Episode 13: Pink Floyd Synth Effects
In this episode we explore how to produce synthesizer sounds and effects from the classic Pink Floyd recording “Welcome To The Machine.” The original recording from the 1975 album “Wish You Were Here” used an EMS VCS 3, ARP String Ensemble and Mini-Moog synthesizers.
“It’s very much a made-up-in-the-studio thing which was all built up from a basic throbbing made on a VCS 3, with a one repeat echo used so that each ‘boom’ is followed by an echo repeat to give the throb. With a number like that, you don’t start off with a regular concept of group structure or anything, and there’s no backing track either. Really it is just a studio proposition where we’re using tape for its own ends—a form of collage using sound.”
-David Gilmour, 1975, WYWH Songbook
We started by creating an atmospheric drone using the Cathedral reverb in the infinite mode. The guitar’s low E string was tuned very low and picked. After the initial attack had faded, the sound was frozen. The end result was a low, airy humming sound.
Buzzing motor sounds were created by holding a cordless Norelco electric shaver next to the guitar pickups. The sound was picked up and processed by a Big Muff fuzz and a Octave Multiplexer. The resulting sound was recorded into a Stereo Memory Man in the loop mode. The delay knob was used in playback to change the pitches.
The throbbing bass was done using a Big Muff fuzz and a POG2 set for the octave below. The filter was set in the high resonance position and the filter was played in rhythm manually.
The steam sounds and the pulsing rhythm was produced by using the noise from a Big Muff fuzz cranked up to 10. With nothing connected to the unit, all we hear is circuit noise or what’s called “thermal noise.” This noise is very close to the sound of a synthesizer’s white noise.
To operate the Big Muff without a chord plugged in I used a dummy plug. This turns the Big Muff on and allows you just to hear its internal noise at the output.
For the pulsing rhythm I boosted the noise even higher by using a LPB1 after the fuzz.
The solo sound was produced by the chain below.
Using 1/4 to XLR adapters I was able to plug the guitar into the V256 Vocorder which normally uses XLR microphone cable connectors.
In the transposition mode I found a glide effect I have never heard before in a guitar pedal. It glides the pitches of the guitar smoothly from one to another, just like the portamento effect on a Moog synthesizer. It was perfect for this sound as Pink Floyd used a Mini Moog synthesizer for the solo sound.
The V256 was connected to a MicroSynth set for a multi-octave sound.
Next in line was the Clone Theory set for a classic synth vibrato effect and switched on at the end of phrases.
Last in the chain was a Stereo Memory Man set for a single delay. Using a single delay gave the sound a big echo without clouding up the performance with multiple repeats.
The final sound in the video emulated the sound of a generator slowing down, or vari-speed tape recorder. I found a similar sound by holding a telephone receiver next to the guitar pickup.
A Soul Preacher compressor was used to boost the telephone signal. (An LPB-1 booster would work as well.)
The telephone dial tone was picked up and recorded into a Stereo Memory Man where on playback I changed the pitch using the delay knob.
I recorded this clip using a clean amp simulator direct into the computer. No guitar amps were used. If you are using a guitar amp, set it for a very clean, flat or neutral sound when using the settings above.
Thanks for listening!