A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

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A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by HideawayStudio » Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:45 pm

For years now I've always been intrigued by that curious distorted flute sound in A-Ha's hit song, Train of Thought.

Just wondering if anyone knows for sure how it was created??

To me it almost sounds like a PPG Wave patch modulated with fast LFO to give an almost mains hum laiden feel to the timbre - but who knows??

Someone remind me - what were their favourite sonic weapons during this era?

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by monotron » Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:33 pm

Well I know that there's a sound on the D10/D110 which sounds just like it (I think it was called 'Steam')? I know 'cos I used to play along in the mirror with that track and my D10! :lol:

Obviously not a D10 in the A-Ha song as it wasn't even released back then, but it sounds kinda LA synthesis to me nevertheless. A sample for the attack (like a bottle blow) and then a filtered square wave for the main body maybe? I'd say it was an early sampler, TBH.

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by RetroSynthAds » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:32 am

Some people might kill me for saying this - but it could be a DX sound.

I've heard they used a DX7 on a few of the songs on that album.

Go to around the 7:30ish mark on this youtube vid to hear a pan-flutish type patch. Especially the higher notes.


Just thinking out load... :?:
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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by elsongs » Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:40 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:For years now I've always been intrigued by that curious distorted flute sound in A-Ha's hit song, Train of Thought.

Just wondering if anyone knows for sure how it was created??

Yes, it's the Fairlight CMI "Swanee" factory sample :)

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by D-Collector » Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:46 pm

elsongs wrote:Yes, it's the Fairlight CMI "Swanee" factory sample :)
Elsongs is right, it is the "Swanee" sample. http://www.filefreak.com/files/812390_eg19y/10.wav

If you need it you will find it as sample no.10 in the Woodwind folder in my converted IIx library:
http://www.vintagesynth.com/forum/viewt ... =3&t=61626

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by madtheory » Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:23 pm

Yep, Fairlight IIx is the main instrument for almost all of the first album, although there is probably an example of every decent synth available at that time, somewhere on the record.

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by monotron » Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:51 pm

Does anyone know what nut-cracker the band used to help Morten to hit those high notes?... :lol:

I still really love that first album - tons of emotion and feeling for a 'synth' record. Strangely enough, I thought everything they did beyond it was pretty much rubbish apart from their last album, and then they decided to quit! :dontknow:

Oh well - we still have Depeche (and ehm, Erasure :facepalm: )

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by madtheory » Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:12 pm

What about "Manhattan Skyline"? Great song. Yes, he's some singer alright! :)

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by monotron » Tue Jun 28, 2011 6:04 pm

madtheory wrote:What about "Manhattan Skyline"? Great song. Yes, he's some singer alright! :)
Ah yeah, sorry - I was thinking more in terms of albums. MS is a brilliant song, as is 'I've been losing you', 'Minor earth major sky', 'Stay on these roads' and a few more. Album wise, the first is just the best for me. :D

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by madtheory » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:58 pm

O ya, I see what you're saying now. Defo, first album is the only one I'd listen to all the way through. It got me through my early teens. :)

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by RetroSynthAds » Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:46 am

Aaaaaah yes. Fairlight. I shoulda Googled more:

http://www.musictap.net/Reviews/2010/Ju ... DE2CD.html
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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by HideawayStudio » Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:43 pm

D-Collector wrote:
elsongs wrote:Yes, it's the Fairlight CMI "Swanee" factory sample :)
Elsongs is right, it is the "Swanee" sample. http://www.filefreak.com/files/812390_eg19y/10.wav

If you need it you will find it as sample no.10 in the Woodwind folder in my converted IIx library:
http://www.vintagesynth.com/forum/viewt ... =3&t=61626
Thanks for the lead on this sound - BUT - there is clearly more to the sound on the album than the raw sample - if you listen carefully it has been heavily modulated/distorted and it's really this effect that I'm interested in identifying. I was wondering if it had been ring modulated with a fixed frequency or if it was AM with a fast LFO (as I say, almost like mains hum).

I already have your superb IIx transfers - very many thanks for putting the time and effort into transferring these. I've always had a soft spot for this library - and a brilliantly random library if I ever heard one! Many of the sounds were just plain terrible but some were so very characterful - esp. considering they are mostly one shots!

I think the Series II goes down as being so primative it actually gains something from it - the PPG Wave and the Roland D-50 fall into this category too - two instruments where their sound is heavily influenced in a characterful way by limited technology.

I really do think we've somehow lost the plot using samplers these days - not everything thing has to be great slabs of multisampled and round robbined to the hilt sample data to sound good.

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by D-Collector » Thu Jun 30, 2011 12:51 am

HideawayStudio wrote:Thanks for the lead on this sound - BUT - there is clearly more to the sound on the album than the raw sample - if you listen carefully it has been heavily modulated/distorted and it's really this effect that I'm interested in identifying. I was wondering if it had been ring modulated with a fixed frequency or if it was AM with a fast LFO (as I say, almost like mains hum).
I have not given it much thought, but I have always like the sound. You are probably right about it being enhanced in some strange way. I have previously communicated with John Ratcliff via YouTube, you could always ask him if he knows. Or get hold of Alan Tarney.
HideawayStudio wrote:I already have your superb IIx transfers - very many thanks for putting the time and effort into transferring these. I've always had a soft spot for this library - and a brilliantly random library if I ever heard one! Many of the sounds were just plain terrible but some were so very characterful - esp. considering they are mostly one shots!
Thanks, my pleasure! I love the IIx library. I recently dumped some of the samples directly to my S-330 via sysex, preserving the raw samples as they were on the IIx disks. They sound fantastic in the 330! I was able to make seamless loops on them too! Will make some "Fairlight favourites" floppys for the 330 maybe. ;)
HideawayStudio wrote:I really do think we've somehow lost the plot using samplers these days - not everything thing has to be great slabs of multisampled and round robbined to the hilt sample data to sound good.
Well said!

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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by calyx93 » Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:40 am

HideawayStudio wrote:To me it almost sounds like a PPG Wave patch modulated with fast LFO to give an almost mains hum laiden feel to the timbre - but who knows??
The PPG Wave's LFO doesn't go fast enough to achieve that type of sound - too fast and it gets all rough, choppy and quantized. Besides, it can't even make a complete couple of cycles before glitching and messing up the timing :lol:
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Re: A-Ha - How Did They Get That Sound??

Post by madtheory » Sat Jul 02, 2011 4:48 pm

Just sounds like straightforward processing to me- eq, reverb. I suspect a bit of Aphex Aural Exciter, it has that sheen to it. It's also getting some action from the compressor on the main outs, kinda like a keying effect.

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