Ten years ago you could find ads for nearly a dozen synth patch developers in Keyboard. Thanks mainly to the sound pirates who stole the works of those developers and thus made it almost impossible for the programmers to earn a living, the patch market virtually dried up. Good thing for us synth lovers that Kid Nepro, who's been at it for since 1984, has stuck it out.
This month I had a chance to try out his Classic Synths collection for the Korg Triton. It's full of great sounds. They can be downloaded via the Internet and transferred into your Triton on floppy disk, and they come at a bargain price of $40. You can't lose.
Going through the patches I found myself inspired to dig in and play nearly each one. The Triton's controllers - joystick, ribbon, knobs, aftertouch, and arpeggiators - are programmed to do something expressive with each sound. For instance, with the snappy, beefy "ARP 2600 Bass," one oscillator bends up to a fifth as you pull the joystick toward you, the ribbon varies the resonant filter from practically closed to a screaming self-oscillation, knob 2B controls portamento rate, and knob 4B sets the feedback level of a bitchin' echo effect. Engage the arpeggiator and you get the incessant Jaws-like Tribal Bass pattern at 104 bpm. As I was playing the patch, it attracted other editors from down the hall in our new, unsoundproofed offices. "What is that?" they'd ask in amazement.
Several patches impressed Ken Hughes. "'Prophet Bass' is seriously funky," he noted. "It reminds me of Carl Carlton's '80s hit 'She's a Bad Mamma Jamma.' 'ARP King' kept me interested with its combination of big bass, ratty distortion, and arpeggiator. 'PPG Microwave Pad' would be perfect for the score of a nature documentary or a horror movie. And 'Goin' South' is one of those delightfully bizarre patches that would be hard to find a place to actually use."
While a good many pads appear among the combis, the landscape is generally a very busy place. Both of the Triton's arpeggiators are often active, and polyrhythmic patterns are plentiful. Some of these combis are tailored for jamming, others for creating atmospheres. One that grabbed my attention was "Sir Mix A Lot," an apparent homage to the Seattle rapper. It's made up of four zones. Zone 1 slowly arpeggiates a simple pattern that rotates through relatively soft timbres and darkly metallic and ominous tones. A soft, complementary arpeggio appears in zone 2. At the top of zone 2 is the octave-wide zone 3, which triggers a muffled horn-like triad. You get sweet strings in zone 4 in the top range of the keyboard. "Sir Mix A Lot" is generally soothing until those wicked and disruptive tones shake the horizon.
I had major fun with the Classic Synths collection, and could use the patches and combis in producing lots of different styles of music. It's so hot (and affordable), we're giving it our Key Buy award.
Mark Vail - Keyboard Magazine