People recommending tiny synths to beginners is weird

Edit: Lots learned in this thread - opinions changed etc. - thanks for all the insight everyone :slight_smile:

This is something I come across a lot - re-sparked recently by the new Roland mini synths - there’s this assertion that devices like this are ‘great for beginners getting into synths’.

I think that this is wrong, and bad advice, and I don’t even fully understand the rationale - maybe someone can change my mind?

I don’t think these are inherently bad instruments - things like the Volcas and PO’s especially can be incredible in the right hands and are clearly important pieces of peoples setups - but none of those people are beginners and I’m not sure they were when they bought them either.

One of the primary benefits of using hardware is that it’s tangible, if all you have access to is 6 trimmer pots that have abstracted controls then you’re probably not learning much about synthesis and you’re definitely not going to be warming to the format. The small size is a benefit to experienced musicians, who have a hole to fill or need a very specific device with a small footprint - even touring or live musicians who care about weight and battery power. If this is your first synth then I suspect you have more than 6 inches of desk space to work with so it feels like a strange way to cobble your experience.

Feels less like a way to get into hardware and more like a fast-route to rushing back to your DAW or slipping into GAS.

I’d be recommending something like a Behringer synth, a Model:Cycles, something like a 0-Coast if the budget can be stretched - something that you can learn and master and that can take you on a musical journey.

Is it right for people to keep suggesting that they’re good for beginners? I can’t shake the feeling that most of these mini synths sell well but are ultimately land-fill fodder.

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my first synth was a volca keys and i made like 50 tracks just with the synth alone

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Nice! I’m open to having my mind changed.

Would you say it was the best way for you to have gotten into synths, or in hindsite do you think there might have been better gear to start your journey with?

I’m concious that, because people are often recommended these synths as beginners, that many people will have had them as beginners. It would be easy to slip into survivors-bias territory without having retrospective I feel :slight_smile:

(I’ve considered buying a keys a few times myself the volcas are always tempting)

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A Second hand workhorse synth with all the basics makes more sense, plus a reverb to help the mojo.
At least you’re able to resell it and not suffer the new car premium

I’ve no doubt many purchases are based on an amazing YouTube demo in expert hands. You get one home and then ‘now what do I do?’

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That’s a better recommendation than what I suggested actually - second hand synths can be very affordable and as you say if you don’t click it’s easy to sell and try something different.

This is actually partly what sparked me to write this post.

We have the classic YouTuber ads for the Rolands right now and it makes me wince a bit because of course they make them seem incredible, because they’re skilled musicians that have a livelihood making other peoples gear look good. Comment section filled with people claiming this is a boon for beginners, and I’m like - it’s a preset VST?

I’ll wait for the Bad Gear episode :slight_smile:

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Agreed, a “beginner” synth should be something that helps you learn synthesis. So a tiny box with truncated functionality and lack of controls is probably not the best choice.

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Though I think the new Roland’s selling point is that they are insta groove tools with no frills.

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And I kinda like them… they have a place - I’m not sure where it is - maybe it is beginners? But that doesn’t seem right to me.

Roland clearly think they’ll sell a lot of them - they’re practically trolling their fans at this point releasing ever-smaller devices haha

To me it came down to the price, back then it seemed a lot more reasonable to get a 129€ Volca FM than a bigger machine I wasn’t sure I would be able to master. And it actually taught me a lot of stuff about synth and sequencing. I ended up breaking the bank a year later to get a Digitakt but I was a lot more confident that this was the right way for me. Some people are just broke, lol, at least I know I am.

Not sure about the J-6 but the the T-8 definitely seems like a great way to get into drum machine and sequencing.

(now that I think about it I made one of my most popular track ever with the Volca FM too)

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I think it was a good entry path, the sequencer allowed me to create play with it creatively and I tried to squeeze out all types of sound with it. I even tried to make percussive sounds with it and use it for each track in a song. I think having a filter, envelope, lfo and some other little features is enough to get the ball rolling with synth basics and a sequencer with the motion mode get the the creative juices flowing.

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Great anecdotes! Feels like I’m changing my mind :slight_smile:

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some words of blasphemy.
learning the synthesis is not everyone’s intention.
as for me, presets are super fine. because i do music in my spare time, which is not unlimited, and i can either learn synthesis deeper and fiddle with sound design, or finish more tracks.
guess my choice :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

i know synthesis enough to operate Waldorf Rocket, and i’m fine with that.

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I think maybe you need to clarify what “beginner” actually means;
Producer?
Synthesist?
Musician?
Hobbyist?
…?
For some a volca is perfect, for others, something with real keys and more controls will be better.

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Same story for me. As a synthesist beginner, the two main aspects that drew me to the Volca Beats/Bass/Keys were both the price and the fact that each knob does one thing only, so even if you know nothing about synthesis, you quickly remember what the cutoff filter does to the sound, etc.

The sequencer is also a really good thing, as with a loop you free your hands to sculpt the sound.

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Totally valid! I guess this is the difference between wanting to get into making music, and learning synthesis - they can be related but not neccessarily the same.

Yep same point really - and a good one, there are different kinds of beginners.

I think what we’ve really learnt here is less about small synths and beginners and more that Volcas are pretty dope.

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After watching the demos that T8 has about as much menu diving as any elektron box. I think anybody who wants instant gratification would get bored or annoyed with them. Beginners usually need logical tactile access to instant results. And by beginners I’m thinking children with short attention spans.

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Sounds like me!

Oh…

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:rofl:

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Every “beginers” that I have met started by a crack version of a DAW and high-end VST, then eventually get to hardware or buying stuff.
But I’ve not met a lot.
The only guy I know that owns a PO got it in the aim of having fun in his work-office but doesnt get involve in his musical practice otherwise.

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The most important thing at the beginning is having fun. From there you built. Those new Roland boxes are basic but making music with them seems very easy. I usually recommend the original Novation Circuit to people who are just starting out.

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