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Newbie Software Synth Advice

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  • Newbie Software Synth Advice


    I've been playing worship keyboard for many years, currently using a Yamaha stage piano and a Roland JP-8000 synth.
    the JP-8000 is great for 80's dance music, but struggles with sounds more suited to worship, so I've been thinking about a new synth.

    However, I've noted that many are using a laptop and virtual synth to produce some pretty impressive sounds. I mostly use pads / organs / strings etc, sometimes with some loops or arpeginator type effects.

    I've got a nice laptop that should be beefy enough for the job.

    So... My question is: Is it a good idea to go the software synth route, and what would people recommend if so?

  • #2
    Well, I won't go into specifics because I just don't have the experience with particular software models. However, there are a few things to consider.

    How handy are you with a computer? You won't like having a laptop sitting there waiting for you to mess with it if it intimidates you. It can be a super powerful tool in the right hands.

    Are you dead certain of your laptop's reliability? A dedicated synth keyboard is just that...dedicated. A computer has to do all sorts of other things even at idle, while playing your synth models. There will be inherent problems unless the computer is super clean and well maintained. Put another way, I would not rely on a laptop to provide software models for my guitar.

    Is it going to add to what you do? Of course...the perfect question. Synths are super fun to play with, but having a good idea of what kinds of sounds you are after and how you want to implement them will go a long way to making sure you aren't just fiddling during a service, but really serving the song. That being said, whatever your choice, you should take as much time as you can to familiarize yourself with your new gear. I've had my POD HD since October, and I am still spending 3 or 4 hours at a time learning new things about it.

    All of this to ask you...how comfy are YOU with the idea of a laptop, and are you sure it will get the job done? People are doing it, so obviously it works.

    Oh, and welcome to the forums


    • #3
      Maybe "both" is the answer

      I have played hardware-only synths for 10+ years, and just started with soft-synths on a Macbook Pro in the last couple of months. I'd recommend you pick up a used Roland XV-5050, or even an XV-2020 to update your sounds, and then take your time getting familiar with software synths and work them into your playing gradually.

      As hitchface said, there's a lot more to worry about (and go wrong) with soft synths. I know it sounds like a sweet idea, and it is, but you want to take your time adding it to your rig. The XV-5050, or (Yamaha motif rack, or whatever) will pop right in, update your sounds, and you can play with confidence and not worry about anything going off into the weeds.



      • #4
        Are you on a PC or Mac? Logic's "MainStage" is a great live app with great sounds.

        I've been a Yamaha guy for YEARS and YEARS, but I'm really intrigued by the new Korg Kronos that I'm seeing as well!
        Fred McKinnon, Pianist/Composer/Worship Leader
        blog: www.fredmckinnon.com

        Please check out my piano/instrumental music at:


        • #5
          Macbook Pro with MainStage

          I'm working with MainStage on a Macbook Pro that's a little over 2 years old. I'm running through a MOTU UltraLite Audio Interface over Firewire


          • #6

            Just wanted to say thanks for all the posts.
            I've decided on a couple of things.

            It's time for the JP-8000 to go to a new home. I've now got an XV-5050 module and with the spare cash from the sale have got a 4U rack with a mixer in it. This means that I can put my PC (Windows currently) laptop on top and mix it in whilst I'm playing about.

            Perhaps when it's time for a laptop upgrade in a few years, I'll consider a MacBook, as there seems to be some good software out there. In the meantime I'll look at some PC software.

            I'll continue to experiment, and perhaps I'll come back when I get stuck.

            Thanks again for the advice.


            • #7
              Thanks for the update. Good call on the 4U rack and mixer. I have a simliar set up using a Gator case and Behringer 16 channel 1U mixer.

              I don't have these exactly memorized, but in program bank E on the 5050 you should find some very usable pads: Classic JPad (47) Morph (43), Orbit Pad, and Air Pad. There is a Dark Vox in there somewhere also.



              • #8
                I would not recommend software base synths. I used to play in the band so I can say Im experienced regarding this. I have been using for a while now my Korg Triton as my main synth but I also use my Yamaha Motif es for my truly acoustic sounds. if you want acoustic, go with the motif but in general i would go with the triton or Korg M3 which is my new addition to my gears...I still use my Korg 01/Rw for some vocal sounds that I incorporate with vocals.