A few months ago, I was asked to work as a producer/sound-designer on a low-budget indie record. The artist intended to recreate a certain late ’70s/early ’80s vibe (think new wave meets electropop). My job was to capture the ‘sonic essence’ of that era. I thought it would be interesting to share with our readers the thought process and the tools I picked for this job. Let’s find out…
Doing My Homework: A Sonic Catalog
Before recording any notes, I decided that I would build a sort of ‘sonic catalog’. The first question I asked myself was: what were the quintessential instruments/sounds of that era? Being a fan of that kind of music, it wasn’t hard for me to come up with a list – even though I decided to do further research on albums/musicians I wasn’t so familiar with, to extend the palette.
This allowed me to have a better overview of the sounds I wanted to explore during the recording of the album and create a sort of mind-frame that would prove highly valuable later on. Remember, defining your tools and your boundaries before recording is a key step of any creative process.
In this case, I split my list in two: synthesizer/keyboard sounds and drum machine/sampled drums. I didn’t need to work on guitar and bass sounds since the band’s members had already done their homework.
I shall now go through the items I picked, and briefly discuss each one. I’ll start with synths and VSTs, please follow me on this journey clicking on the page numbers below…
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