How do you record Synths?

Hey Guys,

I have decided this year to stop buying more equipment thinking the more I buy the better sound I will get and focus on the real reason why I am not happy with any of my recording… Me :smiley: , my lack of understanding of Recording and Mixing to be precise.

I dont really understand Dynamic, I have read many books and although I know what the knobs do I dont how to hear what they do or know when to use them, on what tracks or what setting to make.

I play Keyboard / Synths / VSTi and am wondering how do people record the sounds, baring in mind they are usually ful of processed effects by default.

Myself I typically take the output from the Keyboard or Module directly into the input of my Steinberg Mr816x and record what I hear. The problem is, when I use certain combination sounds that all contain Reverbs, Delays etc etc and after a couple of tracks or so the sound quickly becomes one big audio soup… I can never seem to get track separation.

Am I doing this correct or should I be disabling the preset effect, record the sound clean and then add effects later? I know this will make the preset sound pants :slight_smile:

I would appreciate any tips

Hey steve

You Record the live preset sound in all its glory with all its EQ,Effects settings?

Hmm gives me something to think about :slight_smile:

Thanks for the reply

I would dry out the effects and add them in later. This would apply to almost everything I record, except perhaps guitar distortion… stay away from delay and reverbs on the way in… even modulation effects can get swampy if printed to disc before the mix.

You could certainly use MIDI to track your parts, and leave the fx there for your emotional reference whilst composing, but when you actually dump them into the DAW, then send them dry, and work at recreating those FX to some extent in your mix.

Hi THere !

That is an interesting subject.

All keyboard players I have worked with always wanted to record their parts wet i.e. with all preset effects included. What you stated in your opening post is interesting. Indeed, if you are making a song which has loads of different overlapping synths everyone having completely different spaces, delays, echos, reverbs…it might end up like a big mess.

On the other hand, I do not recall a situation where there was more than two synth parts at the same time so I never quite got that problem…

And as you know, if you tweak the sound it might not sound good in isolation after that. Maybe it would be worth trying to record everything a tad drier and then use a common space for all. Depends on the genre as well. I would’t know anything about modern dance scene…in early days we recorded all keyboards through 100W tube leslie with two SM57’s - no room mics. :slight_smile:

So, sorry - cannot help you. But the thread is interesting. Keep on rocking !


I agree with Braunie and with Robin above him.

Just notice what you like about the sound with its effects and remember that.
Now remove the effects and record it.

And you’ve got the ingredients without the soup.
Yes, you have the salad without the dressing.

Mushrooms fried to gunk can be great by themselves and yuo know they’re mushrooms, but if they are to be mixed with stuff yet still retain their identity, you gotta cook them a bit less so they retain their shape and texture

Dynamics: They’re listed as one of the Cubase effects sections. When you’ve got into recording the original sounds without effects, you can begin to target your ears more precisely to calibrate to what happens as you add and subtract individual effects. At first, go ahead and OVERDO the knob tweaking so the result will be over the top and in your face. Clock and remember these exaggerated results and what you did that got them.
Learn to identify them when they are still exaggerated but slightly less so.
You are now on the road to making sense of distinctions in what you hear.

How they fit together when working musically raises a different set of questions, which become easier to ask and answer once you have done the above.

And Yaaaaaaaaay, you got the gear, and now you’re hunting the knowledge.
Respect and best wishes

Hmmm… that reminds me about a lesson I learned 20 or so years ago - slightly OT but I’d like to share it…

We had a small “festival” at our local club - I was doing the sound. One of the biggest stars playing was Lazy Lester - Harp player from deep south…now having a show in cold north…

anyway, had everything micked up, plenty of kilowatts for monitoring, much more for public audio. Guys came up before their turn (they never wanted to make a soundcheck btw). “Why you have all these microphones on stage ?”. “Sire, they are there for me to be able to control the sound and mix everything together”. “Your sound or our sound ?”. “Sire I do not quite follow you now. Those mics are for public address and they are coming to this mixing console and then I can mix the whole show”. “Son, can you mute all microphones for the instruments including drums - just leave two vocal mics alive - but make sure there’s no effects used on those either”. “Well, of course I can. But why would you wanted me to do so?”. “Son, wait and see…and can you turn those monitors off as well ?”.

So, customer is always right. Muted all the channels apart from two vox mics and turned compressors and effects off.

They started. After first 20 seconds they have been playing I understood. It was their sound. Live sound. And it was better than I could ever make by using all the fancy stuff. And that was the best sounding gig I’ve ever mixed. With only two vocal channels open. Didn’t need to ride either of the channels during the show.

They were using preset. Lazy Lester blues preset. Presets can work.



One more of these stories and you will kill the whole electronic intrumental industry incl. the Steinbergs :laughing:

But you’re right for a limited room, it works. If you try this in a bigger room, it wouldn’t work of sure.

Presets? Why not. So many people tried already to find the right touch of music. But as soon as it comes to commercial use, there are a lot of rules to be followed.

For me and my non-commercial recordings you are absolutely right: I use my presets :exclamation:


…the problem was that it was a venue holding up to 750 people…not a corner at locals…

but you are right :slight_smile: Presets work.



That’s the best way IMO, once recorded you can’t undo the effects…

If you have a synth with a really rotten FX processor then record the synth dry but most of the time the sound is what it is because of even cheesy FX

If you have a MIDI track that works then just record the signal like it comes out of the synth, FX and all.
If you later figure out that sound doesn’t work for whatever reason rerecord it dry, and add FX later.

The reason you find the sound appealing in the first place was because of all of the ingredients just happened to do something that made sense to you, oftentimes just a gut reaction and you just know it’s right. Why not hear if it carries all the way through the mix.

Yeah, a dedicated $$$ reverb sounds “better” but better is not always what you want. You want something organic, raw and beautiful or frozen, mechanical and beautiful. If you find it at the source, why bother trying to replicate it with your $$$ reverb when all you’ll get is a lame ass copy.

on the other hand if you just filled up the space with some make do sound until later, you might as well change the sound altogether and start from scratch searching for a new one.

Guide lines … not rules! ; )

Generally I will loose the reverbs. Synth preset programmers love their reverb and often you’ll find patches drenched in the stuff. So that when you are auditioning them they sound huge and impressive. Loose that and then add back in the arrangement.

I will take delays on a cases-by-case basis, sometimes they are essential to the sound.

Chorus and the like mostly I keep, as they are kinda integral to the sound more often than not, but be careful of huge wide stereo key sounds because you can end up with a big wall of stereo, and no focus to the mix. Some sounds are obviously 'really stereo, with different elements of the sound appearing in different parts of the soundstage, others are just wide with stereo chorus, and again this can cause muddiness.

Don’t be afraid of the sounds being ‘small’ in isolation, they will more often than not gel better with the mix, and you can of course use plug-ins to replicate the programmed effects (often with better quality than the FX in the keyboard)

It’s not uncommon for me to use a lot of synths - I have 9 in the current project (mixture of hardware synths and plug-ins) in addition to Hammond, Rhodes and Grand Piano. But then I secretly like the idea of a sparkly cape :wink:

Yes, I see.

Thanks guys some interesting views indeed.

So I did some test recordings last night and they were better as far as volume but still I need to understand placement.

Even though I pan certains sounds around it always sounds like everything is separate instead of sounding tight and fluid, its also so noticable when I drop an instrument out of the mix.

I put a few compressors in the mix but didnt make much difference, yes it made the sound louder but it didnt appear to my ears to make the track sit beter in the mix.

People talk about frequencies but again I dont know how to find out what frequencies a track is attenuating on??

I know I have so much to learn, I buy all the latest equipment but have never had one mix that I have ever liked.

It seems to sound ok one day and then next it sounds pants and if I play it in the car its even worse.

I am considering maybe night classes if they exist at the SAE even though its mega expensive. I have also thought about hiring someone to teach me. It would be so much easier teaching me to my own music in my own studio than anything else.

I have a couple of older tunes here

Ive certainly got the processing power

Intel i9 6 core
24GB Ram
Windows 7 64bit Enterprise

I barely see the CPU above 2% but in saying that I havent loaded it up with lots of effects etc etc.

Im going to do some more tests this weekend, with dry only sounds and then effect them from Cubase


One more suggestion which I left out of my previous post, you could record the parts both dry and again with all the FX into separate tracks and play with the balance thereafter in the mix. This could preserve to some extent the essence of your synth’s patch sound.

Personally, I’d just record dry however. Use delays and reverbs sparingly, they are good for that depth dimension if used carefully.

I used to drown everything in cheese… but I learned! :wink:


Dang, cant get it all out in one post!

As Zenda (Glyn) mentioned, you can crank the knob, then crank it back again… mixing is really a subtractive process in many ways, like the free space vanishing in an elevator as more people get on…

One more suggestion which I left out of my previous post, you could record the parts both dry and again with all the FX into separate tracks and play with the balance thereafter in the mix. This could preserve to some extent the essence of your synth’s patch sound.

Thats a really good idea, I can the hear the difference in the tracks as well as the placement.

Thanks for that

If it sounds good to you, then you’re done!

Yer welcome!