Pond Synth Sounds
This article was originally two separate posts, “Paint Me Silver Synths” and “Sweep Me Off My Feet Synths”. Here I’ve combined both posts into one article.
Sweep Me Off My Feet
Sweep Me Off My Feet by Australian psychedelic band Pond is a spacey synthpop song from upcoming album This Weather. It features heavily layered synths to underscore frontman Nick Allbrook's fantastic vocal performance. In this synth tutorial I'll look at all the individual layers that make up the song!
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). The Prophet synths have a really distinctive sound when used for bass, I've used Arturia Prophet V but for a free alternative check out TAL-Elek7ro, a great free software synth to learn on and great for bass sounds.
The next most prominent synth sound in Sweep Me off My Feet is the wobbly sounding synth line. The most important elements here are using both filters to get it sounding thin and using the LFO to create a vibrato effect. I've used a Juno type synth because it has a Delay parameter on the LFO, so the vibrato doesn't come in immediately. Turn the glide on and set the glide time to halfway.
Doubling the lead synth is a simple glockenspiel mallet sound. These are a great way to add childlike wonder to a track and are easy to recreate without mic'ing up a glockenspiel. I'm using the great (and free!) Boscomac Twinkle, a Reaktor ensemble that is easy to use and sounds great.
There's a great classic String Machine synth in the mix too, it comes in at 00:57 and while most synth string patches will do, the one I found to sound closest is the ARP Omni, a classic string machine synth most famously used for the lead line of Love Will Tear Us Apart. I've used GForce Virtual String Machine with a patch that uses detuning for a really thick sound. For some free alternatives check out this list.
Last up is a quiet synth-brass patch that's slightly buried in the mix but helps thicken out the sound. It comes in at the start and is easiest to hear at the end of the phrase. I used Arturia Prophet V again (any synth will do for this though) and took the filter cutoff right down to get it sounding nice and dull. Use the filter Env Amt and ADSR to shape the sound to where it's sound brass-y and you'll get a suitable patch.
Now you can listened to all the synths layered together, notice how each element compliments the others; some are big sounding and others are dull or light-sounding. They also cover all the frequencies from deep bass to high strings which is important when layering. I've also added some quick drums from Toontrack Superior Drummer so you can see how they all sound in a full-band context.
Paint Me Silver
Pond recently released their seventh studio album The Weather, and 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.
Tell me about your new album… There’s this new song you played that has a repeating riff, I loved that. It was sort of hip-hop-y.
Jay: That song is a sample of a Todd Rundgren song, really slowed down, sort of like G-Funk and hip-hop.
Nick: Not so much the G-Funk, but more flamboyant southern sort of stuff, like Kanye flamboyant.
To get an idea of where Paint Me Silver started I'll try playing around with the Cosmic Convoy sample a little. Here's the original sample from around 1:05 in the song:
To get from Cosmic Convoy to Paint Me Silver we need to lower both the tempo and the pitch, and we can lower both at the same time with Repitch sampling. Put your sampler into Repitch mode and lower the tempo from 133bpm to 88.8bpm and the pitch will drop at the same rate as the tempo. This gives an immediate vaporwave vibe:
As mentioned previously the lead synth line was likely created with either a Roland Juno-106 or a Korg Poly-800. It's a simple sawtooth patch with some thick chorus and pitch-bending for the melody. I'm using a TAL U-NO-LX patch with just a sawtooth wave and the Low-Pass Filter pulled down a little. I've got Chorus I on and the pitch-bend range set to 2 semitones. To make the lead sound a little less sterile, add some LFO vibrato to the DCO and keep the amount small, the rate fast and delay the vibrato a little to keep the initial sound in tune.
As with a lot of music of this type, the effects play a huge part in shaping the sound. After TAL U-NO-LX I'm running the sound into a delay, compression, saturation and reverb. The compression after delay is the most important element as it creates a smearing effect across the notes, I'm specifically using an analogue style delay and compressor to keep the effects element dark and driven.
The pad chords in Paint Me Silver are again from the Juno-106, making use of the Juno's built in chorus effect and some additional phaser effects to get a swirling effect. I'm using TAL U-NO-LX again and I'm using the ADSR envelope to slowly open the Filter. To do this, take the cutoff frequency almost all the way down, raise the ENV amount to halfway and set the ADSR with a long, slow attack. Set Chorus I on and change the VCA mode from GATE to ENV so that the volume rises along with the filter frequency. For a Phaser I'm using my trusty EHX Small Stone Phaser pedal on low colour mode. For software options, every guitar amp sim seems to have a Small Stone emulation built in.
The Full Beat
I've covered the two main synth patches used in the song, some additional tracks are some guitar layering, bass guitar and processed drums. To get the sample to sit better in the mix I've EQed it to make it brighter and add more treble to it. I've then added some bass guitar and sampled drums from Superior Drummer, listen to the different mixes below:
Thanks for reading, hopefully the section about sampling has given you some insight into the process behind this kind of songwriting, check out the TAL U-NO-LX patches below and use them in your own songs.