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Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby nathanscribe » Sun Jul 25, 2010 5:14 pm

I doubt it was a JX-10 or MKS-70 as they weren't out till 1986. "Running Up That Hill" was released in August 1985.

The JX-8P was released "late '85" according to Pete Forrest, so is unlikely.

Also in Forrest's A-Z, Bush is not listed as any of the well-known-users of any of the Roland kit - just the CS-80 (on The Dreaming), a couple of Hammonds and a Rhodes. Also, the A-Z doesn't deal with digital synths, just analogue.

I know Forrest isn't always accurate with these dates as they're sometimes based on the dates of service notes rather than actual sales, so take the info at face value.

Listening to the track it sounds in the ballpark of a bowed instrument - whether it's a sample that's been tweaked, or a synth that's been sampled and tweaked I can't say, but that's my 2p.
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby nathanscribe » Sun Jul 25, 2010 5:16 pm

Neil C wrote:On the credits for the album the only mention of keyboards is this:

So that suggests a fairlight on Hill.

You beat me to it while I was typing..! :D
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby desmond » Sun Jul 25, 2010 6:07 pm

nathanscribe wrote:Listening to the track it sounds in the ballpark of a bowed instrument - whether it's a sample that's been tweaked, or a synth that's been sampled and tweaked I can't say, but that's my 2p.


Yeah, I get the same vibe, at least from memory (haven't gone back and relistened yet). Like an aggressively bowed cello, possibly manipulated a bit in envelope, pitch/ filtering, and with some delay on it.

Hey, if we could make this a little forum project, that would be great - this sound has always bugged me. Maybe we should each make a stab at doing a recreation and post up audio clips of our results, as some sound design fun..?
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby The Elf » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:09 pm

nathanscribe wrote:I doubt it was a JX-10 or MKS-70 as they weren't out till 1986. "Running Up That Hill" was released in August 1985.

I just said it was reminiscent of a JX-8P - I'm not nailing it to that synth, or any other. Plenty of synths can assign envelope to pitch. I'm not convinced it's a Fairlight, since the length of the pitch lift doesn't seem to speed up/slow down with the pitch of the note, but it's really hard to tell for sure.
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby Axonaut » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:44 pm

Hey, if we could make this a little forum project, that would be great - this sound has always bugged me. Maybe we should each make a stab at doing a recreation and post up audio clips of our results, as some sound design fun..?

I don't want to spoil the fun, but you could ask Del Palmer, who did some of the synth programming for that album, AFAIK.

http://www.delpalmer.com/page13.htm

pm me if you need his email address or phone :tongue:
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby desmond » Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:52 pm

The Elf wrote:I'm not convinced it's a Fairlight

Even though she only worked with the Fairlight at that time, the song credits only list the Fairlight, and she herself said in an interview that it was the Fairlight?

Of course, we don't know for sure, but there is significant evidence to say it most likely was the Fairlight with some unknown sound.
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby nathanscribe » Sun Jul 25, 2010 8:03 pm

The Elf wrote:I'm not convinced it's a Fairlight, since the length of the pitch lift doesn't seem to speed up/slow down with the pitch of the note, but it's really hard to tell for sure.

Can the Fairlight not apply pitch bend to a sample in the playing? Not a facetious question, I genuinely don't know. I've seen one in the flesh but not been lucky (?) enough to use it...

Regarding the JX thing, I wasn't assuming you thought it was a JX, I was just repeating what I'd found regarding whether it could have been. :)
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby desmond » Sun Jul 25, 2010 8:07 pm

Peter Conz Connelly wrote:Are you on about the melody bit or the breathy C / D# chord that plays throughout? I don't know about the melody but I do know the breathy chord is the SarahIIx / Arr sample (the most famous and mostly used Fairlight sound) played constantly with SH!T loads of reverb.

Hmm. I don't think that's the case. Certainly the Arr1 sample is pretty legendary, but I'm listening to the song now and noticing a few interesting things:

- The main pad that's holding the notes/chord underneath is really nice - there is a texture in there (definitely not from Arr1) that makes it really attractive. Certainly the breathy quality might come from Arr1 in there somewhere as a layer - it's pretty plausible in any case. But I don't think it's "the whole story", if you pardon the pun ;)

You can most clearly hear it on the intro and end fade out of the stuff as that chord holds after everything else has ended. I'm gonna dig out my copy of Arr1 and compare I think... :) You never now, that interesting texture might just be something as simple as an aliasing artifact, but I think there's something else in there, or at least it's a different sound to Arr1.

- The main riff sound is also the same sound playing chords throughout the song - I'd never realised this before. Hence the "I wrote that song on the Fairlight around that sound" comment from Kate.

- The main riff has a fairly obviously slap back echo on it which helps smooth it over and disguise it further.

My *guess* is that it's a string or orchestra hit sample, with a pitch envelope (or portamento) and lo pass filter envelope to give it that "bark".

We really are anoraks, eh? :)
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby The Elf » Sun Jul 25, 2010 8:25 pm

nathanscribe wrote:
The Elf wrote:I'm not convinced it's a Fairlight, since the length of the pitch lift doesn't seem to speed up/slow down with the pitch of the note, but it's really hard to tell for sure.

Can the Fairlight not apply pitch bend to a sample in the playing? Not a facetious question, I genuinely don't know. I've seen one in the flesh but not been lucky (?) enough to use it...
I've never used one either, but I'm guessing it's capabilities were pretty limited. If it *is* a Fairlight, then I'm as intrigued as everyone else around here! :D
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby desmond » Sun Jul 25, 2010 8:47 pm

You know what - after a few minutes of playing around (I loaded the intro chord so I can have a nice listen. It's certainly not Arr1, drenched with reverb or not - it doesn't sound like it at all) I've come to the conclusion it is, as I suspected, almost certainly a modified version of the Fairlight's cello patch - this has the characteristic pitch sweep build into the sample.

It's not there yet, and is a bit munchkinny in a way it isn't on the record, but is very similar in characteristics.

Not only that, but while I was setting up FX sends, I accidentally sent this patch to the lone droney reverb I was testing the Arr1 sample on, and all of a sudden that weird character I was describing in the pad was there!

I'm going to play around with it more, but at the moment, I'm 99% sure it was the Fairlight, and about 95% sure it was one of the Fairlight cello factory samples (or at least one of the strings, haven't played too much yet), albeit edited a bit, FX, etc.

This has been fascinating for me. I'll see how close I can get it, and post audio clips etc.

Edit: Ok, I'm now 99.5% sure it was predominantly Fairlight string samples - there are a few with the right kind of character, including Cells, Violas and Violins. I don't know exactly which patch does what, but it's those for sure. And it's the main riffs, the chordal parts, and the sustaining background chords. And basically this means that apart from the real instrument parts (and possibly drums) then I can easily see how the whole arrangement was done on the Fairlight. It totally fits sonically.

Will have some fun working through the options and putting together some audio to listen - I think's it's pretty convincing. It certainly clears it up for me.
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby BJG145 » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:11 pm

(It's possible that it's a synth which has been sampled and played on the Fairlight, since she used to do this.)

For demos, I'd use the Yamaha CS80 because what happens on it seems quite nice, and it was just a matter of setting the same sounds on the Fairlight. The bell sound on "Sat In Your Lap" was originally done on the CS80 and we thought at the time that it was a good sound, but when we did it on the Fairlight it was much better.

http://gaffa.org/reaching/i83_es.html
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby desmond » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:26 pm

No, it's the Fairlight factory string samples.
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby Neil C » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:28 pm

Axonaut wrote:
I don't want to spoil the fun, but you could ask Del Palmer, who did some of the synth programming for that album, AFAIK.

On the credits it gives him as:
'Drum Programming [Linn]'

and also bass and one of the engineers.
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby desmond » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:41 pm

He definitely did the drum parts, because in interviews she said she asked Del to knock up a drum pattern, he came up with that, and it set her off to write the song.

Whether they were the Fairlight as well, or a different drum machine, I'm not sure. If it's 1984/5, then perhaps it could be a Linn Drum or Yamaha RX11, something like that... but don't know for sure. The drums are heavily FX'ed for sure.

Edit: And interestingly enough, I get a closest match to the drone pad *not* by sustaining the closest string sample, but actually by playing the short cello sound that plays the main riff with a long reverb and hearing the after reverb drone, leading me to think that the sustaining pad is actually a sample of the cello sample played through a long reverb, then looped - so it's the sustaining loop of the reverberent tail that makes up the drone, rather than the source string sample sustaining.

Either that or they put the reverb on a freeze or infinite setting or something - but given that's it's more 12-bit grungy and noisy than my nice clean reverbs, it was probably resampled into the Fairlight.
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby desmond » Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:30 am

Ok, here's some examples.

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to get this 100% identical - I'm trying to do a proof of concept that will attempt to show basically how it was put together. There will be sonic differences, and if I put in lots of effort I could get them much closer - that's not the point of the exercise.

Let's start with the droney pad that goes through the song and provides a haunting kinda backdrop - most clearly heard at the beginning and end of the song:

- Kate original pad

It was mentioned earlier that someone thought it might be the Arr1 Fairlight sample with reverb - let's give that a try:-

- C+D# with Arr1 & reverb

Nope - clearly this doesn't have anything close to the character. In my book, not the same sound.

So, I took that sound from the Kate track, and looped it and bunged into into a sampler so I could easily listen:

- Looped sample of pad

Just love that sound, it's got an interesting honky character in the mids which is beautiful. Note how noisy and grainy it is though.

Ok, as I was playing through the factory Fairlight samples, I'd already decided that Cello2 was the most likely sound candidate, and while routing mistakenly sent it through a long reverb - and instantly got that honky character I like so much. This is the dry sample, and then the same thing going through a big reverb.

- Cello and reverb

Yes, it's all too clean and top endy, but that was the clue I was looking for. The pad was actually the frozen reverb sound from the cello, rather than the cello itself.

And it's the only Fairlight sample that gives this quirky mid character in the reverb tail - it's quite distinctive.

So, I quickly sampled just the reverb, compressed, mono-ised it and added a bitcrusher (the original pad in the record is quite noisy if you listen to it, like the reverb is low quality or descending into noise). The bitcrusher here (set to 8-bit) does not give the same character, and the reverb decays too quickly, but I just did it to grunge up the reverb and make it more lofi to compare, to see if we are on the right track:

- Grunged reverb tail

So let's listen to the original and the quick faked copy:

- Compare to original

Like I say, it's not identical (I don't have a Fairlight, don't know how that part was generated, the reverb used, the mix settings etc) - but it's convinced me enough with that nice character that the lovely backing pad sound comes from this kind of process - a frozen reverb sample of that Cello2 sample, the same sample used for the riff.

Speaking of the riff, being the "money" sound we are talking about, let's have a crack at that.

- Original riff

The Cello2 sample is the most likely candidate, and it already has a slight pitch scooped attack characteristic of string instruments like the violin - however, on the record there is more pitch scoop. This was imo most likely played/sequenced with pitch bend. For the purposes of this, I added a small envelope routed to pitch on the sample to pronounce the pitch scoop so I wouldn't have to keep playing the pitch bend.

I then routed it through a slap back echo effect from Logic's tape delay, and rolled of the top end (a little too much). I also gave it a little plate reverb to thicken it up. Again, the sound quality is not identical due to the processes involved, and the original is thicker and probably EQ's and compressed and is coming from the Fairlight & tape, but the basic sound is there imo. (I also added the low part from the same sound which again isn't quite right - the original is slower/longer) but it helps illustrate it).

It also sounds a little weird when isolated without all the other stuff going on, but even the original would.

- New riff

While the examples are by no means perfect, playing around with this stuff, together with the other evidence from interviews etc left me in little doubt that this was the source of the Running Up that Hill keyboard parts. Fairlight, Cello2, some FX and some inspiration were the main ingredients here.

For me, I'm convinced.
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby fatbenelton » Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:45 am

Irrefutable evidence m'lud - I withdraw my MKS70/JX comment! Spot on!
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby Jonnypopisical » Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:10 am

Wow! Seems I've really opened up a can of worms here - Many thanks Desmond for all your work on this - and yes I think you have certainly cracked it as a concept! In due course I'll be trying to get this sound too so I'll let you know how I get on - my version of the song will be quite different but I'd really like to use some of the original sounds to give it 'that' flavor.

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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby Richie Royale » Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:19 am

Two thumbs up to Desmond. I'll have a listen later.

I had a quick listen to the original on You Tube and found quite a few interviews with Kate, which are worth a look for any fans.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syDT1MHmvOI Discussing Babooshka
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmTyflX_uV4 On Rapido, later in her career
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSQ6ispjgnU With Paul Gambaccini
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOo916s2jTI On Delia Smith!
http://www.vidoemo.com/yvideo.php?i=V0hwUEF2cWuRpYTl3T1U&kate-bush-very-early-interview-1978= From 1978

There's loads out there!

---------------------------

As a separate point, the "Yeh yeh yo" part, do you think it is a sampled part or was it done live? My guess is it is sampled (original not from a file).
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby BJG145 » Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:26 am

Ha, good work Desmond!
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Re: Kate Bush - Running up that Hill - main synth sound

Postby desmond » Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:26 am

Richie Royale wrote:As a separate point, the "Yeh yeh yo" part, do you think it is a sampled part or was it done live? My guess is it is sampled (original not from a file).


Kate is known for interesting vocal treatments, particularly in arrangement, the performance (she has a wide range of "voices") and FX treatments. I don't think she's ever given away many secrets and is largely fairly evasive about studio techniques (not because she wants to hold on to secrets, but I think generally the process is not something she wants to put "out there". We get the results to enjoy, she keeps the creative process private - which is fair enough.)

So she's certainly no stranger to do multiple vocal parts, and I'm pretty sure that all the vocals on RUTH at least were going to tape. The Fairlight was still too grungy in those days to make good sounding vocal parts - that probably had to wait for the mark three.

So my vote would almost certainly be tape, not sampled.
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