With the proliferation of digital synths packed with a once unimaginable array of processing effects, the humble chorus has been somewhat forgotten in contemporary electronic music. But this often overlooked effect was a key ingredient in scores of 80s synth hits. Simply sending your sounds through even a budget hardware module can add warmth and width. Alternatively, try sending your synth signal through a guitar pedal chorus or even a tube ampilifer for a similar sound.
2. Wow and flutter
Back in the 80s tracks were recorded and bounced to tape. Wow and flutter are two classic audio effects associated with the use of tape machines which give sounds that classic cracked analogue vibe. Synthwave tracks can benefit from this type of tape processing. Try using cassettes, VHS tapes and old recorders at different speeds to achieve this jittery and distorted sound. If you don’t have access to these technological relics then a combination of 8-bit bit-crushing and a tape saturation emulation should do the trick.
Synthwave artist Com Truise once said, “A lot of the sounds in my songs are not extremely complex… Turning on a two-oscillator synth and initialising a patch and just detuning one oscillator and doing a nice filter and envelope and going with that.” The key to many great Synthwave and 80s tracks is the basic principle of simplicity offered by the more affordable hardware synths of the day. If you are using multiple synth patches and complex processing chains then you’re probably working too hard. Take a creative approach to the tools which, on the face of it, appear to be more limited – you might surprise yourself with the unique results.
4. Analogue signals
A common technique that can add analogue warmth your tracks is the use of overdrive to inject subtle additional harmonics on key tracks. Once again, guitar pedals processed through tube amplifiers are a great choice for those with access to the hardware but digital emulations, bit-crushers or distortion plugins will also work well for a scuzzy lo-fi vibe.
The LFO is crucial to many great sounds that are essential to creating classic Synthwave leads. Depending on your synth setup, you may be able to route your oscillator’s phase, pitch or other modulation sources to your LFO at low-rate speeds and medium gain LFO volumes. The best waveforms to create the slow ‘fluttery’ leads are sine, triangle and lorenz wave forms.
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