June 5

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Syntorial Review: The Best Synthesizer-Teaching Software for Beginners?

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As a sound designer/producer, the ability to build a sound all on your own often results in a unique and unexpected outcome.

However, this process usually takes time and most importantly, knowledge about synthesis and synthesizer sound design. Previously, if you wanted to learn about synth programming, you had to rely on a book, and while it is still a viable option, it is much more difficult to absorb the ranges of variation without immediate feedback.

Fortunately, you can rely on software for the much-needed aspects lacking in written form, but you still have to make a decision on which one to use depending on your skill. Syntorial is an interactive teaching software that promises to help you understand and hear synthesis from scratch.

I did some research on what Syntorial was all about, and here is a detailed review of what I found out.

👉 Click here to Learn More about Syntorial and Try it for FREE!

 

learn-synthesis-with-syntorial

What is Syntorial?

Syntorial is a step-by-step tutorial that focuses on synthesizer sound design. It is a product by a company known as Audible Genius, which is headed by Joe Hanley, who is a musician, programmer, and teacher. He came up with the software due to the frustrations he experienced learning synthesis. He learned how to code and consequently came up with a prototype video game style program that he intended to use to teach synthesis.

After receiving funding from Kickstarter, Joe was able to finish and release Syntorial for OS X and Microsoft Windows in 2013, and a version for the iPad in 2015.

Syntorial comes with almost 200 lessons in the form of a variety of video demonstrations and interactive challenges. Through these lessons offered, you will gain experience programming patches on a soft synth that is built-in as well as skills you need to make your own unique sounds with ease.

If you are a beginner, you will get to learn the basics of synth programming, while more experienced and advanced learners can also gain useful tips on sound design to help them refine their skills.

For Syntorial to function on your PC or Mac, you will need a sound card for it to function effectively. A MIDI keyboard is recommended for Mac/PC, but it is not required. In order to gain the most benefits from using this software, you will need at least one capable subtractive synth. This could either be an actual instrument with switches, knobs, sliders and a keyboard or a simple software synth.

My story with Syntorial

It took me a couple of weeks to fully complete the Syntorial tutorial. Although the lessons start off quite easy, they got gradually harder and I quickly realized that I would have to take everything at a more measured pace.

One of the lessons that I found to be more challenging was one that involved combining several waveforms to come up with a specific sound. This was especially difficult in the beginning, but as I gained more experience, I found that I was able to identify waveforms and oscillator pitch relationships with more ease and confidence.

I discovered that subsequent lessons incorporated what I had learned from previous teachings, and as I progressed through the tutorials, I found that utilizing the knowledge I had acquired earlier was the way to go.

syntorial options

Key features

Lessons

129 challenges

As you navigate Syntorial, you will encounter 129 challenges throughout the main course. These challenges come in the form of various lessons, and you will typically find them after the demonstration videos. The challenges will benefit learners at various levels, including beginners and advanced learners.

The concepts are initially simple and quite easy to follow, but as you progress, they increase in difficulty.

147 videos

There are 147 video demonstrations in total. Make sure you pay attention to these videos since they use the same synth that you will be required to use in the challenges

706 patches

You will learn how to program multiple patches, some of which you may be familiar with and others not so much. You will also encounter simple, straightforward patches as well as more complex ones.

64 synth parameters

Syntorial comes with the parameters that you will find on most synths. They include:

  • Subtractive synthesis
  • FM knob
  • Waveforms (saw, pulse, triangle, and sine)
  • Three oscillators
  • Noise oscillator
  • Oscillator sync
  • AD modulation envelope
  • Portamento
  • Ring modulation
  • Includes both mono and poly voice modes
  • ADSR amp envelope
  • Pitch wheel, mod wheel, and velocity controls
  • ADSR filter envelope
  • LFO which includes seven destinations, four waveforms, rate, trigger, rate, amount, and mono/poly modes
  • Filter (including low, band, and high pass) that comes with key tracking and resonance
  • A range of effects (chorus, distortion, delay, reverb, and phaser)
  • Unison with three controls (voice, detune, and spread)

syntorial UI

33 on your own

You will be assigned periodic tasks that you are expected to do on your own with whatever synth(s) you choose to utilize.

39 quizzes

When you come to the end of each level, you will encounter a multiple-choice quiz to refresh your memory on what you just learned. You will be required to complete each quiz before you proceed.

What to expect from Syntorial

Some of the things you can expect from Syntorial include:

Ear training

Syntorial provides you with ear training as part of its teaching. In order to benefit from using Syntorial, you need to understand what sound your synthesizer will produce, which means you will learn what to listen for in order to hone this skill.

Free tools

Syntorial comes with a high-quality software synthesizer, which is known as Primer, that presents a simple interface and layout which you can use to your advantage. Additionally, there is also the educational software which you can use for practice.

Develop and improve your skills

The structure of the Syntorial software is clear and precise, which means you can utilize what you learn from it and apply the training on any other synthesizer you come across.

Interactive learning

In addition to learning the ins and outs of synth programming, you will also get to test your newly gained knowledge through the various challenges and quizzes that start out simple and get more complex as you progress.

Step-by-step learning

Through the learning tools provided by Syntorial, you will get to know how the various control effects sound, along with why, when, and how to utilize them in sound design.

syntorial welcome

Lesson packs

In addition to the training, you will also get extras which are called Lesson Packs which cover Sylenth1, Massive, Minimoog Voyager, and Cakewalk Z3TA+2. Each of these lesson packs contains 30+ videos.

How does it work?

Syntorial is synthesizer training software that will teach you how to program synths and design sound. Consequently, you won’t have to rely on presets, and you will be able to program the sounds you hear, in addition to knowing when, why, and how to use over 60 common synthesizer parameters.

Syntorial consists of almost 200 lessons. Each lesson starts with a video that teaches you about one specific control or a group of controls. The video is then followed by a challenge, which is a hidden patch that you can play and hear but you can’t see how it is programmed. You are required to switch over to your patch, which you can see, and program it to sound like the hidden one, and since you can’t see the hidden patch, you have to do this completely by ear, much like you would in real life.

The layout of the sound matching challenges is easy to navigate: you will find a screen with Hidden Patch and My Patch buttons. To get started, you will hit the play button so that Syntorial starts playing your synth for you. You can, of course, play it with a MIDI keyboard or computer keyboard if you’d like. When you feel like you have the perfect patch, you can click “submit” for your results. In case you submit a patch that is not perfect, all the controls that you set correctly will turn green, and all the incorrect ones will turn red.

You can hit the play button and fix them by simply changing each control until it turns green. This way, you can truly hear the difference between your patch and the hidden patch, consequently learning from your mistakes. Your overall level of success in a challenge will be indicated with a three-star rating as well as a sound-effect of enthusiastic cheers, a two-star rating and not-so-enthusiastic cheering if you haven’t done too well, and so on. When you are ready, you can move on to the next patch.

Each challenge contains about six patches so that altogether, by the time you reach the end of Syntorial and finish all the challenges, you will have programmed over 700 patches completely by ear. This may seem kind of difficult, but keep this in mind: the very first challenge starts with just one control, and as you move on from one lesson to the next, Syntorial gradually introduces new controls to help prevent the learning process from becoming overwhelming. If you are unable to complete the challenges successfully, there is a hint button you can use to show you all the settings that need better values. The main goal of the developers of the Syntorial software is for your training to be enjoyable from start to finish.

Along with these challenges, Syntorial includes videos that will help you apply your newfound skills to whatever synths you use in real life and quizzes to help you retain all your new technical knowledge as well. The multiple choices you will encounter in the quizzes not only make them challenging but also introduce similar concepts as well as ensure that you are keen on what you are learning. With the 33 “on your own” exercises, you will be required to work with your own synths and to find features that are similar to what you learned in the previous tutorial, and then apply them effectively.

syntorial UI 2

In addition to the training, there are Lesson Packs as well, which you can use as you learn the basics of Syntorial or return to later after you have completed the initial training and exclusively focus on them. These add-ons are free as long as you are a registered user. They include:

Minimoog Voyager

Explore all the ins and outs of the Minimoog Voyager, an analog hardware synth that is a classic. Ensure that you transfer what you gained from Syntorial as well for truly effective learning. The Voyager adds 34 videos, which come to a total of 2 hours and 22 minutes.

Cakewalk Z3ta+ 2

There is so much that the Cakewalk Z3TA+ 2 has to offer, including endless sonic manipulations which you can use to build your skills even further. There are 37 videos included, totaling 3 hours and 17 minutes.

Sylenth1

This soft synth has a deep analog sound and is still a very popular option. It includes 38 videos, which come to a total of 2 hours and 47 minutes.

Massive

This versatile and powerful soft synth has a wide selection of wavetables and modulation options, which means you have a variety of sound at hand. It includes 41 videos, which come to a total of 4 hours and 44 minutes.

Serum

This is a game-changing wavetable synth that includes impressive features such as detailed wavetable editing capabilities and visual feedback that is uncannily intuitive. Serum is easy to learn as well as powerful to use. This lesson pack includes 55 videos, which are 9 hours and 22 minutes long in total. You can apply the skills you gain from using Syntorial in Serum, as well as gain knowledge from all the features included in Serum.

To use Syntorial, you can go to their webpage and click the “try for free” link. Here you can download the demo, which includes the first 22 lessons to gauge how it works before purchasing it for $129.99.

Price and plans

You can try Syntorial for free to get a taste of what it is all about. The free package includes the first 22 lessons, as well as the extra Lesson Pack samples and a fully featured synth from Syntorial.

For $129.99, you will get:

  • All the lessons, including the challenges, videos, and patches that cover the most well-known synthesis parameters.
  • The additional Lesson Packs
  • The plugin version of Syntorial’s synth, which is known as Primer.
  • Access to all these features on the iPad, Mac, and PC.

Pros

  • The lessons in Syntorial are clear and concise, emphasizing on the recognition of audio samples through ear training.
  • There are numerous helpful videos that are easy to follow.
  • The material taught is progressive and versatile. You will start with the simplest lessons and build up to the more complex ones.
  • The interactive learning method that Syntorial uses effectively challenges and helps you develop your skills.
  • The quizzes provide audio examples which are useful in correcting you in case you get something wrong.
  • You can use Primer, Syntorial’s synth, as a plug-in or standalone instrument.

Cons

  • A little bit expensive, but it is worth your money.
  • The number of polyphonic voices on the Primer synth is limited since there are only six available.

syntorial_website

Verdict

Syntorial is efficient and thorough in the way it teaches synth programming, and there is definitely a lot to be gained from this software.

Furthermore, you won’t have to worry about being weighed by too much information at once since the lessons are delivered in sections ranging from the most basic parameters to the most complex ones.

I also liked the interactive learning aspect of the software where you get to taste your skills through challenges, quizzes and “on your own” assignments. If you want to learn synthesis in a direct and easy-to-follow manner, then Syntorial is the way to go.

👉 Click here to Learn More about Syntorial and Try it for FREE!

 

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