Blog entry

My Dr Who Cover Version..

I composed and performed a version of the Dr Who theme for the Design & Engineering department of the BBC at their end of year conference in Dec 2018, at the BBC Radio Theatre, Broadcasting House, London. Helping with the performance were Jim Simmons (keys) and Des Griffiths (bass).

Good fun to compose and perform.

Should note - for avoidance of any doubt - that I’m more than happy for the producers of Dr Who to approach me regarding the 2020 series of the programme. The door is always open, lads! ;-)

Salient synth related info is that the lead and bass were done by the Arturia Arp 2600 and the synth stabs are the Arturia Oberheim SEM. All lovely kit!

Blog entry

SynthFestUK - new poster & fun times

SynthFestUK was a blast! Held in Sheffield, UK in October 2018, our stand was up near the entrance of the upper level. Had a great view of the Novation stand and Erica Synth opposite, and was sandwiched between KMR Audio and Tubbutec.

This was how the stand was looking after set-up on Friday:

Synth Evolution stand at #SynthFestUK 2018

Synth Evolution stand at #SynthFestUK 2018

Picture doesn’t include the iPad I had with the website on so visitors could check out all the vintage synth sounds on that site.

The day was a great success - many happy visitors leaving the show with Synth Evolution posters, mugs and t-shirts. Would definitely love to do it again. The best thing was meeting people and ‘talking synth’ for eight hours! Tiring, but fun. Was great to find out about people’s set-ups and synths. And how far some people had come - Germany, Sweden, Belgium for some.

I walked past Will Gregory (Goldfrapp, WG’s Moog Orchestra) and Martyn Ware (Human League, Heaven 17). (Did I ever mention that I’ve supported the Human League with my band Cassette Eletrik in 2007? Probably.) It was also great meeting writers and editors of Sound on Sound and Electronic Sound, both magazines I’ve been a fan and reader (and occasional writter) for years.

The only thing I’d do differently next time is to bring a buddy to share shift duty on the stand. I literally only had 10 mins break all day and didn’t actually get to see any of the synths or talks. HIGHLY FRUSTRATING!!! :-)


New synth poster to be unveiled at Synthfest!

I hope you’ve all got your tickets to #synthfest2018? Synth Evolution are very proud to be hosting a stand with our posters, mugs and t-shirts. (Plus an interactive version of the SynthSounds website)

Not only that, but we’re launching a new poster - ‘Syntheseizer’s Greatest Hits’ which features all the most important and influential synthesizers of the last 80 years (yes, 80 - can you guess the earliest?' ;-) 10% discount to the first correct answer!

Here’s a sneak preview:

Synth Evolution - A1 poster - ‘Synthesizer’s greatest hits’

Synth Evolution - A1 poster - ‘Synthesizer’s greatest hits’

It will also available in white, and will be on sale on this website from October 7th 2018.

Blog entry

Synth Sounds: update

A regular series of posts charting the development of - the website which aims to have ALL the sounds of ALL the synths at the click of button

Current status: beta
Number of synth sounds: 42 of 375

June 29th 2018
Have been able to upload a large number of great synth demos, thanks to Jexus of

So we've got some of the classics already - DX7, D50, some ARP, Moog, Korg and Roland...but no TB-303 yet! Come on guys - someone's got to claim that one for their own! :-)

I've also listened to feedback and am working up an updated version of the site with a play button so you can tell that you've triggered a sample playback and can pause it, etc. Will be a couple of weeks before it goes live as there's a fair amount of hacking around in code to get the correct mouse behaviours, etc.


BBC Biggest Weekend - gig reviews

Ok, so I wasn't at any of the events, but I watched a load on iPlayer; here are my reviews, starting with electronic music superstars Orbital and Underworld...


- Great set, all the classics (first five mins wasn't so keen on)
- Nice synth malfunction in Satan, proving something was being done live


- Rez into Underworld was amazing

- Born Slippy always raises the hairs, especially when seeing it enjoyed by 1000s of other people

- Rick Smith was clearly miming a record-perfect rendition of Rez. I mean, really? It’s not dignified to do that at his age!!



- Wanted to like it, but style of vocals just not my cup of tea

- I just can’t get on with live drums for an intensely electronic style such as D’n’B. See a foolish article I wrote for Sound on Sound in my youth: sss (I still stand by it!!!)



 - Quite fun 


Lykke Li

- Always loved Dance Dance Dance so giving this set a whirl

- This first song ‘Swimming Pool’ is going on a bit

- All the songs I’m finding a bit boring I’m afraid. One chord per bar, vocal style unchanging, etc. 

- Enjoyed the second half a bit better, more interesting sounds and evocative atmosphere.

- No Dance Dance Dance! Wot a swizz!


Public Service Broadcasting

- not entirely convinced by the four-part Titanic piece, but at least they’d made an effort for the location

- Will they play Spitfire?

- Yes!

- Enjoyed second half of their set from Spitfire onwards


Simple Minds

 - Yeah, I know, a bit of nostalgia. Good 80’s keyboard styles! 



- This was great, need to track down more of their material

Blog entry, Audio

Chapter 2: Berlin. Tracks from Rave On by Matthew Collins

Following on from Chapter 1, here are the tracks mentioned in Chapter 2 of Matthew Collins' excellent 'Rave On' book. As noted before, there's no point just reading about the music of a scene - it kinda helps to hear it as well!

The Berlin chapter focuses on the import of techno to Berlin, the free parties of Love Parade and the sex parties of Berghain, Snax and others.

As a result the playlist is early 90's techno and artists like Westbam, Jam & Spoon, Spiral Tribe, etc.



Worth a watch - Free Tekno documentary about the current incarnation of the free party scene, a la Spiral Tribe:


Blog entry

Tracks from Rave On by Matthew Collin: Detriot TECHNO

I recently read Rave On by Matthew Collin - an excellent tour of global and historical dance music styles and I thought it'd be interesting to gather up the tracks mentioned into YouTube playlists to give a flavour of the music under discussion. 


(There's no point just reading about music if you don't then listen to examples!).

Typical synths and drum machines (as if you didn't know!): Roland TB-303, TR-808, TR-909
(buy the mugs here:

So, here's the overarching playlist:


And here are the individual tracks and links, with the relevant introductory quotes:

Chapter 1: Detroit

Chapter one covers the birth of arguably the most influential and mature dance music styles - techno. With it's roots in Detroit of the early 80's, it's sound is raw and it expresses the feelings of the people of city in tragic decline (at that time).

"When you hear tracks like UR's, 'Riot', that's Detroit screaming from the pressures of a racist society surrounding the city and bleeding it to death from the inside out" - Robert Hood.

"Because of the elegiac chord sequeneces and wistful melodies of some early Detroit techno, it has sometimes been interpreted as pure head music, but many of the original tracks were actually hard-pumping machine funk purpose-built for the dance floor, which is why tunes like May's 'Nude Photo' and Saunderson's 'The Sound' became anthems at British clubs like the Hacienda."

"(Derek) May sold a Roland drum machine to (Frankie) Knuckles, which he used to make the emotive anthem 'Your Love' with Jamie Principle'."

"We played [May's classic track] 'Strings of Life' to one A&R guy and he was just on the phone. He didn't even look at me. So we just left.'" - May

Underground Resistance, ‘Has Good Left This City?’

Was (Not Was), ‘Wheel Me Out’

"When Kraftwerk headlined Movement in 2016, it felt like a kind of homecoming. 'When they dropped the beat on Trans-Europe Express, I shivered’"



The Belleville Three / Detroit Trio: Derek May, Frankie Knuckles, Juan Atkins

First wave: Atkins, May, Saunderson, Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter, Anthony Shakir

Second wave: Stacey Pullen, Carl Craig, Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, Octave One

Canada: Richie Hawtin, John Acquaviva, Kenny Larkin

European influenced artists: 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Baby Ford, LF

Notable labels: Transmat, Metroplex, KMS, UR, Submerge, Planet E

Videos, Reviews

Carl Craig @ The Barbican, 6th April

Billed as the Carl Craig Synthesizer Ensemble, I was not too disappointed with the set up - four keyboard players and piano. Carl was very chatty this evening and said that the synths in use were three Dave Smith Prophet 6’s and a Dave Smith Oberheim OB6. So, very definitely part of the current wave of sexy new analogue synths.

Before I review the gig, I know you synth fans will want to hear the jam session at the end where each keyboard player did a little solo in a very classic keyboard player style. Unfortunately missed the first guy, but got the other three and the pianist (Kelvin Sholar). Sorry about the visuals, I wasn’t really paying that much attention, more listening to the grooves!

The gig itself was very enjoyable; it’s always a bit weird hearing dance music in a classical music venue - it never quite feels right. Though the nature of tonight’s music was much more on the epic and symphonic scale - from the album Versus - so was less about the dance and more about the journey of the tracks. What also helped was the large back projection of Detroit cityscapes.

The visuals were immediately compelling - an orange circle with a black cross on it filled the screen at the start - an already pleasing geometric image. Then as the camera (drone!) rose up, it was revealed to be the top of some weird chimney in the middle of a Detroit intersection, with roads going everywhere, strange pedestrian raised tunnels and curves, and geometry everywhere. A very arresting and exciting sequence.

In fact nearly all the images of Detroit were epic and grand in some way - focussing largely on the tall buildings in what I assume is central Detroit. Craig was clearly trying to present a view of Detroit other than the ‘apocalypse porn’ we often see of the decaying buildings there, following the collapse of the car industry. And judging from what he himself said, he is definitely proud of his home town and wants to try and change the standard narrative we have.

And I think that worked. The music fit the visuals perfectly; frequently starting from a small repetitive phrases before building into huge, overwhelming climaxes, it felt to me  (nearly) like a Koyaanisqatsi for the 21st Century. The pieces started at night, moved from dawn and daytime before returning to sunset and night.

I think that feeling would have been intensified had Carl not done so much talking in-between tracks, but it was actually quite nice to go to an electronic music gig and hear something about the motive for writing the music, and some reminisces about previous times in London, etc.

And then to round things off, we had the jam / solo session as embedded above. And why not - after quite an intense hour of music it was fun to let off a bit of steam and enjoy a bit of unpretentious synth noodling!




Synth Sounds

About Synth Sounds

Every fancied comparing the sound of every synth with the sound of every other?

Yes, us too. And here it is! A growing compendium of over 300 synths from the first golden age of synths - 1960 - 1990.

It will be expanded to include more recent synths and modular systems, drum machines and samplers in due course.

We hope you enjoy listening to them all and if you have a synth that isn't currently represented by a sample, then please send it to us at



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Blog entry

Submit a synth sound!

Send sounds to:
(pref via Dropbox / WeTransfer / etc) is a 100% crowd-sourced project so if you have a vintage synth which hasn't yet got a soundfile, we'd love you to send one in.

The dream is that on this page all synths will have a short demonstration of it's a MiniMoog to an Arp Odyssey. Compare a TB-303 to a MC-202. Or even a Con Brio ADS 200 to a PPG Realizer...

Sound files should be relatively short - a couple of mins maximum with no other instruments - this should be a 'one instrument' demo - what it sounds like by itself, pure and simple. It could be a couple of juicy basslines, a searing lead or two, maybe some arpeggiation, plus an illustration of what the filter sounds like and what the LFO can do. But most importantly, try to show what makes that synth unique, what it's especially good at, or what makes it distinctive. Maybe even show what it's *bad* at! No external FX and no layering (except for naturally multi-timbral instruments, of course).

Files should be high quality mp3 / wav / aiff / etc, and all submissions will be credited on the credits page, along with a link to a URL of your choice (Bandcamp, official website, whatever!). In addition - sounds that make it onto the site will get a 20% discount on a Synth Evolution poster or mug.

Full copyright will be retained by the producer of the file and will be taken down within 7 days if requested. Note that this being the internet, there's nothing we (or anyone else) can do to prevent people downloading your sound file(s) and doing what they like with it. Sound files must be submitted on this understanding.

Submitted soundfiles will be used at's discretion. Submission does not guarantee usage, but we will do our best to make use of everything sent in!

All images are copyright (c) 2017, 2018.
All sound files on  are the copyright of their owner.


- Why on earth are you doing this?

I love synths and thought this would be fun! AKA seemed like a good idea at the time.

- But most synths can be made to sound like most others, so what's the point?

Well...I would argue that every synth has something unique about it (check out the hard sync on the  Moog Prodigy sample on the site - beat that!) and that's what I'm hoping people will try to bring out in their samples of it. Plus, a FM synth is going to sound very differnt to a mono analogue, and let's see if we can really hear the qualities that make up the 'Moog' filter sound compared with a Roland one or an Arp one (Did Alan R Pearlman really copy the Moog filter ladder for the Arp 2600 and cover it with epoxy resin to hide the fact?*) *Yes.

- What if a synth already has a sample and I want to do one for it as well?

Feel free to send it in; if it's good enough or shows something interesting I'll append it to the existing one and credit both / all contributors. Can't promise, but will do my best.

- That's not nearly all synths, what a swizz!

Ok - so the first iteration now is analogue synths from 1960-90(ish). It's a lot of illustrations and sounds to handle, so am starting small, but I do have plans to:
- Increase the date range to include the 90's synths like Nord Lead, Access Virus, etc.
- Create a drum machine page
- Include more string synths and orchestral synths (but I never quite believe they're real synths...except for the Eminent 310 which is the sound of Jarre's Equinoxe 1, swoon)
- I can't quite bring myself to do electric organs, electric pianos - that would be too samey, right?
- I don't know if it's even possible to cover the modern renaissance of modular synths - there's so many being released all the time!!!
- Maybe I'll do all the Russian synths one day - there's loads of those. I do have the minimoog clone, the Altair Estridin 312
- Maybe I'll do all the old and very weird electronic sound generation instruments pre-analogue one day.
- Samplers seem a bit pointless to include, though it'd be nice to cover some of the classic libraries of Syclavier, etc. Copyright issues though?
- I may have missed out some of the more boring Korg workstations of the 90's, sorry!

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Exploring dorian mode

Brief video exploring the character of the dorian mode by playing some dorian melodies first in dorian and then in the natural minor.

The dorian mode differs from the natural minor only by one note, so was interested to see how changing that note affected the character of the melodies. In dorian, the 6th note is major, whereas the natural minor's 6th is minor.

A lot of the songs written in dorian seem to exploit this characteristic. Possibly also because the major 6th gives you a major dominant (V) chord in the scale, which otherwise would be minor.

Videos, Blog entry

Me demostrating the Prodigy used a Korg DS-8

Quick video on me comparing the synth stab on The Prodigy's 'No Good (Start the Dance)' and patch 68 on the Korg DS-8. I'm pretty sure that's the sound they used - perhaps a couple of minor parameter tweaks (there are two 'timbral' slders on the front panel that could well have been altered).

See what you think:

If it's not the DS-8 (and I think it is), then the quality of the sound suggests that it could be another FM synth, like DX7, etc.

Blog entry, Videos

Photosound experiment

Daphe Oram was a 20th century composer who experimented with her own method of sound synthesis back in the 1950s using images to generate tones. Lots of interesting facts here:

I did a similar sort of experiment with a Bridget Riley picture - the x-axis is time, the y-axis is frequency. I think the resulting sound compliments the painting quite well actually!

Let me know if you agree...