A Music Director's Epic Tale: Les Miserables

Chapter 4 : Musical Gear

4.4 - Synthesizers

For this production, I ended up using three synthesizers.

Roland Fantom G7: I use this with the cover bands I play in, and I have also used it for other live theater pits as well. It has a pretty decent palate of guitars and reeds. I also found some keyboard patches that worked well. The horns are ok (I have the ARX-03 Brass expansion board in it, which gave me a nice flugelhorn sound). One other important consideration in using this synthesizer is that it is in fact a keyboard with on-board sounds, so in the event of a total disaster with the MIDI gear (which happily never happened in our shows) I would be able to play the show live from this keyboard.

Roland XV5080: This 2U synth module used to be the professional's choice for theater and film scoring in the early 2000s, and it still holds up well. I have the SRX-03 (Studio), SRX-06 (Complete Orchestra) and SRX-07 (Ultimate Keys) expansion cards installed, so I had a wide choice of many types of instruments. In particular, I found the harps and acoustic guitars to be just right, and also found some good electric piano sounds. There are also some very nice strings and orchestral patches to help add depth to the sound layers.

Muse Receptor: I think this was a very important piece of equipment to have for this show. The Receptor is a Virtual Studio Technology (VST) host. This means you run soft synths on it. A "soft synth" is a synthesizer that runs as a computer program, rather than as an actual piece of hardware. In the case of "Les Mis", two very important soft synths brought amazing sounds to life:

Outbound MIDI port and channel assignments
Synthesizer UM-3G MIDI port MIDI channel(s)
FM8 1 1-2
Miroslav Philharmonik 1 3-16
XV5080 2 1-16
Fantom G7 3 1-16

Note that FM8 and Miroslav Philharmonik (MP) are VSTs hosted in Muse Receptor. The Receptor receives MIDI information on UM-3G port 1. I setup FM8 to respond to MIDI channels 1 and 2, and MP to the other 14.