1st software synth for a 9 year old (and me)?

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I was in the music shop with my son who’s just done grade 1 drums and grade 1 piano. He spent quite a while playing with some of the synths on display (Prophets), and seemed interested when I said we might be able to do something similar at home.

Unfortunately I know absolutely nothing about synths, having stuck to standard piano. I have various MIDI control surfaces with knobs and sliders and keys that I can hook up to a vst, to give some hardware control.

Any suggestions on something I can spin up at home for him as a 1st intro to sound creation, and some kid-friendly online tutorials? We have PCs, android tablets and an ipad. Ideally free or very low cost at this stage.


Get him started playing with Cantabile. If good morning starts in the morning…


I’d go the free of charge route first to see how you go, or at least try some with time limited demos. But I’d say you need something relatively simple first.

You should be able to get a long way with Cantabile Lite (free) as the host and something like Synth 1, which is a really good subtractive synth, loosely modelled on a Nord Lead 2 (a very capable synth).

I would say if you want to learn the basics of analog synthesis, something like this is a good place to start as it is not too complex and everything appears accessible from a single page.

Other free suggestions here: https://bedroomproducersblog.com/2022/02/03/free-vst-instruments/

And maybe another one to look at is https://u-he.com/products/zebracm/

I am sure others will have even more free suggestions. :slight_smile:

Surge gets a lot of good comments:

Forgot to say, I’ve been using Cantabile performer for 5 years or so, but mainly with Pianoteq, Kontakt, and VB3. No synths.

Thanks for the synth links, will start looking :slight_smile: Yes simple is best to start with.

As a free synth, a definite +1 for Surge - my absolute go-to synth for anything virtual analog.

For learning, I’d recommend Syntorial - a game-like aporoach to learning subtractive synthesis




Tal NoiseMaker is a great 1st soft synth. It’s free too.

  • Paul
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Take it with a grain of salt I suppose, since I’m not a keys player but rather a guitarist. But I have spent a lot of time on synth doing sequencing this year and here are a few things that might work out, two already mentioned:

Basic, simple to learn, free:

Surrealistic (the hardware original is claimed to be a rebranded Moog model): https://cherryaudio.com/products/surrealistic-mg-1-plus

TAL U-No-62: https://tal-software.com/products/tal-u-no-62

Moderately complex, very capable, free:

TAL Noise Maker: https://tal-software.com/products/tal-noisemaker

u-he Tyrell: https://u-he.com/products/tyrelln6/

OB-XD: https://www.discodsp.com/obxd/ (plenty of 3rd party patches available for free)

PG-8X: https://sites.google.com/site/mlvst0?pli=1 (plenty of 3rd party patches available for free)

Complex, extremely capable, free:

Surge XT: https://surge-synthesizer.github.io/ (plenty of 3rd party patches available for free)

If the synth knowledge is zilch, the Surrealistic and the tut Torsten mentioned are probably good places to start. Then choose one of the moderately complex (yet still pretty simple options). But by all means also Surge, and just choose patches to have fun with it until you wrap your head around how it works.


I concur, the SURREALISTIC is a pretty simple synth. I like Surge XT but there are a LOT of handles in it, you’ll battle to understand. The Surrealistic has limited switches and knobs, you can play with each one to learn what it does. I remember when the physical unit was in the stores, everybody that played with them would end up making “helicopter” noise, and I didn’t understand how to undo that. Now, I know.

I still often recommend that beginners ideally start with a simple hardware synth, since plug-ins can be confusing until you grasp (literally!) the basics. The Behringer Model D is a good start.

But this is a digression… :upside_down_face:

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Brilliant, thanks for all the suggestions, I’ll give them a try and see how we get on.

Synth1 is surprisingly good - I’ve been revisiting it lately due to it being in Unfiy

Someone mentioned the Cherry Audio SurrealisticMG-1 which is based on the “Realistic Synthesizer by Moog Music.” That brings back memories as that was the first synth I ever owned. I purchased in in 1983 and sold it a few years ago; it kept it’s value! Listing picture below.

The Cherry Audio has a few more knobs, but the physical unit was a simple and quick tool tool to hear how cut off frequencies, attack, release, wave forms, etc. all sounded. Turn a knob while hitting a key and instantaneous knowledge went into my ears. I can say it’s a good learning synth. Of course I had to get the Cherry Audio emulation and the VST sounds like what I remember.

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Radio Shack or not, it’s Moog. :smiley: