This is a guest article by Flynn Hendry, an Australian producer,musician, and Tame Impala tone enthusiast. He has covered several Tame Impala songs, and also created “If Tame Impala Composed Stranger Things“, which has over 1 million views on Youtube. In this article, he talks through his Kevin Parker style production process.
In just under a decade, Kevin Parker, the mastermind behind Tame Impala’s music, has formed a distinct sound that has captured the ears of music lovers all around the world. I, being one of them, found a keen interest in trying to figure out how Parker makes everything sound the way it does.
After doing some research, I realised that trying to achieve this sound would be impossible without draining my wallet, until I noticed that many of the techniques used in Tame Impala’s songs can be done by simply manipulating effects in music software programs such as Ableton Live. Using these techniques, I managed to pull off some covers that could be associated with Parker himself. In this article, I will be using an original piece I made in Ableton to showcase the sounds of Tame Impala.
- Full Demo00:00
Tame Impala Drums
The drums are probably the most important aspect of the Tame Impala sound; the sound is very distinct and easily recognisable. For this piece, a Kontakt library by Native Instruments, called Abbey Roads 60s Drummer, was used to recreate this drum sound. What is most important about the overall sound is the use of compression and effects.
In this case, I used two Ableton Effects Rack presets, including the Boombox Drums and Crushed Drumsracks. These effects are used to create a distorted sound, whilst also opening the drum sound up in order to create more space and depth in the overall sound.
- Drums Dry00:00
- Drums Processed00:00
The bass guitar plays an important role in the sound by filling in all the empty space in order to make the mix sound fuller. The bass is necessary for filling the low end since all the guitars are very mid focused. For the bass, I plugged the bass guitar directly into the box, added a compressor to give it a tighter sound, and increased the mid-range to create that rubbery bass sound that Tame Impala are famous for. I then added a saturator to make it more driven, and also used a filter to reduce some of the high-end.
- Bass Dry00:00
- Bass Processed00:00
The synth in Tame Impala songs is most of the time used in order to fill the space with more spacey sounds. The combination of live instruments like drums, guitar and bass, and synths, makes the listen more exciting and alluring. In this case, I was trying to emulate the sound of a Roland Juno 106 which Kevin Parker used primarily on Lonerism.
I used a synth library called Retro Machines v2, which is also made by Native Instruments. I used a preset called Chroma Brass 1,which is a basic synth brass sound. To give it more depth and flavour, I layered two of them on top of each other each at different octaves. I also used the built-in LFO to control the pitch modulation of the synth which made it sound more retro and psychedelic.
I then used a compressor and side-chained it to the drums in order to create a pulsating synth sound. I then used Guitar Rig 5 to add a phaser to the synth for added Tame Impala vibes. Finally, a big hall reverb was added to make the synth sound more spacey.
- Synths Dry00:00
- Synths Processed00:00
Tame Impala, without a doubt, has some of the best guitar tones I’ve ever heard. The cranked mid sounds of Kevin’s Vox AC30 amp, combined with unorthodox pedal combinations makes an alluring and powerful sound. In my piece, I used a Fender Strat on the middle pickup, plugged directly into the box, and made use of Guitar Rig 5 in order to get a nice AC30 sound.
The Guitar Rig preset I made included an AC30 amp emulation (set to the Jangle preset), a stomp compressor, a vintage reverb, a short delay, and an EHX Small Stone phaser emulation. One of the most important things about this sound is that the reverb is placed before the compressor, which creates a distinct sound you can hear on all of the Tame Impala records.
I also added an EQ as a finishing touch in order to really push the mids through the mix. I recorded two guitar tracks and panned them left and right to create a more spacious mix.
- Guitar Dry00:00
- Guitar Processed00:00
- Published on July 6, 2018
Header artwork by Makarxart
- Published on July 6th, 2018
Tame Impala Synth Sounds, Part Two
Tame Impala Synth Sounds, Part Three
Tame Impala’s Gossip Synth
Comments on Tame Impala Production Tricks
17 thoughts on “Tame Impala Production Tricks”
How do you get the drums to go crazy like that do u draw if in midi ?
This is awesome! How do i get that boombox and crushed drums rack presets??
Great article ! Really useful as all your website. This guitar rig preset is nice, it would be great if u could do the same with the guitarist of The Kills.. 🙂
Reminds me of Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind? And Apocalypse Dreams. Great article
Hey, that bass EQ is really tight! Thanks for taking the time to demo this. I’m in the middle of recording a new album and I started using that eq as part of my stock bass guitar chain to great effect. Really appreciate what you’re doing! Keep up the good work!
Amazing article dude! Such a great thing that you spend time on digging Kevin’s sound.
Would love to see more articles like this. Keep it coming!
I would absolutely love to know what GR5 phaser settings you used for the phased synth sound. It’s so rich and wide! Stoned Phaser? Thanks for all these amazing articles!
Wow! Very well done.
Can you share a ableton project ? i have all plugins i want a scan and learn
They’re very intriguing haha
Heyy what synth chords were used here?
Reverb BEFORE delays according to Parker himself.
I don’t see the picture for the saturation you used for the bass. I see 2 auto filters, could that’ve been a mistake?
I can’t seem to be able to load the GR5 patch for some reason, but it does sound pretty close to yours based on the ss. Did you add EQ in the rack or in the DAW? Thanks!
Hey Leo. I know this is way after the fact, but did you ever manage do get this preset to load? I had the same issue of not being able to get it working.
Wow I have a preset on Guitar Rig that’s pretty similar, but this one is super cool. Isn’t it crazy how Tame Impala fans have all been hive minding on Ableton for these past few years?