit as a back up.  You might need a DI box also, it really depends on your set up.
You can mount them with a standard snare basket, or get the Yamaha tom mount and mount it with a rack unit or use it with a stand.

Some details:
The sample needs to be in WAV format.
It needs to be 4 MB and under per sound.

You can easily load any file from a flash drive into the unit and it saves it to the internal memory. 
The sounds can then be assigned to any pad you wish in any kit; premade or user made.

The ONLY drawback I see on the DTX 12 is that it only has a L R out and a headphone jack.  I wish it had 2 assignable outs so that I could have a separate mix control of two elements at the mixer, for example, sample going while internal sounds are getting played.  You can mix the volume of every pad though, so it is possible to get the ";mix"; that you want from multiple elements; it just takes a little more work.

I guess that just means you can buy 2 if you want them going at the same time and you want control up front.  :)

On the synthesizer front, the new Motif XFs are awesome.  They have the same sounds and design of the XS series.  There are some new sounds, but not really that many. 
The great new thing about them is the ability to save external samples to the internal sound memory with the aid of an additional flash memory card you can install (512 GB and 1 GB options, up to 2 GB possible).  This enables you to load in any sounds you would like (samples) OR you can use a process to import your third party libraries into the instrument.  This can really be a game changer, being able to convert some of your software sounds and install them in the hardware.  There is not a long auto load process, or external drives having to be hooked up while you sit and sweat while it loads.  If you haven't seen one, check it out.

Look for some upcoming articles in Percussive notes on this and some other electronic percussion/amplification topics in the near future!



Wow!  Thanks for all the great responses.  I am starting to get a grip on all of this and think I made a wise decision to post here!  What do all you do for weather proofing...other than keeping everything in the building?

I will not take anything out if it looks threatening, but I am thinking more along the lines of when we are already out and the precip comes, or if we get to a show and there is mist/fog/light drizzle.  Thoughts?
We always had tarps with the entire pit.  The second it looks like or starts to show precipitation, they get covered up.
I usually have the synths have their cases as part of their carts that go to rehearsal.
The mixer/sound cart always has a lid and tarp.

You just can't chance that much gear $ in the rain. 
Speaking from experience, it only takes one good soaking to do a lot of damage.....

Have a reliable weather app on your phone too.

Always ";call it"; early so you never run into problems and make sure all of your kids and staff know what to do in case of weather.
You might actually practice it like a fire drill.
I have a question that may have already been addressed and I missed it.  If you purchased one of the Casio keyboards, the Quadra merge and say a M3 and Motif sound module...would I be able to access the full array of sounds on [i]each [/i] of the two sound modules or do they have to be individually assigned one keyboard per one module?

Does that even make sense?
Yes it does make sense and yes it is possible. . . .

The easy way of doing this is splitting the output cable (from the quadra merge) to the individual modules.
Depending on what channel you are transmitting on thru the Casio boards you could easily talk to either module.
Casio Keyboard 1 is transmits on midi channel 1
Casio Keyboard 2 transmits on midi channel 2

Motif accepts controller information from Channel 1
M3 accepts only controller information on Channel 2

There would be other preset information you would have to do to make sure the controller is activating the correct module.

This is the short and sweet answer. . . There are far more variables that I am not listing but play with it. :-)
Sweet!  Thanks Robbie!!!
Robbie,

I just thought of another question related to this.  If you had two of the Casio keyboards and both the Motif and M3 modules would each keyboard be able to access each of the modules independently?  Meaning, could both access the Motif simultaneously or one access the Motif while the other accesses the M3 etc? 

Thanks again for your help with all this.  We currently have a Korg Triton that has seen its better days.  I�۪m probably going to have to take a serious look at replacing it very soon.

Dave
Yes it is possible and you would need to have a switch.

http://www.philrees.co.uk/products/selector.htm

Check out Product 3B

You can run them both on Channel 1 & 2. When you want them to talk to either module you can turn the switch.

I would check out some of his other products. . . They may be a little more helpful. :-)

Thanks Robbie.  Sorry to everyone for ";hijacking"; this tread...
No worries. . . David. I just realized that the guy that sold the midi switches no longer sells his products. :-( If I were you I would also look at Midi Solutions. If you call them they can probably have something programed for you that will do what you want. Very nice guys.

http://www.midisolutions.com/

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