(continued from Part 2)
I’d found my way through a variety of synthesizers along my journey by now. I’d experienced a number of different flavors of synth: a basic subtractive analog synth, a bare-bones FM synth, the first ROMpler, and a sampling workstation were all in my possession at some point along the way before the music of my hobby had been replaced by the music of our first son’s baby giggles and gurgles. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s and working in the keyboard department of a music store for the first time that I became a synthesizer owner again.
The extensive selection of keyboards at work rekindled my enthusiasm for synths. For a while, I was able to appease myself by playing the keyboards in my department – it was the day of the Roland JP-8000, Korg Z1, Yamaha AN1x – the pendulum had swung back from DX7 mania, and new simulations of vintage analog sounds were fueling raves and an awesome re-emergence of electronic music. There was renewed interest in used instruments bearing the iconic brands of the golden years of analog synths, and they were fetching spectacular prices thanks to the young, growing phenomenon of internet auctions. Fun times!
The pendulum hadn’t completely swung back though – many of synthesizer’s visionaries weren’t building instruments at all. And Bob Moog, the man behind the company that first turned popular culture on to synths, wasn’t even able to build gear under his own name at the time. Even with the resurgence of analog-sounding keyboards, no mainstream keyboard company was manufacturing an analog synth again (not yet).
I wanted an instrument of my own again, but I knew I was only going to be able to justify one main synth while we were still paying daycare bills and being responsible parents. I researched diligently to try and make a choice that would cover the bases most fully … and I failed miserably when I bought an E-MU E-Synth, which promised a plethora of sounds and a phenomenal sequencer. Wow, maybe like a supersized EPS? I’m sure it was all of those things, but the spec sheet and my brain had conspired to talk me into it, and while I’m sure it was a really great keyboard, I didn’t love turning it on and playing it (might have had something to with loading sounds from a SyJet drive?). The E-Synth just didn’t resonate with me (no pun intended – the synth geeks reading this will get that I think). Eventually, cutting my perceived losses, I sold it.
Later, inevitably, I made another attempt. Surely after having spent the last several years selling keyboards, I could make the perfect choice for myself. Again, I researched and pored over feature bullets and specifications. I played different keyboards and compared the piano sounds, the organ sounds, and I made sure there was a respectable amount of electronic goodness there too. After all, I needed this to be a great all-around keyboard – the budget didn’t cover any other scenario. This time my choice was the Yamaha Motif 7. Honestly, this one landed closer to my heart than the E-Synth, but still nowhere close enough to connect with me musically and emotionally. Eventually it was sold too.
My boss at my current job is fond of the saying “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.” I knew I had to re-think my methodology. I thought back to a conversation that had come up repeatedly with the recording department manager back at the music store where I first worked – his philosophy was that something designed to do one thing really well will always do it better than something designed to do a lot of different things. It was time for me to start from square one, and start listening to my heart – not just my head.
(to be continued in Part 4)