How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

How to make that sound...
tmelram
KVRer
20 posts since 26 Oct, 2019

Post Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:52 am

I'm trying to create a sound track that doesn't sound distinctly contemporary. it's supposed to be reminiscent of music of the early 1980s - late 1990s, with 2001 being the cutoff point, and also at the same not any earlier (i.e. before the 1980s) .
I currently have Fl Studio with Omnisphere installed, which is great because I know spectrasonics samples were used heavily in the mid-late 1990s and 2000-2001.

So what effects/techniques should I steer clear from?
(off the top of my head i know any dubstep or trap music things (like percussion stutters) should be avoided)



Also do you have anymore tips for me going foward?? because making a soundtrack is a huge undertaking, and will probably take me 3-4 years since I've never really made music before.(just play the piano)

I'm also considering getting Zebra 2 and a Korg M1 snyth/vst

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BlackWinny
KVRAF
4260 posts since 17 Jun, 2013 from very close to Paris, France

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Sun Nov 10, 2019 6:03 pm

Omnisphere and Korg M1 are excellent for what you're after.

Tell already what you really have yet as instruments and as effects.

What you will mainly need to focus in addition is effects having a good "80s analog color".

But do you have some reference more precise than simply the 80s-90s for the soundtracks you want to make? Pop songs with (or without) lyrics? Disco ambiences? Synthwave styles? "Easy listening"? Post-prog rock? Instrumental rock? Electro? Ambient? New Age? 80s jazzy styles? Lounge? Could you mention several musicians or bands (and even, why not, tracks or albums) that you have in mind and which would be your inspirations about the style of music and the sounds that you want to produce? Because it will probably give us a much better clue to give you suggestions of instruments and effect (and techniques and tips).
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docbot
KVRist
129 posts since 4 Apr, 2006

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 10:09 am

Get the Roland JV1080 plugin and buy a really cheap 90s hardware reverb.

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sfd
KVRian
1420 posts since 14 Jul, 2013 from Sweden

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 1:43 pm

The gear won't make it sound 80's / 90's.

As for, whatever, style - keep in mind that orchestration got a whole a lot more to do with that then what people think.
I'd advice you to focus more on that rather then wasting yoru time hunting for a , somewhat, genre / style spesific synth. There's no such thing. That's mainly a marketing hype. M1 won't make your soundtrack sound vintage. Neither will the JV-1080. Sure you can use them. But your orchestration, composition and arrangement is way more important if you want your track to sound vintage.
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Jbravo
KVRian
1437 posts since 20 May, 2002 from Cambridge, UK

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:06 pm

i'm not sure who said it but I've heard the quote "nothing makes music sound old faster than a sound which is very new" - possibly on a record by Mixmaster Morris - and it's very true IMHO

yellowmix
KVRian
1392 posts since 11 Aug, 2012 from omfr morf form romf frmo

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 3:26 pm

That is a very wide time range and lots of technology was introduced at various points. There were also many styles and trends of music. You could do the 1980s versions of 1950s doowop and rockabilly. 80s guitar tones. Or the 80s style key change. 80s style reverb. You could do 80s style mixing and mastering, but then would you remaster it to current standards like many 80s songs have been?

Maybe listen to some Synthwave and get a sense of what works towards your vision and what doesn't.

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an-electric-heart
KVRAF
1940 posts since 13 Jun, 2008 from Napier,New Zealand

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 4:01 pm

Jbravo wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:06 pm
i'm not sure who said it but I've heard the quote "nothing makes music sound old faster than a sound which is very new" - possibly on a record by Mixmaster Morris - and it's very true IMHO
Hmmmm clever... and true, when you look at genres like nu-metal and dub-step (they're just what spring to mind); When everyone jumps on the bandwagon and there's an over-saturation of the same sound, it very quickly becomes cliche and dated.

SparkySpark
KVRAF
1716 posts since 30 Aug, 2004 from Lancaster, UK

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 4:39 pm

For the eighties sound, use JV-1080 or M1 and a DX7 clone. The EMU Proteus soundset would also work well, but is a bit less "dated" (in a good sense).

Then of course listen to how that music is arranged. Listen to Eurythmics' 1984 or Must be talking to an angel, and to Alphaville's Sounds like a melody. The arrangements are very light, and the drums very uncomplicated and synthy sounding. Yeah, the drums in particular can set the mood. I'm not sure Omnisphere is the way to go (unless they have deliberate 80's sounds) - it's far too good a synth.

If you want to move into Depeche Mode territory, then go to Wolfgangpalm.com. He made some of the synths they used (PPG's, and he also invented wavetable synthesis), and immediately when I listen to his demos of the Wavegenerator, and before that, his PPG replicas, I recognise the DM sound from the mid '80s. http://www.wolfgangpalm.com/wg.html

I would say that in comparison, not a lot of interesting synth-based music was released in the nineties, so stick to the above (or similar) suggestions. :wink:
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BONES
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9057 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:24 pm

What I'd like to understand is what you think the difference is between production in 1999 and 2019? If you go back to the pre-digital age of the early 80s, then there are definitely differences but by the early- or maybe mid-90s, things were pretty much the same as they are now in terms of production. i.e. fully digital. If anything, contemporary production tries to sound more like 80s production but the difference over the time period you specify is vast and almost impossible to cover with a few bits of advice. e.g. In the early 80s most studio mixer EQs were only good for +/-8dB, maybe +/-12dB if you could afford a good studio, but by the 90s, the kinds of ranges we use today (+/-24dB) were commonplace.
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sfd
KVRian
1420 posts since 14 Jul, 2013 from Sweden

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:34 pm

He's aiming for a soundtrack. Not a synthpop tune. "There must Be An Angel" isn't so synth-y at all :-)

I'de be interested in hear somehting like "1984" or "Sounds Like A Melody" made with Proteus, M1 and / or DX7 :-D

Either way, Starting off with a soundtrack project by looking for synths is starting in the worng end.
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mumpcake
KVRian
1117 posts since 27 Aug, 2004

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 6:48 pm

I suppose it depends what type of soundrack. John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Trevor Rabin, Vangelis, and John Carpenter have all done soundtracks and they all sound quite different.
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el-bo (formerly ebow)
KVRAF
15273 posts since 24 May, 2009 from A galaxy, far far away

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 7:23 pm

For me, there are a few things that made most music, regardless of genre, of the 80’s and 90’s sound as it did.

Firstly, I think that if the music did incorporate synths, they used very simple sounds, and often sounds that were intended to mimic real instruments (Prince’s use of synth brass comes to mind).

But also, recordings tended to be a lot more simple. I’d say that the biggest reason for this was due to everything having to be recorded to tape. There was no such thing as “unlimited tracks’, and post-recording editing was a cumbersome process involving chalk and razor blades (White powder and razor blades in a studio! Who’d of thunk it :scared:)

So, definitely factor in the limitations of the technology from those days.

But I think that the listening medium is also something that cannot be separated from the ‘sound’ of a particular era. Back then, music was heard via radio, vinyl and from cassette. In fact many of us would end up doubly processing the end result when recording already compressed radio music e.g the top 40 hits, onto cassette. And even vinyl owners who’d not bothered to record their vinyl to cassette, for convenience’s sake, would likely have a collection of tapes that had been recorded from friends’ vinyl collections.

And speaking specifically to soundtracks: while going to the cinema was a big thing, watching movies via VHS and television was more common (And often also, watching VHS recordings of movies from the tv). So, how some of us remember those soundtracks will surely be in part due to the audio artefacts baked into that format.

To that end, definitely focus on recreating the listening experience. It’s no coincidence that a large amount of emulations exist, with which to evoke the sounds of media particular to a certain era. And while I think my previous points about simple technology, and the limits imposed by the recording medium are a big part of the puzzle, these emulations can make even the most modern music sound like it came from another century.

So definitely check out degradation emulations. For VHS, I’ve seen a new one that’s been released (Can’t remember the name, currently). However, if you own Reaktor then you have free access to the excellent ‘VHS Degradation Suite’. This goes from subtle to way over-the-top. And even though it is aimed at VHS emulation, used more subtly it ticks most of the boxes when it comes to imparting the feel and artefacts of audio cassette playback. Of course, it being a Reaktor ensemble means that you can ratchet down the sample resolution. And this adds hugely to it’s degradation potential.

There are also plugins that will emulate vinyl and audio cassette (The latest Wavesfactory, currently on intro price, is a really great option).

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BONES
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9057 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 7:31 pm

You are only thinking of the early 80s. CDs came out in 1984 and by the turn of the century everyone was listening to digital music. That's what I think is strange about the original question - so much changed during the timeframe he's set up.
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el-bo (formerly ebow)
KVRAF
15273 posts since 24 May, 2009 from A galaxy, far far away

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 7:51 pm

BONES wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 7:31 pm
You are only thinking of the early 80s. CDs came out in 1984 and by the turn of the century everyone was listening to digital music. That's what I think is strange about the original question - so much changed during the timeframe he's set up.
Well, what we were doing “by the turn of the century” is not pertinent to a thread about the sound of the 80’s and 90’s.
And despite the introduction of CD’s in the mid 80’s, tape was still the predominant medium for most of us; not least because of the ability to ‘own’ all of our friends’ music collections, and listen to music in cars and Walkmen. I was selling hifi equipment back in the 80’s and 90’s, and we still sold huge amounts of tape-decks alongside CD players.

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BONES
GRRRRRRR!
9057 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Re: How to avoid making (distinctly) contemparary sounding music? (going for a 1980s-1990s sound)

Post Mon Nov 11, 2019 8:57 pm

Read the first post before you start digging yourself a deeper hole. In case it's too hard for you, I'll copy and paste the relevant portion below (emphasis is mine):
... reminiscent of music of the early 1980s - late 1990s, with 2001 being the cutoff point.
Or do you not understand that the turn of the century came directly after the late '90s and before 2001? More likely you saw "early 80s" and didn't bother reading any further. (Done that plenty of times myself.)
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