Posts in Synth Sounds
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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James Blake - Timeless Synths

This is a follow-up to my James Blake Synth Sounds article, in which I briefly looked at some classic James Blake sounds that he gets from his Prophet 08 synth. In this tutorial, I'll take a deep-dive on another James Blake song, Timeless from his 2016 album The Colour in Anything. After the song's release, Blake shared another version of the song featuring a verse by rapper Vince Staples. Kanye West was originally set to appear on the song, but the collaboration didn’t come together.

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BadBadNotGood Synth Sounds

BadBadNotGood are a Canadian instrumental band that combines jazz with electronica, and traditional instrumentation with psychedelic synth sounds. In 2016 they released IV, which BBC Radio 6 picked as their album of the year. The album finds the band using odd rhythms, jazz-influenced harmony, and long, dub-like delays, and they bring on several guest vocalists to accompany them. For live performances, they use a Roland Juno-60 for synth lines and a Korg SV-1 for the electric piano tones. It’s likely the SV-1 provided most of the Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Clavinet and Organ sounds on IV. They have also used a Dave Smith Prophet 08 in the past for synths, though this seems to have been replaced by the Juno. Additionally, the album credits for IV list a variety of synths used, including the Juno-60, a Yamaha CS-80, a Korg Poly Six, and a Crumar electric organ. The CS-80 (or 60) might have been used more on the album and just not been toured with for being a vintage instrument. Although there are fantastic emulations of the CS-80 and the Poly Six, I’ll stick to TAL U-NO-LX for the recreations, because it's easy to use, sounds great, and will keep the tutorial from being too plugin-heavy.

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Drive Synth Sounds

The movie Drive came out in 2011, mixing stylish violence with a subdued thoughtfulness, and has become a modern classic. The film is influenced by European cinema and 80's retro nostalgia, and it opened up the doors to similar 80's retro-inspired works like The Guest, Stranger Things and It Follows. The original soundtrack features ambient works by Cliff Martinez, and the soundtrack also makes memorable use of several synthwave songs by artists such as Kavinsky, College and Electric Youth.The movie was also rescored by Radio 1 in 2014, replacing the original score with an array of new songs by modern artists, a nice but poorly received homage.

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James Blake Synth Sounds

James Blake is a British musician, whose distinct style incorporates Electronica, R&B, Soul and Dubstep, whilst combining acoustic and electronic elements to accompany his soulful voice. He has released three albums and collaborated with Beyoncé, Bon Iver, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean and Jay-Z. His sound palette relies on intimate pianos, glitchy vocals and thick synthesizers, mostly from his Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 08. Blake has used the Prophet 08 as the main synth for his entire career, and its recognizable sound appears on all of his albums too. I'll dive into songs from each of his albums, deconstruct the synth patches and put them back together in the software synth Arturia Prophet V, a software emulation of an older Prophet synth.

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