Five Most Recognizable Synth Sounds In Songs

Post date:

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 10:09


Naomi Bolton

At the height of their popularity, synthesizers were featured in virtually all of the popular songs on the radio. In fact, the most memorable or catchy parts of many songs were actually the synthesizers. So, even if you know nothing about these incredible instruments, the chances are good that you have heard them in action. It has also become quite popular for synthesizer enthusiasts to try and figure out what synths were used in which songs, either for interest sake or to try and emulate these sounds in their own songs. Here are just a few of the most recognizable synth sounds you have probably heard in songs and which synths were responsible for them.

Europe - The final Countdown

Synth brass riffs doesn’t come any more distinctive than in the hit song, The Final Countdown, by Swedish band Europe. The song was initially created just as a concert opener and based around that memorable riff. Joey Tempest, the lead singer for the band, came up with the riff on a Korg Polysix that he borrowed from the band’s keyboardist, but it was only four or five years later that he came up with a demo for the song. Seeing as Europe was a rock band, the big synth intro drew a mixed reaction from the rest of the members. The distinctive riff was accomplished by a combination of Yamaha TX-816 rack unit as well as a Roland JX-8P synthesizer and the rest is history.

Prince - 1999

Many consider 1999, the title track from Prince’s album of the same name to be one of his defining songs. It is also one of the tracks that most capture the signature Prince sound of that era and helped the album become his breakthrough. The track itself was written in protest against nuclear proliferation and not only the first song on the album, but also it’s first single. Rumor has it that Prince was inspired by the future noir themes of the Blade Runner movie that was just released, which is why he also opted for synthesizers for the album. For the distinctive sound of the track, Prince made use of a combination of LinnDrum and Oberheim synths.

Pink Floyd - On the Run

For many people the Pink Floyd instrumental track, On The Run, was their first introduction to the futuristic sounds of synthesizers. According to Richard Wright, the track deals with the pressures of travel and it is also unique due to the type of synthesizer that was used. The band made use of the then very new EMS Synthi A, which was introduced in 1971. The distinctive sound is the results of an 8-note sequence that was entered into the synth and then sped up. Recreating the sound these days might prove a little tricky as the EMS Synthi A is extremely rare.

Gary Numan - Cars

Synth sounds doesn’t come more recognizable and distinctive than on the track Cars by Gary Numan from his 19679 album, The Pleasure Principle. Numan later explained that the lyrics of the song were inspired by a road rage incident that he experienced in London. The distinctive sound of the track is due to the fact that instead of traditional guitars, it features a combination of drums, bass guitar and analogue synthesizers. The bass riff of the song is augmented by a Minimoog, while a Polymoog was used for the synthetic strings.

The Human League - Love Action (I Believe in Love)

Love Action (I Believe in Love) was one of the first top ten charting singles for The Human League when it was released back in 1981. The track features a very unusual, but very catchy and distinctive synth sound, which was accomplished with a Roland System 700 modular synth. To create this sound, the band fed guitar strumming into the synth and made use of the pitch-to-voltage converter and envelope shaper for the output.

Faithless - Insomnia

Insomnia was a big hit for the group Faithless when they released it back in 1995. The track, which features vocalist Maxi Jazz singing about being unable to sleep, is considered by many to be one of the greatest dance songs of all time. In fact, many other groups went on to copy the distinctive synth sound of this sound, which means it has since become somewhat of a cliche in the dance music genre. The group revealed that they accomplished this sound using an edited version of a Roland JD-990 synth patch. Other musicians that went on to use this sound quite successfully include DJ Sash with his track, Encore Une Fois.