Tears For Fears is a band responsible for creating some of the most widely loved songs of all time. We look into their process and some of the gear they used to develop their sound.
Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith met Ian Stanley in Bath, UK in the early 1980s, when he offered the duo the use of his studio for the purpose of recording demos.
The band was subsequently signed to Phonogram Records UK in 1981 based on the strength of these demos, and went on to achieve some international chart success with songs like Change and Pale Shelter off their debut album The Hurting.
The Tears For Fears Sound
From that point, Tears For Fears expanded their vision with a more sophisticated sound, again working with Chris Hughs as a producer, but also using engineer Dave Bascombe, who was fond of digital samplers.
The new energy in the music was instantly well-received worldwide, with 5 of the 8 tracks off Songs From The Big Chair (1985) becoming hit singles and still very much appreciated to this day.
Sequential Circuits Prophet T8
Although it was slightly overshadowed by the release of the Yamaha DX7, the Prophet T8 was still an incredible innovation back in 1983. The Prophet T8 featured a 76-key Pratt-Read weighted keybed, which although temperamental, allowed a range of additional functions.
Besides velocity, the T8’s 8-voice engine provided polyphonic aftertouch and poly mod, which set it apart from many other flagship analogue keyboards of the time. You can hear it on the intro chords of Everybody Wants To Rule The World.
Today, you’ll be lucky to find a T8 for sale, but Sequential has kept most of the features alive in the form of the Prophet 10.
Sequential Prophet 10
The Fairlight CMI was a digital workstation that was first introduced in the late 1970s, and instantly caught on with musicians as it provided incredible creative flexibility and a sequencer that could be incorporated into analogue tape machine workflows.
Although the £30,000 price tag predominantly kept it in the hands of big studios and major label acts, the Fairlight had a major impact on music at the time. TFF used it extensively on SFTBC, where you can hear it on the distinctive pipe melody from Shout‘s first verse onwards.
As a modern alternative, Arturia has recreated the Fairlight in the form of the Fairlight V software instrument.
Arturia V Collection 9 Download
The gritty drum beat from Shout was created with the E-mu Drumulator. The first version was a digital ROMpler very much inspired by the Linndrum, which featured 8-voice polyphony and a 12-bit digital sample playback engine.
The rock kit used by Tears For Fears was created using drum samples from Led Zeppelin’s famous When The Levee Breaks, a drum sound still widely revered throughout audio engineering circles to this day.
If you’re looking for Lo-Fi sampled drum sounds, the TAL-Drum gives you an easy and affordable way to do it with vintage modeling and great editing functions.
No 1980s classic record would be complete without the LinnDrum. This 8-bit 35 kHz digital drum machine provides 15 parts and 12 voices, but the key aspects were the intuitive sequencer and the unique degradation that occurred when you pitched the sounds up or down.
Each of the 15 parts had its own individual outputs which added plenty of flexibility, and the LinnDrum also supported external sync and it had trigger inputs to interface with other sequencers.
XLN Audio AD 2 Reel Machines Download
From 1983, the DX7 era of music became increasingly apparent. Although it grew in popularity due to the songs that featured the DX7 rather than its synthesis capabilities, it was still a major innovation compared to the polyphonic synthesizers of the time.
With its 6-operator 16-bit FM synthesis engine you can craft unique polyphonic sounds, especially if you add an external controller like the DTronics DT-7 into the equation.
As an alternative, the KORG opsix provides similar synthesis capabilities with the addition of a sequencer and an extensive effects section.
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More about Tears For Fears:
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- Sequential Circuits Prophet T8: Great Synthesizers
- Fairlight CMI: Science Museum Group Collection
- E-mu Drumulator.: Wikipedia
- The legendary LinnDrum, the throbbing neon heart of the 80s: Amazona
- Yamaha DX7: Yamaha
- tal_drum_pluginboutique: Plugin Boutique
- pb: Plugin Boutique