Vince Clarke has cemented his place as a legend of synth pop. In the ’80s, he penned numerous hits with Depeche Mode prior to forming smash duo Yaz with singer Alison Moyet. Yaz disbanded after just two albums, but Vince returned with singer Andy Bell in 1986 to form Erasure, and they’ve released 13 albums since. Full of Vince’s bubbly synth stylings, “A Little Respect” is perhaps their best-known track. Let’s examine the synth-and-piano chordal figure that drives the track. I used Arturia Prophet-V (left); a real analog synth such as a Prophet ’08 (below) would also rule.
Scroll down for audio examples and extended programming notes.
Step 1. Set up a piano sound in your DAW. It doesn’t need to have a big memory footprint, as a medium-quality piano will do. Add compression and stereo chorus, as well as an EQ with bass rolled off and some high-shelf boost.
Step 2. Turn to your analog or virtual analog synth, and set both oscillators to a pulse wave at the same pitch. Detune them by a couple of cents. Set the waveform to pulse for both oscillators.
Step 3. Set the low-frequency oscillator (LFO) to a triangle wave at a rate of about 5Hz, and route it to both oscillators’ pulse width. Set the modulation depth around 75%. Things should be pretty warbly here—the straight piano sound you’ll layer in tends to un-warble the overall tone.
Step 4. Set both oscillators to full volume in the oscillator mix section.
Step 5. Set filter cutoff about 75% open, resonance off, envelope amount to 50%, and keyboard tracking to full.
Step 6. By turning up the envelope amount knob, the filter cutoff will be lightly controlled by the envelope generator. Set the filter attack at 20ms, decay at 300ms, sustain at 50%, and release at 300ms—these values don’t have to be exact. Duplicate these settings for the volume envelope.
Now program and quantize the chords in your sequencer, and make sure to copy the sequence for the piano and synth sounds. It’s all simple triads, mostly in C, so it should be pretty easy to pay a little respect to Mr. Clarke.
Here are some notes on my Erasure "A Little Respect" patch, created with Logic's EXS24 (piano) and Arturia Prophet-V virtual analog synth.
littleres_fullmix.mp3 - An excerpt of the whole song with both piano and synth plus percussion and bass synth.
littleres_piano.mp3 - This is a quick demo of the piano patch used. I've thinned it out with EQ because the synth patch has a fair amount of body and we don't want them getting too muddy when combined. I've also added compression and stereo chorusing.
littleres_oneosc.mp3 - This is oscillator 1, set to a pulse wave with no modulation applied.
littleres_twoosc.mp3 - Here we have both oscillators, set to pulse waves in the same octave, with 7% detune on oscillator 2.
littleres_pwm.mp3 - Same as above, but the pulse width is modulated by an LFO set to a triangle wave at about 5Hz. The modulation depth is at about 75%. This is set with the virtual mod wheel on Arturia Prophet-V and assigned by clicking the PWA and PWB buttons in the Wheel-Mod section.
littlerespect.provbanlk - This is the patch for Arturia Prophet-V. It will work only with Prophet-V and may be imported by clicking the Import button in the top menu bar and pointing to the file. It should then appear in the preset menus. Since the Keyboard site can't host this file format, CLICK HERE to get it from my mirror directory.