Tame Impala Synths Pt.3

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.”

Kevin Parker

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Endors Toi

This song opens with a phased guitar, gliding lead synth and some wild sounding arpeggio runs I’ll show you how create the latter two. The important elements of the lead sound involve using monophonic glide, unison detune and a wide open filter / envelope. Although I’ve seen some suggestions that this part was recorded with the Juno-106, I personally think it was actually recorded on the Sequential Pro-One, for it’s better detune sound.

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To set up the patch, use 2 sawtooth waves slightly detuned (or if your synth has it, use unison mode), set envelope sustain to max, put your synth in mono / legato mode and raise the glide parameter until the note slides sound at about the speed your hear in the track. Lower the filter cutoff just a little so to slightly darken the sound, otherwise it’ll sound a little too harsh. I used Arturia Prophet V, which is based on a similar synth to the Pro-One, the Sequential Prophet-5. Here are my settings:

Endors Toi Lead Audio:

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The arpeggio sound is a lot easier to create than it sounds, it has more to do with the arpeggio setting than it does the synth settings. This was no doubt recorded with Kevin’s Sequential Pro-One, which has a very basic inbuilt arpeggiator function. Although the Pro-One can be synced via CV, in ‘Endors Toi’ it’s running in free mode, so if you’re trying to get a similar sound in a DAW make sure to turn off the Sync option on your arpeggiator and experiment with the Rate setting to get the speed you want. Here I found that 72ms sounds close to the original. I used Arturia Prophet V again, I set it to one of the basic template presets and used Ableton Live’s Arpeggiator to arpeggiate the chords I played in.

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Note that all Arpeggiator’s function a little differently, especially when it comes to retriggering the arpeggio when you add and remove notes from the chord. In ‘Endors Toi’ there are a lot of notes that drop out and back in and Live’s arpeggiator couldn’t do this without restarting the pattern. Generally I find that synths with built-in arpeggiators work best.

Endors Toi Arpeggio Audio:

Endors Toi Audio:

Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control

Of course the longest song on Lonerism has the longest title, and it’s full of some pretty wacky synth sounds. The Juno that opens up this song is similar to the one in ‘Mind Mischief’ that I wrote about in Part 2 of this series. The synth chords have a touch of vibrato created by the LFO, which gives it a seasick, out-of-tune feeling. We’ll try running a Juno patch through a guitar amp emulation to make it sound a little dirtier.

The basic patch consists of a square-wave with a little pulse-width modulation and an envelope with no sustain and decay set high enough for the chord to trail out in time for the next chord. For the vibrato; the original Juno-106’s LFO has only one wave shape, which is triangle, so set the LFO to triangle and raise the LFO-Oscillator setting to the point where the vibrato is noticeable but it’s not overpowering. The sound is quite filtered so raise the HPF to about halfway and lower the LPF until the high notes just begin to get cut off.

Nothing That Has Happened Basic Audio:

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For effects I used an amp simulator (just like in Mind Mischief), I used a Roland JC-120 emulation from Guitar Rig 5. Lastly I used Soundtoys EchoBoy for a subtle tape effect, and Decapitator and Valhalla VintageVerb for saturation and reverb.

Nothing That Has Happened FX Audio:

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Keep On Lying

The synth key patch that starts off ‘Keep On Lying’ is very similar to the one we just created, again we have a pulse-wave but this time the filters are opened up a little more. I don’t think this synth track was run through an amp emulation and it sounds pretty close with the sound running from just the Juno. The chords are quite short so the envelope isn’t too important here. You can use this patch as a starting point for a whole variety of other sounds by adding various effects to it.

Keep on Lying Synth Audio:

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The organ lead that comes in during the middle of the song is a pretty basic organ patch, I’ve used Arturia Farfisa V because it’s my go-to, but any B3 or Vox emulation would also work great. I’ve used Soundtoys Decapitator to liven up the sound a lot, it’s a great tool for make tracks sound more analog and for tone shaping; I’ve got the drive knob up to around 5 and the tone knob most of the way up to bright. If you don’t have Decapitator then explore the distortion / saturation units in your DAW and remember that subtle often works best!

Keep on Lying Organ Audio:

Keep on Lying Full Audio:

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Gossip

Clocking in at less than a minute, ‘Gossip’ is a synth / guitar duet that serves as a prelude to ‘The Less I Know The Better’. Featuring a pulsating, hypnotising synth line, Gossip is an instrumental track; maybe the lack of lyrics represent the triviality of gossip. The synths were recorded from a Roland JV-1080, a discontinued digital synth introduced in 1994. Roland’s website claim it has been “Used on more recordings than any other module in history“. They’re widely available second-hand and sell pretty cheap on eBay.

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‘Gossip’ is based on a JV-1080 patch called “Flying Waltz”, which just needs two quick modifications to get the sound we want. Here’s the sound directly from the box with no alterations:

Gossip Dry Audio:

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To get it to sound closer to ‘Gossip’, a couple of adjustments are needed. The most important thing is that you have to speed it up to 118/119bpm, and then change the effect to “Quadruple-Tap-Delay”. Here’s what we get with that:

Gossip Final Audio:

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Sounds very close! I imagine ‘Gossip’ started with Kevin going through the patches on the JV-1080 and experimenting with different chords and settings until he stumbled across this.

Musically what’s happening is that the patch is a sequence going from the note played and up a 5th. For example if you play E on a MIDI keyboard you’ll hear back E and B. What’s going on in ‘Gossip’ is that we have a chromatic descending sequence of E – Eb – D and a static F# note on top. These with the 5th’s being added by the patch sequence create the following chords:

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Thanks to Javier for the information, pictures and audio on this one!

Conclusion

If you’ve gotten this far then thanks for reading! This will probably be the last Tame Impala article I write but keep checking back as there’s a couple of other similar pieces I’ve got planned. Have fun experimenting with your own synths and remember to constantly try new things and use these ideas as a starting point for your own sounds.

 

5 thoughts on “Tame Impala Synths Pt.3

  1. Thank you so much! 🙂

    I really enjoy reading your articles! Amazing how close you get to the actual sound!
    I wish this wasn’t the last Tame Impala article.

    I would still love to figure out how to get that ghostlike synth sound that kicks in at 3:06 in Endors Toi

    Not to mention the many layers of gorgeous synths in Apocalypse Dreams.
    For instance the once from 0:40-1:10 or the once from 2:03-2:25 or the lead synth from 2:59-3:29 As well as the underlying synth part that continues throughout the rest of the song

    i’m still dying to figure out how to create those synth parts. I would really appreciate it if you could help out with these!

    Anyway thank you once again. Those three articles mean a lot to me

    By the way, those three synth sounds in Mac Demarco’s Chamber of reflection is so cool! I would love to know how to create these three + the sound in this link:

    Best Regards
    Andreas

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    • For Apocalypse Dreams try using a similar sound to the Keep On Lying patch and you should get really close as a starting point. And that I think that the lead sound that comes in later is a guitar layered with a synth.
      Also Chamber of Reflection is going to be in my next article! Started it last night, the lead sound is great.
      Cheers,
      Dan

      Like

  2. Really great and helpful articles. Thank you for posting these. This band is a massive influence for me and it’s nice knowing how to use these sounds as a jumping off point for my own stuff.

    Although, I was hoping you’d touch on the short track “She Just Won’t Believe Me”. I’ve searched around the internet before for that particular synth sound and couldn’t come up with anything. Maybe you could give some tips on how to get started on that sound? It would be very much appreciated.

    Like

    • That’s such a great sound, it’s a Juno-106 with all oscillators on, the filters wide open, the chorus on, and run through a Small Stone Phaser. On the original Juno-106 the sound starts to overdrive when you turn the VCA level high so I think that’s part of the sound too.

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