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.
On The Level
Sounding similar to ‘Chamber of Reflection’, ‘On The Level’ features more dreamy sounding Juno lines over some suitably 80s sounding pad chords. The synth chords have a definite FM-ness about them, and were likely recorded from Mac’s Yamaha DX7. It’s a classic electric piano patch, and I’m using Native Instruments FM8 with the ‘Soft E-Piano’ preset to get something similar. I ran it through some compression to give the chords more sustain.
On The Level FM8 Audio:
The lead synth is a Roland Juno-60, and is a similar patch to the one I recreated in my ‘Chamber of Reflection’ tutorial. The sound consists of a saw and sub oscillator (a 2nd oscillator tuned an octave down), a little LFO vibrato on the oscillators, the filter controlled by the envelope and the classic Juno chorus switched on. The envelope needs to be set with a long decay which makes it sound plucky, and a long release for the notes to slightly bleed into each other. Check the picture for the exact settings in TAL U-NO-LX. I used Soundtoys Decapitator on both tracks to drive and slightly darken the sound.
On The Level Lead Audio:
On The Lead Full Audio:
For The First Time
More dreamy sounding chords abound, there are two main synth parts in ‘For The First Time’: a vibrato’d lead smothered in delay and a much drier electric piano playing bass-y chords. To recreate the sounds I’ve started with the same plugins and patches as in ‘On The Level’, an electric piano in FM8 and a lead patch in TAL U-NO-LX. I then made some small adjustments to the lead sound; I switched on the square oscillator, raised the HPF and LPF filters, and increased the ENV release time. This made the sound a little thicker and a little brighter.
In the original track you can hear the notes being repeated through a delay and this delay being sustained in a ghostly way. This is a cool trick that adds sustain and can be done just by running a compressor after your delay. I’m using SoundToys EchoBoy for the Space Echo sound and PSP OldTimer for analog-style compression.
For The First Time FM8 Audio:
For The First Time Lead Audio:
For The First Time Full Audio:
Watching Him Fade Away
The This Old Dog album closer, ‘Watching Him Fade Away’ is built around an especially muted synth track. Listen closely and you can hear a lot of filter movement triggered by an envelope, however it also seems a little irregular so the filter could also have some LFO modulation or could’ve just been manually adjusted while recording.
The basic sound is pretty simple so you can get away with using any polyphonic synth for this sound. I’m sticking with TAL U-NO-LX and using a patch with the Saw and Sub waves and a bit of LFO vibrato in the oscillator section for the same vibrato effect as in the leads above. For the patches filter movement I’ve pulled the cutoff most of the way down (not all of the way, I don’t want the sound to mute) and raised the ENV control of the filter to halfway. Then I’ve programmed the envelope to have a short attack, long decay and a bit of sustain. This gives each chord some movement and makes it a really interesting part. Make sure to tweak the envelope settings and the envelope/filter amount to get the sound right in the sweet spot between muted and bright.
Watching Him Fade Away Audio:
Again featuring the DX7/Juno-60 combination, ‘Another One’ has mysterious chords played on the DX7 while the Juno-60 supplies the vintage-sounding lead. I’m again using the FM8 preset ‘Soft E-Piano’ to get close to a classic DX7 electric piano sound, and for the lead I’m using TAL U-NO-LX. Turn the chorus off and raised the LFO modulation in the filter section to add some filter movement over a longer period of time. I’ve got the filter cutoff frequency a lot lower to get it sounding muted and I’m running it through EchoBoy and OldTimer.
Another One FM8 Audio:
Another One Lead Audio:
Another One Full Audio: