What Are Your Favorite Songs With Iconic Synth Sounds?

Themes and variation

Themes and variation

What songs come to mind when you think of iconic or memorable synth sounds? Are they more recent synth pop hits or more obscure voyages from the 1970s? Do you think of massive dance hits, or reverb-drenched dream pop, or maybe groundbreaking electronic masterpieces? Perhaps something a little edgier?


For the latest episode of our podcast, Themes and Variation, I (Carter Lee, bass player, composer, proud Edmontonian) sat down with Neara Russell (songwriter, producer, performer) and John Hull (producer, engineer, composer) — two incredible musicians and delightful podcast guests who both happen to be experts in the world of synths — to talk about our favorite songs with iconic synth sounds.

We went deep in this one, getting into some pretty technical synth-related discussion that I think Soundfly fans and listeners will enjoy; whether you’re into classic songs and their nostalgic sounds, or just into the synth nerdery.

And on that note, we’ve been all abuzz about synths lately for one pretty big, exciting reason. If you’re new here or you’re a musician looking to improve your producing skills and sounds, we just launched our most in-depth and electrifying online course yet: Advanced Synths and Patch Design for Producers. You can preview a lesson for free, and subscribe to get access here if you’d like to check it out.

You can listen to Themes and Variation’s Episode 4 in its entirety right here in the player above, or click over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere else you get your podcasts to subscribe and download. *Bonus points if you want to hit us with a five star rating on Apple!

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If you’re enjoying this episode, and you’d like to learn more about some of the musical topics we touched on, go ahead and visit Soundfly’s free companion course for songwriting prompts and additional resources. From modes to melody-writing and even more synth nerdery, we’ve curated some extra resources for listeners who want to go the extra creative mile and put stuff from the episode into action.

Episode 4 Highlights

1. Mac DeMarco got some inspiration from the freemasons.

Carter: This song is so short lyrically but there’s some really kind of interesting things I found out about it. There’s a concept called the “chamber of reflection” and this is from an interview with Pitchfork he (Mac) says: “Its like a meditation room and they lock you in there for a period of time and the purpose is to reflect on what you’ve done in your life already and move on from it.” So, super weird, I don’t know anything about freemasons, I’m not gonna dig into that, but the making of this track is certainly that chamber of reflection vibe, right? Like he’s in his room, he’s making music, he’s just gotten off tour for a year and a half and he needs some time by himself a little bit of solace to make some music and reflect a little bit on things he’s done in his life.

2. Peter Gabriel is a true synth pioneer.

Neara: So yeah, a lot of the stuff he used on here was prototypes you know, for example he has a Fairlight CMI on this. He actually used it more on his third record and then kind of got out of it but, while Peter Gabriel didn’t do everything himself there’s still like this element of like pushing the boundaries but also just making really great music that 99% of listeners have no idea what’s going on. But, if you really care and you really want to know you’re like “wow that’s the first time anyone had ever heard that sound before” in 1986 like, how frickin’ cool?

3. Remember Myspace? Of course you do.

John: This actually came out in 2007 on the album “Sound of Silver” and this was their second record. It’s funny because at that time in my life, I probably heard this everywhere and just kind of like, it wasn’t something that really resonated with me then. And finding out more about this track, when it came it our it streamed on their Myspace page for a couple of weeks before the release, and afterwards and I thought that was kind of something  funny because you know you’d go on bands Myspace pages and that was a really strange way to consume music.

Collaborative Playlist

We’ve created a collaborative Spotify playlist in order to share every song talked about and mentioned on this episode.  Feel free to add your favorite tracks that feature synths!

Note: Please don’t just add your own songs that don’t match the theme. While we love hearing your music, this is not a playlist for self-promotions, and we will remove them. 

We’ll see you in two weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a line at [email protected]!

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