Tears for Fears’ Shout Synths

tears fears shout

Tears for Fears’ 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, and it has a more mature feel than many albums of their contemporaries.

Tears for Fears, a duo consisting of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, are primarily songwriters, rather than producers, and they switch roles frequently when collaborating. Around the time of Songs from the Big Chair they were joined by key member Ian Stanley who acted as the group’s keyboardist. By this point the group owned an enviable collection of analog synthesizers:

“Their layered style of recording also made it easier to work from Stanley’s home studio, which the band had recently upgraded using advance money from the second album. Stanley’s newly expanded home studio included a 32-channel Soundcraft console, a 24-track analog tape machine and room for the band’s keyboard and synthesizer collection, which included such classic designs as Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, Fairlight CMI, Roland Jupiter 8, Yamaha DX7 synthesizer and PPG Wave. They also had a LinnDrum LM-2, another recent acquisition.”

The album’s slick sound was a result of utilising at-the-time brand new technology, as well as the duo’s perfectionism. Many of the synth tracks are used as a complement to the songwriting, sitting alongside live instruments to form an overall cohesive artpiece. In this article I’ll concentrate on their breakout track Shout, uncovering the many layers of sounds, many of which came from the CMI Fairlight sampler.

Shout went on to become one of the most recognisable songs from the mid-eighties and is also recognised as the Tears for Fears’ signature song. Featuring a repetitive chorus, power chords and an intense rock backing, the song was a no. 1 hit for 3 weeks.

“Orzabal played Hughes a chant he had written called “Shout.” They stopped everything else to focus solely on that number, which would become their second Number One and one of the most recognizable songs of the decade. They spent many, many months on that powerful anthem alone, making sure that each layer worked perfectly with the others.”

Check out the video below to hear my remake with all the patches in action; nothing has been sampled from the original song. 


Shout opens with a machine-like percussion loop followed by the hook sung over an ominous-sounding synth bass. This simple-yet-iconic bass sound comes from the groups Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 or the similar Prophet T-8 and uses the synths unison mode, which sets all the available voices to double and slightly detune the same note, creating a thick sound great for basses.

To create the patch in Arturia Prophet V, a software emulation of the Prophet-5, start with two detuned sawtooth waveforms. Darken the sound by decreasing the cutoff to 700 Hz and raise the resonance to 1. To add the unison thickness, activate the unison button in the top-right of the Prophet-V interface. The detune knob will control the amount that each voice is detuned from the original, here we’ll turn it to a nice high 50%, which is nice and thick without sounding out-of-tune.

The bass track also has some stereo width, which will have been added at the mixing stage as the Prophet-5 only has a mono output or recorded using the T-8’s stereo outputs. To recreate it with Arturia Prophet V, add a light chorus effect, and then a vintage-style stereo widening plugin such as SoundToys MicroShift to push the sound into the sides of the mix.

  • Shout Prophet Bass 00:00
tears for fears synths shout prophet bass

Arr Choir

The main melodic synth hook from Shout is the Fairlight ARR 1 sound that you can hear in the pre-chorus. This is a unique, recognisable choir sound marked by the breathiness and low bit-rate quality; it was very popular and used by many 80s new wave artists such as Pet Shop Boys, OMD and Yazoo.

The sound comes from the Fairlight CMI (Computer Music Instrument), an early sampling synthesizer that cost a staggering $30,000 when released. The Fairlight used small snippets of samples via the onboard computer combined with classic synthesising elements which allowed the user to make create realistic sounds. Kate Bush was another fan of the Fairlight, using one heavily on the Hounds of Love album which I covered in my Kate Bush Synth Sounds article.

Arturia CMI V is a digital recreation of the Fairlight, and as it uses the same samples as the original hardware, sounds indistinguishable from the real thing. CMI V loads with the ARR1 patch as its default preset, so you can throw the plugin on a track and start playing it immediately. The sound on Shout has some added stereo width, so I again used MicroShift to widen the sound.

  • Shout Fairlight Choir 00:00
tears for fears shout synth fairlight cmi

CMI Bass

Another bass sound in Shout is the slap-bass guitar patch that’s introduced at the 0:59 mark. The Fairlight also comes with a variety of bass guitar samples and was used by Tears for Fears to create the bass guitar track. The sample used is the ELEBASS1 sample, which is a very bright, open sounding bass guitar sample. Open the filter on the Fairlight all the way to let lots of the buzziness through.

The sound has a slight “machinegun effect”, a result of the same sample being re-triggered repeatedly. This is true to the original song and was a consequence of the limited technology of the times. Interestingly, both Orzabal and Smith play bass guitar, so the decision to use the Fairlight to create the bass track seems like a vote in favour of the sampled sound.

  • Shout Fairlight Bass 00:00
tears for fears synths shout fairlight bass

Bridge Layers

The strangest sound in the track is the ethnic-sounding melody that plays in the bridge at the 2:52 mark.  This sound is another from the Fairlight and utilises at least three different layered samples. Luckily, the Arturia plugin allows easy sample layering within one patch, allowing you to play the layered patch live. The samples are KOTOENSM, which adds the pitch-gliding ethnic flavour, SOPRSAX1, which adds some body to the thin koto sample, and HHCLOSE7, which adds some percussive character to the sound. Listen to the individual sounds below, as well as the final layered version.

  • Koto Ensemble 00:00
  • Soprano Sax 00:00
  • HH Closed 00:00
  • Layered Patch 00:00
tears for fears synths shout ethnic

Slap Bass

The slap-bass sound that plays behind the Fairlight solo at 3:11 originally comes from the group’s Yamaha DX7, in particular the 11-E.Piano 1 patch, which is a synthetic Rhodes sound popular in the 80s. To recreate the sound in Shout, I used the patch in Arturia DX7 V, boosting Mod Level to 12% and Mods Env RM to 20%, and played the basslines using octaves.

  • Shout DX7 Bass 00:00
tears for fears synths shout dx7 bass 1

Drums & Extras

As with many Tears For Fears tracks, drums and percussion are a big part of Shout. The main beat comes from the Drumulator, a sample drum machine similar to the LinnDrum, and Tears for Fears used the Rock Drums set for the Drumulator, which is based on samples of Led Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks. Shout’s percussion bell/triangle loop comes from an alternate LinnDrum sound set which I sampled in my Vice drum kit.

Some extra tracks are the organ solo, which I played on Arturia’s B3 plugin (using the Soul Sacrifice patch), the horn line towards the end of the song, which I used Native Instruments Symphony Essentials Brass Ensemble to recreate, and the sax falls, which also came from the CMI Fairlight.

The guitar was recorded on a Gibson Les Paul using the neck pickup for each part. I used a Kemper Profiling amp using a Roland JC-120 model (Jazz Clean), and also used the Kemper’s Green Scream effect for the solo, which emulates an Ibanez Tubescreamer.

  • Shout Beat 00:00
  • Shout Bell/Triangle 00:00
  • Shout Percussion 00:00
  • Shout Full Drums 00:00

Tears for Fears Download

Thanks for reading! Check out the download button below to download all of the Arturia patches used in the Shout recreation, and subscribe to the newsletter to be the first to hear about a follow-up looking at the track Everybody Wants to Rule the World.

The Tears for Fears presets from this article are also included in the Synth Sounds Collection, a free preset pack collecting the synth presets from all of my articles in one download.

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Comments on Tears for Fears’ Shout Synths

41 thoughts on “Tears for Fears’ <i>Shout</i> Synths”

  1. Hello, what a great article an tutorial of this epic song. I recreated everything by myself and happy with the result but I haven’t found the Drumulator “RockDrums ” samples elsewhere. Could somebody help me out? Best regards from Bremen Germany, MarkuZ

  2. hello from Hamburg, Germany…
    is it possible to get these sounds in .wav or sf2? Working with logic pro 9 and want to create “shout”…i can share with many drummachines and sounds. To much to make a list of it…if interested, i will be happy…..with best regards…Matthias

  3. Hi. Fantastic article… and the EWTRTW is equally great. There’s a few other recreation videos around which are nowhere near as close as this, nor do they go so deep. Keep going!! I’m new here but will be a regular visitor.

    I think the Fairlight ARRs are all played as single note parts as they are panned around. One of the multitude of extended remixes really accentuates this. I can almost hear it conceptualised as a single note part that was added to in time.

    As for the drum sounds, Greytsounds seems defunct or dysfunctional. They’re on Ebay but nothing seems like it is these sounds. I’ve been trying to chase down the Drumulator eprom files to use in VPROM for ages.

    I know everyone says, do this one next, do that one next so I’ll just subtly hint. When it comes to 80s Prince synths, The Beautiful Ones from Purple Rain boggles the mind.

  4. This is STUPID good. This is dumbingly good. I don’t know wtf to think about this. Was made 6 years old by the voice of the prophet.

  5. Hi Dan!

    Great article and well done on the recreation! I have most of the original hardware here (DX5/TX7, Fairlight CMI Series IIx) as well as the plugins and I’m a huge TFF fan. I actually restored Ian Stanley’s Series III CMI a few years ago which was bought after SFTBC and used in the early Seeds of Love writing sessions before he and Chris left the project.

    I was wondering if you have a source for the Drumulator and Linn samples you use here as I am very keen to get hold of them? I’m struggling to find them, particularly the Drumulator Rock Drums. I probably have some of them stashed deep in some of my E-MU libraries but if you could point me in the direction of somewhere else, I’d be incredibly grateful.

    Keep up the great work!



    1. Hi Rob! Yeah, I watched your restoration videos, amazing stuff! The Drumulator samples are from Greytsounds, otherwise they’re pretty hard to come across.

      1. Turns out I had them on one of my E-MU Emax II library discs all along!

        Glad you enjoyed the videos. I really ought to do more. I’ve had about 5-6 CMI’s through the door in the last few years and more on the way.

        I’m also doing some research around the Yamaha DX range, and associated tools (TX/QX/RX, etc.,) for a project next year and your DX7 work has been very useful, so thanks for that too 🙂

  6. I loved listening to your discription, breakdown and assembly of this awesome track. I take my 80s hat off to you. Thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you.

  7. Please make an article on Prince 80s records, I would be so grateful for that. Amazing job by the way, always a pleasure to see a new notification from ReverbMachine in my mail box !

  8. Wow, amazing! You sir, are a master musician…Right on!…I just picked up the Arturia V collection 7 for the Black Friday sale at Arturia and I’m already making my own presets and loving it. Thanks for the inspiration bro…Man that sounds great!

  9. would love to see more 80s articles! some much synth history in OMD, Talk Talk, Naked Eyes, Depeche Mode, New Order, Thomas Dolby, etc etc etc

  10. Amazing job yet again!! Everybody Wants to Rule the World is incidentally my favorite song of all time so I’m definitely excited for the next one 🙂

  11. The snare is from the Digidrums EPROMs which sampled the snare from When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin.

  12. Excelent article! Good work!

    Maybe you could do an article on Tame Impala’s "Taxi’s Here", "Powerlines" and "List Of People (To Try And Forget About)"? 🙂

  13. Hey mate! Am I crazy or did you have an article in regards to Wham!? I could’ve sworn you made one on one of their songs.

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