In 1967 The Beatles released the song Strawberry Fields Forever which forever defined the psychedelic rock genre. The recording was complexly pieced together from multiple live takes or different arrangements, and although most of the song's genius is a product of John Lennon's writing and George Martin's production prowess, it's Paul McCartney's use of the Mellotron in the song that I'll focus on.Read More
In 1999 The Flaming Lips finally achieved a mainstream breakthrough with their album The Soft Bulletin. The album opener Race for the Prize's mixture of emotional, Disney-esque strings, pounding rock drums and sci-fi lyrics set the tone for the rest of The Soft Bulletin, and is now their signature song and frequent set-opener. For a bit of background info on the recording of the song, check out the band discussing the song's inception in the Pitchfork Classic documentary for The Soft Bulletin.Read More
With the second season of Stranger Things just around the corner I want to take a quick look at a simple but exemplar track from the Stranger Things OST by Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein of the band S U R V I V E. The group gravitate towards vintage synthesizers and favour live performance over MIDI programmed parts. To get an idea of how Dixon and Stein approach their music, check out Reverb.com's video S U R V I V E Explores Four Vintage Synths. The track I'm looking at is Biking to School, the song that plays when the gang ride their bikes to take a disguised Eleven to school.Read More
Songs from the Big Chair was released in 1985 and spawned the hits Shout, Everybody Wants to Rule the World and Head Over Heels. A new wave classic, the album is a masterclass of songwriting and production, full of classic 80s synth sounds that have a more mature feel than many of their contemporaries, and one of my personal favourite albums of all time. Shout went on to become one of the most recognisable songs from the mid-eighties and is also recognised as the group's signature song. Featuring a repetitive chorus, power chords and an intense rock backing, the song was a no. 1 hit for 3 weeks.Read More
The latest Toro y Moi album Boo Boo features a plethora of 80s synthpop / alt-R&B textures and beats, sounding simultaneously nostalgic and modern. Most of the 80s vibes on the album come courtesy of a Yamaha DX7, a digital hardware synth released in 1983 that utilises a difficult to program synthesis technique called frequency modulation (FM) synthesis. Many of the DX7's preset sounds are classics and can be heard on countless 80s pop records. Although subjectively cheesy sounding, DX7 sounds are a great way to add an authentic 80s vibe to your own music.Read More
I'm going to start the series off by looking at the song that plays during fake Will's funeral, Elegia by New Order. A dark instrumental featuring eerie sounding synths and guitars, the song was written in memory of Ian Curtis, lead singer of the band's former incarnation, Joy Division. The song was originally recorded in 1985 for the album Low-Life, and a 17 minute version was also released in 2002. Although not part of the original soundtrack composed by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon from Survive, the lush and eerie synths of Elegia sound right at home in Stranger Things. Many people will also know the song from the Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain trailer; here's my remake using some of the synths I'll cover:Read More
Allegedly influenced by John Lennon's experimentation with LSD, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds was originally released on the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It features two distinct musical parts: dreamlike verses in 3/4, and a straightahead rock chorus in 4/4. The song opens with an immediately recognisably arpeggio melody that sound somewhere between a harpsichord and a plucked guitar; I'll show you how create this sound using plugins and effects.Read More
One of the most distinctive elements of Flume's sound is chopped up sounds, especially vocals. You could either record your own vocals, find a guest vocalist, or search through sample packs for good vocal samples. Flume uses sample packs a fair bit and says he's picky about choosing samples for his productions.Read More
Beach House are a quintessential dream-pop band, they hail from Baltimore and a big part of their sound is their layering of keyboards, mostly vintage organs and string synths. The duo don't seem too fussy about the gear they use, instead relying on old, cheap organs for their beats. A Pitchfork article described their practice space: "Old tour set pieces and at least 20 vintage organs—they call them “grandma organs”—line one half of the large room." They don't talk about gear much in interviews and there are no pictures of the band recording, so it's tough to figure out exactly which keyboards these "grandma organs" are. Although organs are a big part of the Beach House sound, another huge factor that I won't cover as much is their muted drum beats and guitarist Alex Scally's work, which is mostly a clean Fender Strat played with a slide through a lot of reverb. Instead I'll focus on their synth heavy songs to work out what makes that element of their sound so unique.Read More
Pond recently released their seventh studio album The Weather and it's fantastic, after my Sweep Me Off My Feet tutorial I've had a couple of requests for the synths in 'Paint Me Silver'. What a lot of people don't know is that the main hook is based on a Todd Rundgren & Utopia song called Cosmic Convoy. Although 'Paint Me Silver' starts out with a direct sample from 'Cosmic Convoy', the main hook is based on the lead lick later in the song overdubbed by the Pond members. I was lucky enough to see Pond on their recent tour and their live synth setup consisted of a Moog Sub Phatty, a Korg Poly-800 and a Dave Smith Prophet 08. They mostly used the Moog for basses and the Korg for chorused pad chords, and for 'Paint Me Silver' they used guitar for the lead, so it's hard to tell what was used for the studio recording. I played with some differents synths and decided that the lead synth is either the Korg Poly-800 or a Roland Juno-106, which they also use regularly.Read More
Division was the first song to be released off the 2016 album Epoch. Featuring grinding guitars and post-rock-esque breaks, it has been the set closer for most of Tycho's Epoch tour shows. I'll demonstrate how to create a synth lead like the one used throughout the song on a Korg Minilogue, Native Instruments Monark, and in the free TAL-NoiseMaker, although any synth with 2 oscillators will be able to play this sound. Listen to the song below, the synth lead appears at 0:47Read More
Welcome to another synth tutorial for Mac DeMarco synths, if you haven't already then check out part one, a tutorial on the synths in 'Chamber of Reflection'. In that article I looked at a Roland Juno sound and an organ sound and processed them with some tape emulation plugins to create Mac's signature woozy sound. In this article I'll look at a couple more Mac songs and try to copy the patches within my DAW. Mac's new album This Old Dog is his most synth-heavy album yet, with dreamy sounding synths sitting alongside his classic chorused guitar playing. I'll also look at a song from his mini-album Another One that came out in 2015. Mac's favourite synths, judging by the sounds the appear on his albums, videos of his live performances, and pictures of his home studio, are the Roland Juno-60 and Yamaha DX7. Both synths are timeless classics with unmatchable sound, however both have a wealth of imitators and emulations that can be found inexpensively. Throughout the article I'm going to use TAL U-NO-LX for the Juno sounds and Native Instruments FM8 for the DX7 sounds; for free options check out TAL U-NO-62 and Dexed.Read More
'Chamber of Reflection' really stands out on 'Salad Days' as the only song with none of Mac's signature chorused-guitar playing, instead using layers of dreamy sounding, swirling synths. Interestingly the hook of this song is lifted from a 1975 Shigeo Sekito song called "The Word II". A lot of sites and comments erroneously refer to Mac sampling this song, which is incorrect as the original recording isn't used in 'Chamber of Reflection', the ending of the melody is different. Instead the main theme has been re-recorded with synths and a live rhythm section. Here's my recreation that I'll talk you throughRead More
I'm a big fan of lo-fi music and I'm going to look at two guitar pedals that I frequently run tracks through to get a dirty lo-fi sound: the ZVex Instant Lo-Fi Junky and the Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl mkII. These pedals emulate the noise, tone and wow & flutter of gramophone / vinyl record players, which is a very low-fidelity sound, especially compared to something like tape. I'll try them out on synth, guitar, bass and then the whole mix.Read More
Welcome back to more Tame Impala synths. In this part I'll mostly tackle the synths sounds found on 'Lonerism'. I've already looked at 'Mind Mischief' and 'Feels Like We Only Go Backwards' in previous parts, so if you haven't already then check them out. I'll also look at the elusive Roland JV-1080 that was used to create the track 'Gossip' off of the latest album 'Currents'.
“And messing with sounds is easily my biggest hobby, so that makes it pretty fun… not having to think artistically and just being the guy with the hands on the knobs and switches.”Read More
Tycho started out as something of a solo project for bandleader Scott Hansen, and has since evolved into an ambient rock band whose signature sound consists of swirling pads, dreamy synth leads, and muted electric guitars, usually backed by live drums and bass guitar, all washed out with a saturated wall of reverb.
I'm going to talk about the synth lead in the song Awake from the album of the same name. Here's what we're going to end up with:Read More
'Sweep Me Off My Feet' by Australian psychedelic band Pond is a space-y synthpop-esque song from upcoming album 'This Weather'. It features heavily layered synths to underscore frontman Nick Allbrook's fantastic vocal performance.
The song starts with a thick sounding deep synth bass, I tried a couple of synths and the Prophet was the one that got me closest to this bass sound. The Moog was too dirty and the Juno was too clean but any Prophet-type synth will really nail this sound. Set OSC B an octave below OSC A and set the volume so that it's a little quieter and blends well with OSC A. Raise cutoff and have all the sustain up to max for a big full sound, then turn on legato and set the glide to roughly the right time (below it's set to 450ms).Read More
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came out in 2004 and is now regarded as one of the greatest films of the 2000s. A memorable aspect of the film is Jon Brion's soundtrack that combines lush strings, lo-fi nylon string guitars and melancholy piano.
Brion's work on the soundtrack led to him working with Kanye West on the 2005 album 'Late Registration', where he providing the strings and brass arrangement, as well as co-producing and helping with the creative direction of the album. Additionally the soundtrack has had a big influence on indie and dream-pop bands as well as hip-hop artists, being directly sampled in several songs:Read More
Welcome back to another episode of Tame Impala Synth Sounds; Part 1 was mainly about the Roland Juno-106 patches on 'Currents' and how to recreate them using the original hardware or using software. In this article I'm going to look at some of the different sounds used and how to recreate them. As I go through I'll mention the original hardware, the software alternative I use, and then the free software alternatives.
The Less I Know the Better
This song isn't actually as synth-heavy as it sounds, although it gets wonderfully layered during the last chorus and outro. In the verses a lot of the instrumentation is in fact a MIDI-pickup equipped guitar run through a Roland GR-55, a guitar-specific synthesizer / effect unit. I don't own one of these (yet...) so I'm not sure how these sounds were created, but here's Kevin Parker explanation:Read More
I'm going to write a few thoughts about recreating specific synth sounds that your hear in songs and want to recreate yourself. If you only have access to limited gear this can be great as a lot of tutorials you find on the internet will focus on synths you might not have; also it's really good to have one synth that you know well enough to recreate all your favourite sounds on.
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." (Chinese Proverb)
First things first, research the artist and try to identify which synths they use. Look at studio pictures and see if you can identity synths as Moogs, Rolands or Korgs. Read some interviews and see if they namedrop their favourite bits of gear. Do they use analog hardware or do they work on laptop-based setup that would more point to the use of soft synths? Look at live videos and see what equipment they use to recreate their sounds. Do they use effect pedals? Finding answers to these question can really help take some of the guesswork out of recreating their sounds.Read More