Hello I play guitar but I'm looking to buy a synth to create music like new order, crystal castles, pet shop boys, hot chip. Even stuff from the stranger things soundtrack. Was thinking of getting microkorg but not sure what all I need. Thanks for any input. Don't have crazy amounts of money either lol
It depends. Probably better off with a MIDI keyboard and some free soft synth in whatever DAW you use. It's more cost effective and you can try out all kinds of sounds.

But if you have experience playing keyboard and are planning on playing live, then get a hard synth since that means you don't have to bring a computer and there are less components that can fail on you. Plus hard synths are a lot more intuitive in that the controls are designed for that synth and everything is labeled as opposed to a MIDI setup where it's more of a "one-size-fits-all" solution.

I personally would not recommend the microkorg because, while the sounds aren't terrible, the keys are tiny and feel awful. Not fun to play at all.

Other questions though. Are you looking specifically for an actual synth with fully tweakable parameters or just basic sounds that any portable keyboard can provide? If you go the MIDI + soft synth route, this is not an issue but for a hard keyboard setup, the thing to consider is that many "synths" only provide synth sound and no pianos, etc although a good polysynth can create functional and very usable albeit clearly synthetic string, organ, clav, etc sounds.

I'm guessing that you want a polysynth. If not, there are some very affordable analog monosynths, but you probably want the option for chords and dyads and other such things.

What exactly is your budget? "Crazy amounts of money" is not really specific. For a parent buying their kid a first instrument, $200 might seem like a crazy amount whereas for an experienced and serious musician, not spending a "crazy amount" means not spending $10,000 and they would rather keep it in the low fours.

Also where do you live and would you be willing to consider used? A lot of famous musicians, even to this day, have used fairly inexpensive 80s and 90s synths and many of them can be had for a reasonable price secondhand. A lot of these may sound cheesy and not super good quality, but those sounds were typical of many 80s new wave bands and many of the bands you mentioned take influence from the cheesy 80s synth bands so that sound might be preferable.
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Last edited by theogonia777 at Jun 21, 2017,
I agree with Kristen. Start with a simple midi controller keyboard and some software. There is a lot of very good synth software out there for hundreds less than a stand alone synth. I have several synth keyboards that are in my basement home studio collecting dust. I do most of my work on a fairly inexpensive Keystation midi controller. My very expensive 1980's Korg Poly Synth and mid 90's Roland JV keys haven't seen action in years.

Here is a pic of my classic Korg PolySix sitting in my basement.

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Mainly I just wanted something to play out live and mess with different beats(I guess I would need like a drum machine). My price range is like $300-$500 right now. I don't really care about the cello/organ/string sounds. A normal piano sound would be nice but I can get a cheap keyboard off of amazon. I guess I just don't understand the whole set up haha
Are you looking for a keyboard with typical sounds (piano, strings, bass, horns etc.) or a synthesizer to create unusual sounds. Two different animals.
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Quote by Rickholly74
Are you looking for a keyboard with typical sounds (piano, strings, bass, horns etc.) or a synthesizer to create unusual sounds. Two different animals.

Yeah, but there is a middle ground. I wouldn't call 80s basses or saw leads or synth brass weird sounds but they are definitely different than piano or string ensemble sounds (which rarely even sound like string ensembles). Although most synths designed to make the basic synth bass and leads and pads and synth brass with the oscillators and the evelope generators and the filters and the ring mods and the LFOs and the whole nine can really make some nutty sounds.
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Definitely looking for a synth. Just listen to the stranger things into or crystal castles or new order lol
MIDI is a music programming language that many electronic music related things can read. A MIDI controller sends MIDI data from the keyboard to an external device such as your computer. While most at least mid level keyboards of the last couple decades plus have had MIDI compatibility and can output data and function as a MIDI controller, the term MIDI controller is generally reserved for a device, usual a keyboard but also things such as drum pads or pedal boards among others, that transmits MIDI data but has no oscillators or sample banks of its own. Therefore such a device cannot create a sound without a sound module to plug into.

Often people will plug MIDI controllers into a computer to control the software instruments in their DAW. The virtual instruments act as the sound source and the MIDI controller is simply the interface that creates data from triggering the controls, ie hitting a C4 note on the keyboard tells the sound source to play a C4 note or whatever corresponds with a C4 if it is something like a sampler.

The advantage of a MIDI controller is that it is just the physical components of the keyboard and so it costs less than a comparable hardware keyboard and because a computer or whatever is the sound source, you are not limited to built in sounds. So cost and versatility. Also most MIDI keyboards come bundled with at least a basic DAW and virtual instruments of some sort. MIDI controllers also tend to have pads on them as well.

The disadvantage is that since you need a computer, software, more cables, etc you have more components to install, more to keep track of, and more to fail. This is the main reason why hard keyboards are preferred in a live setting. You just need the keyboard and that's it. In a recording studio on the other hand or for home use, particularly when you are not frequently unplugging or moving things, this advantage is not important and so the cost and flexibility advantages make the controller and software option better.

Another advantage of most hardsynths though is that the controls are built and labeled for that sound engine and sound it is easier to work if you like to get your hands on knobs and you don't have to assign anything or figure out which slider or pad does what. This makes the hardsynth more intuitive but the disadvantage is that since you generally can't change what each control does, if you don't like the control scheme you're stuck with it.
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Also to add to that, a synth in technical terms is any sound generator that electronically creates sound on its own rather than playing samples. There are many methods of synthesis that will create different sound waves such as additive (tone wheel organs such as the Hammonds are the best example), subtractive (which is most of the saw and square wave leads and basses you hear and what most people probably think of with synths), granular, FM synthesis, etc. None of that really matters, but it may be interesting to read if you are interested. Technically though synthesizers aren't keyboards and the keyboard just controls the sound source. Keyboards tend to be the best suited interface for synthesis since keyboards but there are many other instruments, such as the Theremin, that are synthesizers but are not keyboard controlled.

That's all just tech talk though.
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Idk if you know crystal castles or not. I know he uses a microkorg and a few other things. I just wanted that sound mixed with like 80s I can play a little keyboard. you are very helpful!