Music Production - From monophonic synthesizers to physical modeling instruments


Music production significantly evolved across the past decades. Many dreams of both, musicians and producers became true in the meantime. This blog is about how the technological revolutions affected my style of working across my life time as musician and producer and how I'm producing nowadays.


The early days ...

In the early days of electronic music, monophonic synthesizers paved the way for sonic innovation. Emerging in the mid-20th century, these single-voice instruments produced one note at a time, becoming the backbone of groundbreaking compositions. From the Moog synthesizer's debut in the 1960s to the evolution of analog and digital technologies, monophonic synthesizers shaped the sonic landscape, influencing genres from ambient to techno. As technology advanced, polyphonic capabilities emerged, allowing for richer, more complex musical expressions. Yet, the simplicity and purity of monophonic synthesis remain integral to the rich tapestry of electronic sound.


When I started making electronic music in the 80th, everything was still analog and huge racks of synthesizer keyboards and stacks of expanders as well as other gear like analog mixers and effect racks were needed.



Over the past 30 years, synthesizers have undergone a transformative journey, riding the waves of technological advancement. From the digital revolution of the 1990s to the resurgence of analog warmth in the 2010s, these instruments have evolved to offer unparalleled sonic possibilities. Innovations like virtual analog, wavetable synthesis, and modular systems have expanded the creative horizon for musicians and producers. Today's synthesizers seamlessly blend vintage charm with cutting-edge capabilities, empowering artists to craft a diverse array of sounds that define contemporary music across genres.




Nowadays, capabilities of computers, synthesizer workstations as well as their onboard memory were significantly enhanced. The newest generation of the synthesizers, like my Roland Fantom workstation, offer plenty of memory to upload samples and contain multiple engines to form sounds.


The amazing thing is that most of my early days synthesizer keyboards now became available as physical models residing inside the Fantom workstation: Jupiter 8, SH-101, Juno-106, JX8P, JD-800 - all these famous and ground-bracking synths of the analog times are living inside the Fantom and sound as great as their real counterparts.




Moreover, more recent synths like Aira, the virtual Piano (V-Piano) and E-Piano and a complete drawbar organ with rotor speaker cabinets are available now in one single and portable machine. When I recall back to my school days, where I owned a Fender Rhodes 73-key E-Piano weighing more than 70 kg and a Wersi drawbar organ that was non-transportable at all, one can imagine what an amazing milestone this revolution really is all about!


Physical models of real instruments, however, are not just limited to highly specialized workstations these days. Numerous vendors are offering plugins for DAWs that enable audio modeling on laptops thanks to the enormous power increase of PCs/MACs in recent years.


Physical models of a broad range of basses is offered by IK Multimedia, which is currently providing the bread-and-butter sounds of many of my productions.


These authentic basses are accompanied by physical models of woodwind instruments like soprano, alto, tenor and bariton saxophones provided by Audio Modeling. These models are sounding tramendously real, that even the saxophonist of my cover band could not believe that I played it all on the keyboard. Authentic expression capabilities are the key besides the awesome sound engine.


The enormous power of my Apple Silicon M1 Macbook Pro is evident when checking the CPU usage during a project where multiple instances of physical model plugins are used. Rarely, a low-end double digit CPU usage is seen. Hence, there is so much remaining power available that this is no longer limiting creativity and increased use of high-end audio modeling anymore.





Thanks to the immense digital revolution, the times when computer power and memory were the limiting factors seem to be over. Nowadays, integration of many different synths into a single workstation has become a reality. Moreover, modern physical models are more and more being implemented in both, workstations and DAWs / plugins further enhancing the sound and quality of productions.



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