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Viewing topic "Menu Diving, Knobs ,Screens and Faders"

Posted on: September 10, 2019 @ 02:10 PM
Total Posts:  259
Joined  12-17-2013
status: Enthusiast

Synthesizers as comprehensive and as sophisticated as the Yamaha Motif have hundreds of parameters.  Parameters mean control.  For every parameter that’s one more aspect of sound that can be controlled.

But there is not room on the control surface of the Motif to have a dedicated knob or fader for every parameter the Motif has.  That would require hundreds of knobs (not to mention impact on cost!)

So all of my Analog Synth buddies are quick to criticize Motif for all of the ‘Menu Diving”.  First that phrase “Menu Diving” is really not reflective of what’s going on with the Motif.  “Menu Diving” is really from another era of synths where the displays were 1 or 2 lines deep.  And it simply doesn’t apply to Motif.  In addition to the knobs and faders on the Motif, it has Screens.  On Motif, its more a case of “screen switching” than “menu diving”.  Motif’s color 5.7 inch display is a long way from the days of 1 or 2 line displays.  IMO The Motif displays are well organized and very effective.

Its a very nice trade off.  While there is not a dedicated knob for every parameter, we have almost every relevant synth parameter!  On the other hand for the “dedicated knobs and faders” ppl, there are only so many dedicated knobs and faders you can put on the synth.  Then you start getting into toggles, multipurpose, and assignable knobs.  So the “dedicated knob and fader” approach has to sacrifice parameters and control for ease of use.

The real challenge on a synthesizer as comprehensive as the Motif is which parameters do you assign directly to the available knobs and faders, what do you make assignable, what do you assign to multipurpose dialers, and buttons.  And how do you organize everything to make the synthesizer as easy to play as practical.  Depending on which features are popular at any given time, how do you make a musical instrument that is inherently complex not complicated to play?  And that my friends is a moving target!

At one point sampling was the thing.  At another point pattern/looping was the thing.  At one point layering was the thing.  At another point real time sound editing was the thing, etc.  And these things cycle back and forth.  One goes out of style and another comes back in style.  Who could have foretold the resurrection of the old school synth look and feel?  What is the poor synth manufacturer to do?

The latest Roland Fantom has made some nice design choices in terms of knobs and control surface, but they had to drop parameters to do it, and therefore the musician ultimately has less control than he/she would have on a Motif.  My analog synth and modular purist buddies, go on and on about their knobs, faders, patches, and buttons versus the “menu diving” on the Motif, but I’m quick to let them know that Motif has far more parameters than they do, and it also has knobs and faders!  I have more control over my music and sound at the end of the day than they do.

Is the Motif easier to play than one of their 14 knob 6 fader synths?  Answer: Nope!  But Motif does far more and gives me far more control.  So the screen switching that I have to do is a welcomed trade off between ease of use and capability.

The next time you see one of these flagship synthesizers that has streamlined and simplified everything , ask yourself what parameters did they leave out, what features did they drop in order to achieve that ease of use and nice and simple control surface.  Find out which features they decided to give to a physical knob, button, or fader, and which features or parameters have been relegated to screen access only?  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  If your flagship synthesizer has hundreds of parameters, its simply not practical to have a dedicated knob, button, or fader for each one.  Choices will have to be made!  Either you drop parameters and features to get a one for one user interface, or something is going to be relegated to screen and universal button access.  And those choices are subjective and relative to the times!

IMO the Motif strikes the right balance between knobs, faders, screens,dialers, buttons and Parameters.  Could it all be organized differently?  Of course it could.  But there’s no one right way to organize it.  And different musical workflows would want different organizations, and different styles of music would want different organizations, and different eras of music would want different organizations, and pop culture trends would demand different organizations, so at some point you pick one and go with it.  Motif’s organization and balance is a good one afaic.

We need to drop the “menu diving” name calling, because for the most part its not applicable to these large screen display flagship synthesizers.  They really require more screen switching than menu diving.

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