I have a bajillion presets on probably a hundred different synthesizers at my fingertips. I use Native Instruments products routinely because they’re very well put together and have some great tones. One of the reasons I bought the Komplete line was because I wanted both FM8 and Massive, and since I already owned Guitar Rig Pro, the discount for Komplete was about what I’d have paid for both those synths. I got nearly 40 different products and will probably never find my way through all the possible sounds.
I do love FM8 something fierce. FM synthesis is easier to understand than additive / subtractive synths and the sound is pretty awesome to boot. FM8 has 960 presets which give you a great wealth of sounds to use either straight out of the box or as starting points for your custom sounds. It’s hard to create a sound from scratch so often you find something that’s close and start from there instead.
One of my huge fears, of course, is using some preset and then having people go “Oh! That’s Seasick Penguin from Such & Such”. Usually, only people who own your synth might be able to discern that, but still it’s a fear.
Oddly, I’ve found out that many, many, many musicians use out-of-the-box presets & I happened to have found one this weekend.
I was pouring through FM8, listening to all the sounds I could, just for fun (sometimes it’s great to just be mindless and make weird noises). Suddenly, I get to a preset called “Life Out of Balance” and instantly, I knew I had heard it before. It took a day for me to remember where I heard it, and it’s from Junkie XL’s song “Beauty Never Fades” which I had from the Animatrix album.
Listen to this snippet – the first few seconds is from Beauty Never Fades, the next is the exact same sound from FM8. It’s identical – same tone, same rhythm, same underlying drone, everything. So, that was kind of neat, to hear a ‘professional’ use something straight out of the box (and why not? It sounds great on the song).
Worse though than presets are samples. I love Zomboy, but one day I was tooling around some samples and I realized that he used many of same ones I have. Lots of them.
I avoid using samples for anything other than drums & hits. I know the chances of more than 100 people ever hearing my work is beyond reality so the chances of someone going “AHA! I KNOW THAT SOUND!” is nil, but I have OCD, and that stuff bothers me because I’ve been able to do it (see my snipped above!). Still, presets can be very handy, especially as you’re building your sound out and don’t want to start from scratch.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to make my guitar sound like no other guitar ever did. With my playing ability, that’s easier than you think.