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Anti-synth biggots


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Initial post: Nov 3, 2012 12:33:49 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 16, 2014 8:12:40 AM PDT
There seem to be many fans of Rock music who detest the synthesizer. I, personally, have never thought of the synthesizer as anything other than ANOTHER KIND of musical instrument ( it's a keyboard, like an organ, piano or harpsichord ), .. yet have frequently and typically heard many others disdainfully refer to it as "a FAKE instrument" or a "threat to REAL instruments" ( usually meaning a drum or guitar by that ), most particularly during the mid 80's when they were at their peak in popular music. And, of course, in the late 80's & early 90's when acoustic ballads ( by people like Bon Jovi, Tesla, and even Hall and Oats ) and 'MTV Unplugged became popular we heard the sentence "Getting away from all that synthesizer $%!#!!" on allot of tongues. So then, WHAT accounts for the widespread hatred and bashing among rock fans against the synthesizer as a musical instrument?

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 12:52:27 PM PDT
Here are 2 options.
A guitar player told me once that the sounds were fake, made just by pressing a button.
Like punks, some rock fans are all about the basic, primative patterns in music.

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 1:06:24 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 3, 2012 1:18:40 PM PDT
"Switched On Bach" appeared in 1968 and that was the first record to feature a moog synthesizer and it was a very creative way to introduce the instrument to a pop audience. The Byrds, Beatles and The Beach Boys experimented with the moog and Keith Emerson had Robert Moog design one of those monsters (as big as a telephone switchboard) for him and used it as a lead instrument in place of an electric guitar. In 1971 the mini-moog appeared and Peter Townshend used it in on "Who's Next" and Stevie Wonder found some interesting sounds on his and did great things on his recordings from 1972 onwards.

What makes music fans upset is the pre-programmed synths and drum machines that started springing forth in 1979/80 as the New Wave groups replaced the punks and created the cheesy synth sounds that dominated eighties music. Musicians were not happy to be replaced by computers.

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 1:23:25 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 3, 2012 1:24:22 PM PDT
I agree with Philip that it's not synths in general that are despised; analog synths in the 70s were welcomed and very popular with musicians. It's when digital synths came along that the attitude changed...pop in the 80s became overly synthesized, and much of it sounded harsh, cold and digital. A lot of the sounds were pretty cheezy, too, and had no real "weight" to them. The drum machines didn't sound like drums; they sounded like jackhammers being drilled 6 inches away from you. For the musician, it represented a loss of the kind of blood, sweat and tears which made rock so urgent to begin with. For the listener (like myself), the sounds were just too cold and harsh, and yes, cheezy.

Analog synths don't seem to have that same problem--the sounds are warmer and more idiosyncratic, and an analog synth player (Emerson, Wakeman, Hammer, Eno, Wonder etc.) can jam with the rest of a band and still generate real heat in their playing. Almost no-one who complains of synth domination in rock, is speaking of analog synths when they do so.

That being said, I do like some of the earliest synth-pop of the 80s which used digital synths. Gary Numan "Cars", Human League "Don't You Want Me", Peter Gabriel "Shock The Monkey", Flock Of Seagulls "I Ran" and "Nightmares", Duran Duran "Girls On Film" and "Rio"...I think the songs themselves were catchier, and the use of digital synths still sounds fresh and new on them. Also, these songs co-existed with more traditional rock played on real instruments (The Police, Pretenders, U2, etc.). By 1984 it was already starting to be overkill, and almost everyone went synth-happy. The retreat from synthesizers that marked the start of the 90s was welcome just because the domination of synths had been so complete in the mid-late 80s, with the exception of some indie rock. Then when some acts like Stereolab and Radiohead re-discovered analog synths, it was another welcome trend.

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 2:27:01 PM PDT
I think Darryl Dragon really improved rock music.

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 3:28:04 PM PDT
I have several recordings of Turkish folk dances played on the acoustic guitar. I love it, despite the fact that I have to tune out the cheesy synth backing.

Too many performers have used the synth to cover a multitude of musical sins. Trying to disguise the fact that the keyboard lines are simplistic is the main one. Emerson and Wakefield are very talented and proved themselves on piano and organ before they played synthesizer.

Generally speaking, I don't think synthesizers really add much to the music.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 3:53:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 3, 2012 3:55:53 PM PDT
Yet guitar players use all kinds of electronic effects.

Anyone who hates synthesizers should shut up and listen to Klaus Schulze.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 3:57:46 PM PDT
HFTH

All the effects Hendrix used wouldn't have made him 'the' rock guitarist if he wasn't a very good guitar player.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 4:03:11 PM PDT
And a similiar thing can be said about the great synth guys.

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 4:22:30 PM PDT
It's too bad just plain piano and organ playing aren't a big part of rock anymore, there would be more decent synth players.

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 4:33:15 PM PDT
I have nothing against synthesizers. To me they are just another way of making music. If they can be used in place of a horn section, or in place of a string section, it just means that one or two people can make the music that once needed ten, or twelve musicians to make. Any tool in the hands of a workman, or in this case a musician is only as good, or as bad as the workman using it. I will always prefer guitars, bass and drums, but since The Beatles used synths on "Abbey Road", they're okay with me.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 4:53:04 PM PDT
PHILIP, I think you overlooked "autoban .. Autoban!! . .. AUTOBAN!!!!!!!" .

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 5:53:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 3, 2012 5:56:27 PM PDT
Ian ~

In 1974 I played "Autobahn" by Kraftwerk for my nephew who was five years of age when he heard: "Bun, Bun Bun On The Autobahn" it changed him on the spot and by 1980 he was listening to Pink Floyd records such as: Animals & The Wall. He then moved onwards into the depths of Flock Of Seagulls (he already had every release from Kraftwerk) and Depeche Mode and then late 1980's early 1990's he went to raves with Timothy Leary and a rock festival (Lollasomething) with one of the apple guys (I don't remember if he was sitting in that box at Shoreline with Steve Jobs or the other guy) and then he went and got deep into trance and electronic music and he started hanging out with DJ Dan and it really was all my fault as it all started with "Autobahn" (Gateway Drug!) which was the very first piece of totally electronic music that I ever heard and it is still one great piece of music. I cannot image what would have occured if I played him Fripp & Eno's: "No Pussyfooting" as that would have put him over the edge!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 6:35:47 PM PDT
A. Strong says:
You really did mess that kid up!

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 6:57:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 3, 2012 7:00:22 PM PDT
Phil, is that anything like, "We're Fahren, Fahren, Fahren auf der autobahn", by Kraftwerk, or are you referencing a different version of that song? If not, is your point that your nephew 'thought' they were saying bun, rather than fahren, which is flying, in German? I'm not really sure what you are saying, please explicate.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 7:00:14 PM PDT
I think most English speaking listeners thought they were saying "fun" with a German accent.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 7:24:46 PM PDT
You could be right. With my history, I knew it from the beginning, but I know many of my friends didn't figure it out until I told them, or they read it in a magazine, or they heard it somewhere else.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 8:16:58 PM PDT
stevign says:
re: "Getting away from all that synthesizer $%!#!!"

Electronics have always helped Rock & Roll, the electric guitar is a great example. But synthesizers don't play real music, they fake it, and of all the "instruments" it has the capability of producing the worst sounding schlock ever recorded. Depending on the genre and the type of song, it can enhance the overall experience, but when a great deal of the song is synthesizer, it does far more harm than good.

One of the main reasons I disliked Fusion-Jazz is because of the common use of synthesizers. Herbie Hancock on piano, love it, Herbie Hancock on synthesizer, hate it. As an acoustic guitar player I like my music to sound organic, even an electric guitar with electronic devises sounds more organic than a synthesizer. I know that sounds irrational, but there it is.

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 8:18:00 PM PDT
Stratocaster says:
Funny how "auf" means "on" in German.

Posted on Nov 3, 2012 8:24:21 PM PDT
Stratocaster says:
Timothy Schubert says: "Any tool in the hands of a workman, or in this case a musician is only as good, or as bad as the workman using it."

I think you hit the nail on the head right there Timothy!!
Synthesizers, when used sparingly, AND tastefully, can add a great deal of atmosphere and power to music.
Just listen to the way Peter Gabriel uses Synths. Or the way Mike Rutherford used the Moog Taurus Pedals.

But yes, they can definitely be taken too far. And personally I ALWAYS hated drum machines. Aweful!!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 8:38:30 PM PDT
stevign says:
Well, I did. Conclusion; on the positive side, he would do great in Hollywood doing soundtracks. On the negative side; it's boring as hell. And although he's a talented technician, one "really" needs to like New-Age, or whatever you wanna call that genre. I'm sure folks who can enjoy more than one song by Enja would love it. Sorry, it's just not for me.

* By the way, you might like the group "Dead Can Dance".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4aLw20kEc8

or...... Passion: Music for the Last Temptation of Christ by Peter Gabriel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTAaKAVpOOM

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 8:43:13 PM PDT
stevign says:
re: "It's too bad just plain piano and organ playing aren't a big part of rock anymore"

I totally agree. I think it's because many, many bands in the 60s were actually Blues/Rock bands instead of straight up Rock bands, and piano and organ fit right in.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 9:10:58 PM PDT
stevign says:
re: "And personally I ALWAYS hated drum machines. Aweful!!"

I'm with ya on that one. As an ex-drummer (if there is such a thing) I find them to be an abomination. While we're at it, can we add Autotune to our list of grievances against synthetic sounds?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2012 10:35:18 PM PDT
Timothy ~

My nephew and my grandmother can speak German but alas I do not..."Bun, Bun, Bun On The Autobahn" is the way I hear it and I've been told it translates to "We have been driving, driving, driving on the Autobahn" but now you tell me they are flying on the Autobahn so my translator was a bit off as the Kraftwerk guys have airplanes instead of cars....German, is a tough language!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2012 1:16:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 4, 2012 1:23:11 AM PDT
German is a tough language...I've studied it.
(Isn't there one 'g' in bigots, by the way?)
( And no 'e' in awful,......)

Yeah, those 80's synthesizer bands did, for most part, sound awful...Human League and all that... let us anti-synth bigots unite...
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Discussion in:  Music forum
Participants:  35
Total posts:  119
Initial post:  Nov 3, 2012
Latest post:  6 days ago

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