Have you ever noticed just how sophisticated today's electronic musical instruments are compared to those of ten years ago?
I ask that question because I recently visited an old pal of mine whose equipment dates back to prehistoric times. We got talking and ended up (as usual) in his 'studio', where I began fiddling with some of the antiques he had lying around. Boy, what a revelation! I had forgotten just how easy it is to get great sounds out of a MiniMoog, not having programmed one for a considerable time. And it had slipped my mind how flexible an instrument the Roland modular System 100 is...
Having seen the better part of the day disappear as we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, we returned to the lounge and, over coffee, I reminisced about the 'old' gear I started out on. The irony was that my friend still used such instruments on a day-to-day basis and as far as he was concerned it was 'current' gear!
He was no Luddite though; like many readers I suspect, he religiously trundles along to his local music shop to checkout every new piece of gear as soon as it becomes available. The reason he gave me for his continued reliance on what I would term 'old gear' (Korg MS20, Trident, ARP Axxe etc) was simple - he could obtain the sounds he wanted to hear from it, not those that it came with - if indeed it came with any preset sounds!
Every time he had attempted to use modern synths to create his own sounds, he told me, he almost always had to give up from sheer frustration at not being able to programme them. And it was not because they were too complex for him to understand either (he knows his stuff when it comes to any form of synthesis). It was the fact that he simply could not come to terms with the parameter/value method of programming that virtually all modern day synthesizers employ. To only have access to one or two controls at a time seemed an unacceptable proposition to my friend and, having been reminded of how 'friendly' some (not all) of those early synths were that weekend, I have to agree with him.
To continue this point, in this very issue we have three new product reviews in which the writers all question the validity of using a parameter/value editing system and small LCD or LED display on what amounts to a very, very sophisticated piece of equipment. Could the current lack of musical imagination be put down to the fact that today's musical instruments are too sophisticated for most of us to use, I wonder? I think not.
The real problem I believe lies in the equipment being too 'user unfriendly'. The time has come for manufacturers to include the software facility into their products that will allow any device to display its control panel layout (along with 'Help' information) on an easily read computer monitor or TV screen, as Roland have done on their S-50 sampler. We have the technology, let's use it!
Sound On Sound readers who have in the past purchased or recently ordered any type of equipment or supplies from the above company, or who have dealt with a Mr. Derek Tallent in person, please write to the magazine.
We thank you in advance for your co-operation.
Editorial by Ian Gilby
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