Posts in Synth Sounds
Tyler, the Creator "IGOR'S THEME" Synth Breakdown

Continuing with my exploration of Tyler, the Creator's synth sounds, I’m looking at IGOR’s opening track, IGOR’S THEME. The track opens with 22 seconds of sustained synth-bass, features some classic samples, and ends with an extended synth solo. In this article, I’ll dissect each synth sound one-by-one, and show you how to recreate them all in the free softsynth PG-8X by ML-VST. This synth is a tribute to the Roland JP-8X, a synth that Tyler has in his studio that was likely used a lot on IGOR, along with his Roland Juno. The JX-8P has a few features that the Juno doesn’t, such as cross modulation, a second DCO, and an extra envelope. These extra features are important to the IGOR’S THEME sounds.

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Thom Yorke Synth Sounds

Thom Yorke recently released his third solo album, Anima. The album continues the musical progression started in 2006’s The Eraser and 2014’s Tomorrows Modern Boxes, and was worked on alongside Nigel Godrich, longtime Radiohead producer. Anima’s release was preceded by mysterious worldwide adverts for a ‘dream camera’, and the albums theme involves dreams.

Thom is a big fan of the Prophet synths, having used an SCI Prophet-5 with Radiohead on Kid A and a DSI Prophet 08 in later live performances. Since 2015, Thom has been using a Prophet-6 live, and it’s likely this synth that many Anima’s sounds came from. The Prophet-6 is important enough to the sound of Anima that Godrich uses a second unit offstage for live shows. The Prophet-6 is a faithful-yet-modern tribute to the vintage Prophet-5 synth, with all the character of the original synth, but with modern perks. For this article, I’ll use the fantastic softsynth u-he Repro-5, another tribute to the Prophet-5, to recreate some of Thom’s Prophet sounds from Anima.

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Com Truise Synth Sounds, Part Two

This year Com Truise released a new album, entitled Persuasion System. Dubbed a ‘mini-LP’, the new album marks a slight change for Seth Haley, as he started using a new DAW and built a new slate of sounds to use. In this article, I’ll look at some of the new synths sounds of Persuasion System. I’ve previously covered Seth’s sounds in the article Com Truise Synth Sounds, which concentrated mostly on sounds from his 2017 album, Iteration. In that article I wrote a little bit about which hardware synths Seth was using, however there isn’t much info about what he used on the new album. To recreate the patches for the article, I’ll use the software synths TAL U-NO-LX, u-he Repro-5 and SEM V & Mini V from the Arturia Collection.

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Tyler, the Creator 'I THINK' Synth Breakdown

Tyler, the Creator recently released a new album, titled IGOR, entirely written, produced and arranged by Tyler, and it became his first album to debut at number one. I’ve previously covered Tyler’s synth sounds in my Tyler, the Creator Synth Sounds article, where I concentrated on tracks from his previous album, Flower Boy.

In this article, I’ll look at one of IGOR’s more ambitious tracks, I THINK. The track is heavily layered, features a lengthy instrumental bridge, and has drawn some comparison’s to Kanye West’s Stronger. The track was inspired by Nigerian music, and is based on an interpolation of the track Special Lady by Nigerian soul artist Bibi Mascel. Additionally, the drums in I THINK are sampled from another Nigerian artist, Nkono Teles. The track was inspired by a trip to Italy with Solange and Frank Ocean, the former appearing on the track singing the chorus.

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Porches Synth Sounds

Porches is the synth pop project of Aaron Maine, a New York musician with a clear penchant for retro synth sounds. He released 3 albums under the Porches name to date, the most recent being 2018’s The House. This album, along with 2016’s The Pool, was recorded in Maine’s apartment home studio. The two main synths he uses for most of his sounds are a Roland Juno-106 and a Yamaha DX7, two classic synths from the 80s era. Additionally, his home studio also has a DSI Prophet 08 and a Roland D-50, as well as a Roland R-8 and AIRA TR-8 for drum machines. For live shows, Porches leave the vintage synths at home, instead using a Novation Bass Station and Yamaha Reface DX for live synths.

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Solange Synth Sounds

Solange recently released her fourth studio album, When I Come Home, following up the highly acclaimed A Seat at the Table. The new album is still rooted deeply in R&B and soul, but features a more electronic and psychedelic vibe, with modern trap influences also playing a part. Synths are at the forefront of her new sound, being used prominently on several songs such as Way to the Show and Almeda. The album features a diverse cast of collaborators, including Tyler, the Creator, Sampha, Panda Bear, Pharrell, and Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange. In this article I’ll look at some of the synth heavy tracks from When I Come Home, and discuss how to create the synth patches using several software synths.

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Homeshake Synth Sounds, Part Two

Homeshake is the project of Peter Sagar, a chilled synthpop musical artist from Montreal, Canada. I previously looked at how he creates his sound in my article HOMESHAKE Synth Sounds, where I concentrated on songs from 2017’s Fresh Air and 2015’s Midnight Snack. He has since released a new album, entitled Helium, which continues Sagar exploration of R’n’B influences and takes the chilled out aspect of his music to new lengths of chill.

In a recent interview with Red Bull, Homeshake’s studio is shown to be centred around a Roland Juno-60, replacing his previously used Korg Poly-61, a Dave Smith Prophet 08 REV2, replacing his OG Prophet 08, and a brand new Elektron Analog Rytm MKII handling drum duties. Another key piece of gear that Hagar relies on is the Roland SP-404, which he used to use for drums, but still uses for processing his voice and triggering samples live.

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra Synth Sounds

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is the project of Ruban Nielson, a New Zealand born musician who records and produces from his Portland basement studio. The band have a unique character, mixing 70s influences such as Bowie and Prince with a distinctly vintage processed sound to create a soulful lo-fi vibe. Nielson played everything on UMO’s debut album, but on subsequent releases he has collaborated with his brother Kody Nielson and longtime bassist Jacob Portrait.

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Blood Orange Synth Sounds

Blood Orange is the project of British musician Devonté Hynes, a fusion of 80s tinged electronica and R&B. Hynes sound is warm and full of nostalgia, and he has a talent for catchy hooks and grooves. With Blood Orange, Hynes sings, plays guitar, bass, synth, piano, saxophone and drums, as well as undertaking production duties. He contributed the score to the 2013 film Palo Alto, and also wrote Sky Ferreira’s mega-hit Everything Is Embarrassing. Hynes appears to use a variety of synths in his performances, including the Korg Minilogue seen in the music video for Saint, and a Roland Juno-106 in his NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert. For all of the patches in the article I’ll use the synth TAL U-NO-LX, a software emulation of the Roland Juno synths. As always, you can download all the patches for free at the end of the article.

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Tyler, the Creator Synth Sounds

Tyler, the Creator, real name Tyler Gregory Okonma, is a rapper and producer with a unique, alternative take on hip-hop. Tyler produces all the music on his releases, and he has also co-produced on releases by Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt and Mac Miller. His style incorporates samples less than his peers, and he frequently uses synthesizers and electric pianos to accompany his unique, often aggressive vocal delivery. A photo of Tyler’s room posted on his Instagram page in 2015 shows a Roland Juno-6, JX-8P and Microkorg in his collection; he has also mentioned owning a Yamaha DX7 in a 2018 interview. He is a co-founder of the alternative hip-hop collective Odd Future, and he also creates album covers and merchandise designs.

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Com Truise Synth Sounds

Com Truise is the alias of Seth Haley, a synthwave musician and self-styled synth nerd. His unique brand of synthwave has been alternately labelled mid-fi synthwave, slow-motion funk, and chillwave. His sound is complex and synth heavy, with a focussed production bringing together layers of woozy synths, sharp rhythms and huge, snappy drums. He has released three albums, with the most recent being 2017’s Iteration. Seth has an enviable collection of synths, too many to accurately list. In interviews, he has expressed an affinity for Oberheim and Prophet synths, and he has toured with a Juno-106, DSI Mopho and most recently the DSI OB-6.

Although Haley’s music appears complicated upon first listen, and while some of his music does rely on complex patterns, the sound design element is quite simple. He favours detuned patches with a filter envelope, and tends to run his sounds though chorus and rhythmic delay effects to create his signature sound. In this article I’ll focus on some of his core sounds and production tricks. Although Haley is obviously passionate about hardware synths, he’s no stranger to using software. I’ll use the Arturia range of synths and Soundtoys effects plugins throughout the article. Haley has mentioned using both, and at the end of the article I’ll try to compile the interviews where he talks about gear. Enjoy the walkthroughs, and make sure to download the free patches at the end of the article!

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Future Islands Synth Sounds

Future Islands’ sound is built on layers of synthesizers, driving basslines and electronic drum beats. The Baltimore based synthpop band have released five full-length albums, traversing from the punk-like Wave Like Home, the lo-fi loops of In Evening Air, the super-polished Singles, and their latest album, 2017’s The Far Field. Throughout all their albums, the core sound has remained the same. Although they’ve been through several drummers, the combination of punchy basslines, lush synth layers and frontman Sam Herring’s vocal is instantly recognisable.

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LCD Soundsystem Synth Sounds

LCD Soundsystem are an electronic dance-punk group hailing from New York, and their use of synthesizers is unique. Frontman James Murphy is the bands driving force, playing every instrument on their single Daft Punk Is Playing at My House, and the bands synth duties are handled by Murphy and longtime member Nancy Whang. The band have a huge list of gear, and the footnotes for the their 2017 album All American Dream listed a Yamaha CS60, Roland SH-101 and System 100m, an EMS Synthi AKS, Korg MS-20 and Trident, and the ARP Odyssey and Omni III as synths used on the album. Quite a collection! Frontman James Murphy has also scored two movies, Greenberg and While We’re Young, both for director Noah Baumbach, and these are worth checking out as they feature plenty of nostalgic synth sounds.

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Kate Bush Synth Sounds

Kate Bush has had an enormous impact on modern music, as a musician her adoption of the Yamaha CS-80 synth and CMI Fairlight sampler empowered her to be more creative. Bush released four albums before finally building her own studio in 1985, and subsequently released her fifth album, Hounds of Love. The album was an art-rock masterpiece with heavy synthpop overtones; it topped charts and is regarded as her finest album. On many of Kate Bush’s early albums, she used the Yamaha CS-80 as her main composition instrument. She seemed to favour it particularly for its touch-sensitivity, and it was one of the few synths that offered the feature at the time. Bush mainly relied on the synths presets, and utilising its touch-sensitivity allowed her to create more organic-sounding tracks, which worked for her as she would often layer the CS-80 with real acoustic instruments, such as cellos and the balalaika. The Fairlight CMI was released in 1979, and Kate Bush was an early user, utilising it on several tracks from her 1980 album Never Ever. The Fairlight soon replaced the CS-80 as her main instrument and ended up being used heavily on Hounds of Love, providing many of the album's signature sounds. Arturia has created software emulations of both the Yamaha CS-80 and the Fairlight CMI, and I’ll use these throughout the article. 

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Tame Impala Production Tricks

In just under a decade, Kevin Parker, the mastermind behind Tame Impala’s music, has formed a distinct sound that has captured the ears of music lovers all around the world. I, being one of them, found a keen interest in trying to figure out how Parker makes everything sound the way it does. After doing some research, I realised that trying to achieve this sound would be impossible without draining my wallet, until I noticed that many of the techniques used in Tame Impala’s songs can be done by simply manipulating effects in music software programs such as Ableton Live. Using these techniques, I managed to pull off some covers that could be associated with Parker himself. In this article, I will be using an original piece I made in Ableton to showcase the sounds of Tame Impala. 

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Mac DeMarco Synth Sounds

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.

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Tame Impala - 'Cause I'm a Man Synth Sounds

'Cause I’m a Man was the lead single and second song released from Currents, Tame Impala’s 3rd offering. The songs lyrics deal with masculinity, and musically it adds an unmistakable soft rock, r’n’b flavour to the Tame Impala sound spectrum. Lots of different elements are used to accompany Kevin Parker’s vocal performance, with the majority of them coming from Parker's Roland Juno-106 and JV-1080 synths, the latter of which he coaxes several almost orchestral sounds from. The cover's two chrome spheres may refer to the 'greater force [man] answers to', and the song's press release alludes to the songs conception on road.

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Dissecting Kanye West's Good Life Beat

Good Life was the third single from Kanye’s third offering, 2007’s Graduation, and shows us a more synthpop-based approach to hip-hop than his previous albums, and the song went on to win Best Rap Song at the 2008 Grammys. Good Life features the vocals of T-Pain, and production by Kanye, DJ Toomp, Timbaland and Mike Dean. DJ Toomp is known for working with T.I., and he also collaborated with Kanye on the Graduation songs Can't Tell Me Nothing and Big Brother, being a big influence on the sound of the album. Good Life combines layers of synths with a prominent sample from Michael Jackson’s P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing). If you haven’t already then check out my other Kanye articles on Good Morning and Saint Pablo. There is actually a video from the studio of Kanye working on the song, still in its early stages, which you can watch below to get an idea of the layers involved in the beat.

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Deconstructing Kanye West’s Good Morning Beat

Good Morning is the first song on Kanye West’s third album, 2007’s Graduation. The song follows The College Dropout and Late Registration’s academic theme, whilst presenting itself as more mature and focused than it’s predecessor by opening with an introspective song instead of a skit. The song was produced solely by West, although Graduation saw him allowing others to co-produce his work more than previously. Kanye uses two samples in Good Morning, one of Elton John and another from Jay-Z, which are accompanied by layers of keyboards provided by London-based producer Andy Chatterley. In this tutorial, I'll talk you through the synth patches and how Kanye chops up his samples.

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Tame Impala - Gossip Synth

In this article, I'm going to revisit Gossip, by Tame Impala. The short, instrumental piece, included on the 2016 album Currents, consists of a pulsating synth line and dry DI'ed guitar leads. The synth was recorded from a Roland JV-1080, a rack-mounted, digital synthesizer that used sampled elements to emulate a variety of sounds. I actually included a section on Gossip in Part Three of my original Tame Impala synths series. However, I've decided to revisit it, along with a couple of other Tame Impala songs, in part because Roland has since released a software JV-1080 instrument, as part of their Roland Cloud library of instruments. It is a subscription-based service but comes with a one-month free trial.

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