A New Order Of Keys From Years Past

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A New Order Of Keys From Years Past


Acid House Era

In a time when the acid house wave was spreading through the UK and the rest
 of the world, New Order managed to find the perfect recipe for a hit track. This was one of the first tracks the band produced with drummer Stephen Morris not finding
 a place behind the kit as an Oberheim drum machine was used for the bouncy, yet defining percussion. This meant there was more room for keyboard control with an extra set of hands. Naturally, the unmistakable Peter Hook bass sound carries through the track, but the layers of synth and vocoder sounds are what really define the ‘Blue Monday’, one of the most remixed tracks of all time.


Nothing Too Fancy

This really is one of those songs that can be cleverly achieved without having to own a synth museum. Most synths available these days will have every sound already loaded as a pre-set and if not, it doesn’t take much tweaking to find the right tone. The choir voice, or one very similar, can be found on just about any Roland keyboard or sound module that has been released in the last thirty years. I think, going through my collection, I have at least fifteen models that can faithfully recreate this sound without much more than a tweak of one or two knobs. The saw wave lead line is another that can be easily found in most synth banks without too much trouble and the bass arpeggio is easily achievable with a little filtering. But, you don’t have to go with a hardware route, as there are a plethora of plug-ins and software synths that will get you sounding just like the classic.



Possibly the most complex sound within this track to reproduce is the vocoder effect for Bernard Sumner’s backing vocals. This, along with many of the sounds, weren’t
too easy to achieve when the song was originally produced, especially when played live. Nowadays, however, we are blessed with an abundance of synthesizers that make light work of a track like this. Most Korg synths released in the last ten years have come with an attachable microphone that connects to the vocoder feature, which can be very easily accessed. Novation have had a couple of success stories with their Ultranova and Mininova synths that also featured built in vocoders with attachable microphones and now Roland are set to give them all a run for their money with a guitar synth vocoder that will change the way we listen to this sound forever.


Keying the Drums

If you really want to have some fun with this track, then try playing the drum parts on the keyboard as well. Just jump into the standard GM drum set on any keyboard and you should find all the sounds you need in no more than a two-octave range at the lower register of the keyboard.


Even the cheesy handclap sound can be found within the most basic of GM drum sets, so there is no reason why, with a 
few different keyboards (and a couple of extra hands helping) you can’t belt out a great cover of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ with not too much trouble! On top of 
that, with the availability of systems like Native Instruments’ Maschine or Ableton’s Push, there are plenty of DJ/producer interfaces that make it an even simpler reality. The gap between electronic drums and keyboards has been greatly reduced
 in recent years with many MIDI controller keyboards incorporating drum pad sections in their top panels that take their design idea from the famed Akai MPC. It’s now a very real possibility for a keyboard player to be a drummer too in an electronic outfit.