Ian Boddy reviews Rob Papen’s Secrets of Subtractive Synthesis tutorial package

Ian Boddy StudioWhen it comes to synthesis and sound design, one person that immediately comes to mind is Ian Boddy. Having been at the forefront of the UK electronic music scene since 1983 – the electronic musician has also established a strong reputation as a sound designer having produced several sample libraries for Zero-G (Odyssey, Outer Limits, Ambiosis, Morphology, to name a few). More recently, Ian launched his own sample label ‘Waveforms‘ with titles including Beatalogue, Radiophonica and the latest Analogue Workshop 1.

When Rob Papen recently released his book/DVD package The Secrets of Subtractive Synthesis we wanted to get the opinion of another synthesis pro and, as I said above, one of the first people that came to mind was Ian Boddy. The man himself kindly agreed to take a look, and this morning, the following review landed in my inbox…

Rob Papen Secrets of Subtractive Synthesis“I first got my hands on an analogue synth in 1978. It was a VCS3 and I remember it took me half an hour just to figure out how to turn it on. In those pre-MIDI days, there was virtually no way to learn how to program such instruments, other than dive in and get your hands dirty. Then a few years later, (1983), I bought my first modular synth, a Roland System-100M. This came with an excellent four volume set of booklets that was certainly very helpful in my early analogue explorations. I was hooked and haven’t stopped composing & programming since those early days.

Rob Papen tutorial DVD


Fast forward over 30 years and the world of synthesisers and electronic music has changed beyond all recognition. The abundance of soft synths, computer horse-power, college courses & musicians interested in electronic music seem to have escalated beyond what I could ever have imagined in my youth. It all seems a bit overwhelming at times but at the core of using a synthesiser should be the act of programming your own sounds.

To personalise the sonic palette of your chosen instrument, for me, should always be at the top of your list of audio priorities. However with gargantuan libraries of samples & patches provided by many of todays instruments, I seriously wonder how many folk are actually prepared to put in the extra effort to truly get their own personal sound? Perhaps with the bewildering variety of soft synths this seems like an impossible task. Where do you start?

Over shoulder view of reading bookWell, purchasing Rob Papen’s “The 4 Element Synth” book & DVD package could just be the answer to that last question. The man behind such wonderful soft-synths as Predator and Punch has taken his vast experience and teaching skills and turned them into an incredible resource. Based on the fundamental functionality behind the classic analogue synths, he has distilled his ideas of how to explain these principles of subtractive synthesis into the concept of the “4 Element Synth”. This splits the synth into the 4 components of Oscillators, Filters, Amplifiers and Modulators. By examining each in turn, but always looking at how they interact, he has produced a masterclass in synth training.

Rob Papen tutorial videoThe whole package comes in a beautifully produced book. Superbly bound and elegantly printed, it has the real feel of a quality coffee table book. It even has such nice details as a silk bookmark and pull out 4 Element Synth chart. The package is completed with 4 DVDs stuffed to the brim with material to watch in conjunction with the contents of the book. Rob’s style is careful and unhurried. It’s very easy to watch and his detailed descriptions really open up the whole world of subtractive synthesis. He references many classic synths such as the Minimoog, Jupiter 8 & Korg MS20, as well as modern soft synths such as his excellent Predator. If you stick with this and work your way through it should help enormously in creating your own patches.

Ian Boddy with The Secrets of Subtractive SynthesisI’ve got to applaud Rob for his achievement for producing the 4 Element synth package. It really is a labour of love and I’d whole heartedly recommend it for anyone either starting out with synth programming, or who want to increase their programming skills.”

Thanks Ian, for taking the time to write this review. If you’d like to know more about Ian’s work why not visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

Click here to find out more about The Secrets of Subtractive Synthesis

Ian Boddy Waveforms sample libraries

Posted by Melanie Doidge

Having worked in marketing for over fifteen years with experience in various industries, Time+Space and the world of music production continues to be the most exciting of them all. With our brands consistently pushing the boundaries of technology with their products, the terrific DJs, Composers and Producers using them and the feedback from magazines and our customers, there's always plenty to tell the world about. Musical experience? I reached Grade 6 in piano back in my school days and am currently in the throes of trying to resurrect my abilities!

Website: http://www.timespace.com

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