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Recommended synths

Please recommend good synths for PsyTrance production?

Darren 

Darren, I have a few things to say before giving you a list of plugins.

Basically, I follow the principle of less is more. I believe that in-depth knowledge about a single plugin and its usage nearly at 100% of its potential is much better than having 10 synths and use them only at 10%. With less plugins, you save CPU loading and have easier mixdown. And it saves your money, too.

There is no such thing as a “synth for PsyTrance”. Or for a Techno, or for a House. Plugins do not depend on a music genre. Instead of genres, think what kind of sound you’re want to achieve. Let’s say, is it a bass, lead or pad? Then, if you familiar with synthesis, think of what components you may need to create this sound: how many oscillators, what waveform, LFOs, what type of filters and so on. Only then start looking the solution that fits your needs.

Another thing: you can recreate a certain sound in many different synthesizers, which means the plugins choice is often made based on personal preferences in overall impression, usability, and user interface. Like in any other subjects, the word “good” is fully subjective and vary from person to person.

If you are not familiar with plugins yet and just would like to have some names to keep in mind, here are the few manufacturers to keep an eye on: U-He, Reveal Sound, FabFilter, Xfer, iZotope, Spectrasonics, Rob Papen, Cableguys, Native Instruments. The list of good ones is much longer for sure, but I recommend only those ones which I tried myself.

Hint: subscribe to each companies mailing list to get plugins with discount. Usually, most manufacturers offer special prices and sales few times a year: on Christmas, Black Friday, Thanksgiving and other holidays or events. You can easily get most plugins for 30% less or even half less prices.

And here comes the list. Again, it’s important: it doesn’t mean you have to get all of them, and they are not “PsyTrance synths”. It’s just some synths I’ve enjoyed to use.

Sylenth

Sylenth1 by Lennar Digital. Price — €139. Great, popular, easy-to-use yet powerful synthesizer that I’ve used in many tracks. The only downsides of this synth is it seems abandoned by it’s developer, so no further updates or 64-bit version support. Update: on September 9 LennarDigital announced beta of 64-bit OS X version.

Massive

Massive by Native Instruments. Price — $199. Very flexible wavetable synth, you can get totally “our of this world” sounds here.

Serum

Serum by Xfer. Price — $189. Wavetable synthesis with no limits.

Spire

Spire by Reveal Sound. Price — $189. One of my favorite one, I like its algorithms.

Definitely the list of good plugins is not ended here, so I call other producers to share their favorite ones in the comments below.

Read also:
Recommended processing plugins
3 ways to make a kick drum

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This post is a part of the “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as music production, sound design, performance, management, marketing, and career advice in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

3 comments
You Are My Salvation

One common misconception is that only payable synths sounds “pro”. You dont have to spend a fortune on plugins to make amazing sounds. There are tons of freeware synths that sounds great. Some examples:

Crystal
http://www.greenoak.com/crystal/about.html
A really fun and goodsounding synth which have great subtractive and fm synthesis

Valsier
http://audio.betterthanclay.co.uk/
A synth dedicated for bass-sounds. Very easy to use and you can get really cool sounds from it

B-Line 303
http://www.vstplugin-sonicxtc.com/freebies
A cool plugin made for doing acid. Who doesnt like that?

Daniel Lesden

Thanks for your input! In additional to freeware plugins, some DAWs have decent built-in plugins as well, for instance ‘Operator’ in Ableton Live.

Although, I realized that sometime that took you efforts to get (i.e. spend money) eventually gets more attention :-)

Vladimir Zuev

First time I have been trying to create own tracks using a lot of popular synths (unfortunately, pirated synths and effects, except my licenced Ableton :<). After some number of attempts, I disappointed in my music, deleted all VST and VSTi – I decided to make music for myself using only instruments and effects of Ableton, so I was surprised, how much nice sounds (synths, pads, percs, kicks, etc.) I can get, just using Operator with (and without) chain of effects.
Now I love my sound, and that simple way of production lets me to find “new and interesting” sounds, not only “right and quality” – I don’t need to spent time for searching a nice preset, I can create what I want at the moment and I can add new colors for my sound any time. It makes me believe, I will growth and release my works :>

Michael Nörling

Daniel, thanks so much for creating this site. I think there are not many other places on the web/on earth where one can find such detailed information about PsyTrance. Especially the technical stuff you provide (e. g. about subgenres or “making-ofs”) is, especially for me as fan of this genre, more than interesting.

But there is one particular topic that I’m interested in and I can’t find a real answer for this; even on YouTube are only hints or “half answers”. I’m talking about the truth about the rhythmic pattern – in particular the different types of basslines – of PsyTrance... Are there some “unspoken rules” for composers or for example preferred types of bassline patterns for particular genres?

(e. g. I assume you know the YouTube Video where one guy mock about the typical triplet pattern by showing three monkeys [for unknown reasons, this video gets thousand of clicks] – I don’t want to post the link since this desperated guy is not worth getting attention).

I mean, I watched so many videos and listen to so many songs that I’m sure that there is not only this single type of BL arrangement. Besides triplets, there are at least – AFAIH (as far as I hear;) – four more possible arrangements for typical PsyTrance (neglecting futuristic kind-of Psytrance genres like those with more than 200 BPM etc):

  1. The good old offbeat BL,
  2. the offbeat BL in variation (playing two notes, on, for example 1.1.3 and 1.1.4 w/o the initial short note after the beat),
    3+4. At least two variations of a swing BL, one with two BL notes and one with three (whereby the intervals between the notes can be defined free – so in theory there is an endless number of variations), and I assume there are probably many many more.

So it would be really cool to get some feedback from you – in case you have a free minute (or hour^^) and would be so kind and give just a brief overview who you handle your BL arrangement and whether, for example, you prefer a pattern, or always use the same, or even do variations within the same song.

Thanks in advance! And keep on making the great music :0)

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