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Make Playing A Synth Work In Your Band Sound

Updated on October 15, 2012
A familiar site as bands look to diversify
A familiar site as bands look to diversify

Are you playing in a guitar based band and looking to add an extra dimension to your sound? Has your band already added a synth to your line up but not sure how to put it to best use in your band? If you are, read on and take some advice from someone who has seen literally hundreds of bands add a synth to their performance and fail to make it work or create a unique sound.

These days synths come with an abundance of great sounding pre sets. They are designed to sound big and impressive in the shop when you consider buying one. The problem is that these presets aren’t designed to fit within the sound of a guitar band.

Each instrument in a band should fit within a certain part of the frequency spectrum. The bass has the low frequency, vocals within a mid range, guitar within higher mid range (A very crude, simple way of looking at it, but Im just making a point) Using a big pre set lead synth sound uses lots of harmonics and there for takes up lots of space in the frequency spectrum, much like an electric guitar with lots of distortion does. If you want to add a synth to the mix you have to choose were within the mix you want it to be placed and create or choose a sound to fit.

The first thing I would suggest you do is sit down and think about what space is available in your mix and if you can make any room by changing anything. If you have two guitarist, both playing using distortion consider only having one guitar playing while the synth is in use, especially if the synth also has a distorted sound. Making good music is about layers, as one layer is added another is removed to make room for it. Its a really bad idea to just have everything playing at the same time, all the time.

Its also a bad idea to just add a synth for the sake of it. If you do add a synth to your line up, add it gradually to songs in your set. Don't add melodic synth lines to songs that already have a lead guitar and vocals, This will make the song sound cluttered and make everything sound very muddy no matter what style band you play in. I've seen a lot of bands that I used to love add extra instruments to there band but not understand the concept of layers. The result was everyone playing at the same time leaving no room for anything to be heard!

Another tip to create a unique sound is to have a distorted synth line playing exactly the same thing as the bass just a few octaves up. This will give the impression of a big full sound but actually be mainly top & bottom, leaving lots of room in the middle for vocals or any kind of rythmic line.

Moving away from trying to blend lead melodic synths in we will look at things to consider when using other more backing synth sounds such as organ sounds, pads or FX sounds. You could try using delay or reverb to make you sounds blend in and out and make them sound less harsh and obvious in places. Get to grips with some EQ and take any top end - around 3k - 5k that might be competing with the guitar. If your using any low sounding synths make some cuts in the EQ to make room for the bass guitar I find around 125 hz quite often cleans a muddy sound up.

You could also look at playing with the EQ on your guitars to make room for you synth as well, taking out some top end may make it sound a little weird on its own but with the synth filling that space makes it sound great.

There are so many things you can do to improve the sound of your synth & its impossible to cover them all hear as it depends on the unique sound your looking to create. Anyone wanting advice with this issue who has some recordings, please get in touch!

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      max 5 years ago

      nice dude. I'm surprised this isn't a more popular topic. I was recently watching a smith westerns interview where they were talking about touring with MGMT and how they decided to add synth or keys to their stuff and how theres always room for a pad or even just an accent somewhere like the chorus or using keys as a transitional element. I think Ben from MGMT is the master of fitting synths into guitar oriented music.