How much do you use presets? [Poll]

VST, AU, AAX, CLAP, etc. Plugin Virtual Instruments Discussion

How much do you use presets?

Always. I never touched those strange looking knobs.
Mostly. I sometimes change the preset to make it sound nicer.
Commonly. However, I also create my own sounds with the synth from scratch and modify defaults.
Occasionally. I use presets mostly for tweaking.
Total votes: 335



I would be curious to know about how other composers around here write their synth-based tracks: Do you use presets that come with the synth or 3rd party presets, or do you mostly try to make you own configurations as much as possible?

I see so many *commercial* soundsets out there for various synth, and since I never actually bought one, I'm just curious why are they so popular. I mean, sure, for a modular beast with hundreds of parameters, where possibilities are all but infinite, sound quality is stunning and creating a single sound is a lot of work, such sound banks are extremely useful; in fact, in that case it's just like buying a sample library, except a "tweakable" one with a small size. But I can't say the same applies when the synth is small, and its capabilities are narrower. Are preset banks really useful to composing or they act more like guidelines for showing people what the synth can do?

For me, it's the "occasionally" choice. I rarely use synth presets just as they're provided. Sometimes I just start building the sound I want from scratch and try to reach as close as possible the sound that was in my mind when I started, while sometimes I browse through the presets to find a patch that somehow approaches my idea, and the I start tweaking it to death. If no patch even remotely reminds me of the sound that I'm searching for, I either try doing it from sine wave, or assume the synth is not what I'm looking for. Of course, I don't claim being a pro at forging synth sounds or anything. Probably, 90% of the situations that I just can't get a sound out of a synth, it's my incompetence in the area, not the synth's capabilities, but I keep telling myself that I'm eventually going to posses the necessary knowledge and/or the necessary tool to make all my ideas come out alive :]
Returning to patches, I somehow feel weird about using a preset made by someone else. Not sure why, but the feeling that the sounds I'd use are not "unique" makes me think that some part of the track that I'm writing doesn't qualify as mine. Obviously, I exaggerated with the previous statement to clarify things as much as possible; it's not really like that (but heck, some arps sound so complex and good, that played alone they can make a whole tune).

Note that presets can also teach you sound design using the respective synth probably much more than any tutorials. "How did you make that sound" is way easier to understand than "How do I use all the parameters of this synth to make the sound I want?".

Feel free to discuss!

[EDIT] Hmm, there was an option for "Never" too. Not sure why it didn't end up in the poll. Apparently I can't change anything. Or can I? Well, in the meantime, just imagine it's there, and if you want to choose it, think again, you probably don't :D
Last edited by Kondarivan on Mon Jun 03, 2013 8:46 am, edited 1 time in total.


Never. I always create from scratch & sculpt my own synthesis.

Where' that option in your poll? :P


It was there! I don't know why it disappeared. :(


I use presets and tweak from them a lot. Why? Because I get results that go near the sound I want a lot faster. It's the way I make my tracks and I would loose too much "momentum" when I'm in a creative mood/flow while I'm jammin' when I have to create every patch from scratch.

When I need a deep bass or heavenly strings or whatever, then I need it fast in the process. Afterwards I take time to tweak to perfection or replace or decide to go a whole different route.

But when I'm not in a creative mood to make a track I sometimes start up a synth and learn it more by heart, often from init or very basic patches or templates.

So it depends on the situation :)
No band limits, aliasing is the noise of freedom!


Never. It is very seldom that factory patches make me say "wow". Though I don't own any of the commercial professional patchbanks for soft synths I have heard some really good ones.

I have to admit that everytime a synth catches ma attention I am more interested in userpatches or patches from particular designer because they often come up with some real unconventional stuff and modulation routings which shows often more than the factory stuff. Lots of KVR guys btw. Exceptional quality.

But that doesn't mean that I find factory stuff bad. It's just not my kind of tea most of the time.

So: patches as a kind of tech demo and for education: yes & patches to make music with: nope.

Last edited by Halma on Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:05 am, edited 1 time in total.


Never. I roll my own.


Rarely - As I much prefer making stuff myself tbh. But I don't see anything wrong with anyone else using them.
I will take the Lord's name in vain, whenever I want. Hail Satan! And his little goblins too. :lol:


Commonly. I like to start with presets to get an idea going quickly, adjusting envelopes to fit my song or turning filters already, disabling effects and so on. Some ideas may start as a pure synth noodling and turn into a song, so it's mainly own patches all the way, but there is no straight rule to it. I may start using a preset and record my tweaking onto another audio track in my DAW, then cut some parts I like, having this weird cut-up thing that leads to... you get the idea.

The real trick about presets is how they work together (or not). A lot of mixing decisions can be eliminated by having sounds that work together from the get-go. So even if you just have a basic understanding of synthesis it really helps a lot to know how to tweak an OSC, filter or envelope to already make sounds work in your song, instead of browsing for "almost works". It's more like hit and miss. Even more noticeable if you are looking for "smaller" sounds, fillers, little quirky lines for the background. I find a lot of presets are aimed on having the main focus or are simple show-off, rather then completing a composition. Then again, a preset may teach me something about the synth or simply offers something I would never program myself.


I usually use my own patches that i have created from scratch but sometimes i also use presets and 3rd party soundsets.

From time to time I use presets or 3rd party sounds either because they just sound nice, to learn what is possible with a certain synth and/or as an inspiration for my own sounds. an example for this are two soundsets for Diversion which i got when purchasing the synth recently.

Using and analyzing presets was one way how i learned doing sound design myself.

For some synths (e.g. Wavestation plugin, Massive or Sylenth1) i found it is very difficult to make something really new as there are already tons of sounds available for those.

Last edited by Ingonator on Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:23 am, edited 2 times in total.
Ingo Weidner
Win 10 Home 64-bit / mobile i7-7700HQ 2.8 GHz / 16GB RAM //
Live 10 Suite / Cubase Pro 9.5 / Pro Tools Ultimate 2021 // NI Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk1


I make presets and I love using other people presets. Tweaking is not a problem, if needed, its done in a flash.

So both.

Ltz Synth Presets

77 Exclusive Soundbanks for 23 synths, 8 Sound Designers, Hours of audio Demos. The Sound you miss might be there


I'm addicted to presets :) It's the main reason for hunting new synths (I tend to use 'em more like sound banks rather than distinct instruments besides wy main synths) :) I usually work on the fly and tinkering for hours on a sound is not my style, I have to have some sounds ready to go out-of-the-box. But of course there are times when after the initial song layout I go back and tweak certain presets to fit better the song. I don't use commercial presets though.


Question to the preset users & lovers: (pure curiosity here, no offence and not to denigrate): you don't mind having a sound that has been created by someone else and that can be used and found anywhere else? Having a sound in your work that can be used by pretty much anyone else? That's what I don't like about presets, to have a sound that 1000 other Joe's can have too…


To me sound design, mixing, composition, arrangement are all bundled together in the creative process. I can understand how stopping to program sounds would be distracting for the compositional flow but it usually gives me more ideas and leads to more experiments. I think you have to thrive a bit on being a scatterbrain to switch tasks so frequently, though. I also dedicate lots of time to creating my own presets, so I've got a big backlog of them I can easily fall back on. So if I need a new sound and don't want to stop, there's usually something I've stashed away that is close enough to what I want.

Occasionally presets creep into my music. Sometimes it's deliberate, like using an M1 piano or making some other kind of reference. Othertimes it's just because I'm flicking through presets for inspiration and something strikes me as perfect for what I'm doing at the moment. There are a lot of top class sound designers around.

The third role presets play for me is in dissecting them and learning from them. I've bought a few banks simply because I was blown away with what they did with the synth and I wanted to see how it worked :)

There was someone I worked with for a while who wanted to make ambient industrial music using the presets from Absynth. That always struck me as a bit weak. If you're making a genre of music that relies heavily on sound design... like where sound design is at least 50% of the composition work... it just seems lame to hold down a note on someone else's ambient widget patch and repeat until you've got a soundscape. It would be like a dub remixer using someone else's signal flows and effects chains and delay settings. I donno. If you're more of a melodic "note-based" composer, looking for the preset that best suits what you want to hear seems more respectable to me. Sort of like how orchestral composers almost use the preset sounds (the accoustic instruments, durr) as a basis for a new kind of synthesis within the world of notecraft/composing/arranging.
Last edited by Sendy on Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:54 am, edited 2 times in total. < My new album at Bandcamp! Now pay what you like!


If you don't create every single sound out of pure energy from the trees in your garden you're not a real producer.

Cool kids use presets; real artists use tree-energy.
Massive, Serum. Diva, Repro-1, HIVE, Spire presets, Reason ReFills more!


Neon Breath wrote:Question to the preset users & lovers: (pure curiosity here, no offence and not to denigrate): you don't mind having a sound that has been created by someone else and that can be used and found anywhere else?
Yes and no. There are 2 things to this imo:

1. I use a preset in my way, someone else in his. Just because something says "bass" it doesn't have to be used as bass, in the same key, in the same pattern, in always the same context. It all depends how and when you decided to use a preset which is totally subjective and never happens the same way twice. At least, I like to think about it that way. This obviously still involves enough customization and outside of the box thinking. ;)

2. How many rock songs you know, that consist of drums, guitars, bass, vocals? 1? 10.000? 1.000.000? Did you ever caught yourself thinking "man, this guitar thing is getting old and has been used by..."? I know this comparison is a bit weird, but combine both and think about effects, automation and actual "use" of a sound in context to the rest of the elements. Not to forget things like layering 3 sounds to create a new one.

And the other Joe's...To spot a preset you at least would have to spend enough time with browsing presets yourself to spot it. :hihi: + Know every tune ever made on earth. :shock: :D
Last edited by tibah on Mon Jun 03, 2013 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

Return to “Instruments”