Songwriting Advice

How To Make 80s Music

how to make 80s music lyric assistant

If you're a fan of music from the golden era of analog synths, big hair, and MTV, you've probably wondered how to make 80s music. Whether it's the infectious pop beats of Michael Jackson, the electric dance sound of Depeche Mode, or the guitar-driven power ballads of Journey, the '80s was a decade of unforgettable music. In this article, we will go in-depth on how to create your own 80s-inspired tracks, complete with the tools you'll need to recreate that iconic sound. And, don't forget to try out Lyric Assistant, an incredible AI-powered songwriting tool that can help you craft your perfect song in minutes!

1. Learn About The Different 80s Music Styles

To create a track that's authentically '80s-sounding, you must first understand the different genres and subgenres that defined the era. The '80s saw a wide variety of styles, such as new wave, dance-pop, post-punk, and glam rock, to name a few. Each genre had its unique characteristics regarding melody, rhythm, and arrangement. So, do some research on your favorite 80s artists, their influences, and the genres that defined their work to give yourself a solid foundation to start creating your 80s-inspired tracks.

2. Use Analog Synths And Drum Machines

The sound of the '80s was dominated by the use of analog synthesizers and drum machines. Synths like the Roland Juno-60, Yamaha DX7, and Korg Poly-61, and drum machines like the LinnDrum and Roland TR-808 were iconic instruments of the time. To recreate that genuine 80s sound, consider using virtual instrument replicas of these classic synths and drum machines. Many modern DAWs also offer virtual instruments inspired by the '80s, providing easy access to those classic tones. Experiment with combining different synth textures and drum patterns to achieve that vintage vibe.

3. Master The Art Of 80s Songwriting

Beyond the instruments and sounds used, the songwriting in the '80s had its unique characteristics. Some typical features of '80s pop music include catchy hooks, anthemic choruses, and often, a bridge that showcases a soaring guitar solo or an instrumental breakdown. Experiment with incorporating these features into your own compositions, paying particular attention to memorable melodies and lyrics that stay true to the era's themes. Lyric Assistant can help you write your next 80s-inspired song based on your genre, topic, and desired structure preferences.

4. Focus On Production Techniques

Aside from instruments and composition, the production techniques used in the '80s played a significant role in shaping the decade's sound. Reverb-laden vocals, gated drum reverb, and big, layered instruments all contributed to the larger-than-life sonic quality that defined the era. To recreate this sound, do some research on the production techniques used by your favorite '80s producers, and apply these techniques when mixing and mastering your own tracks.

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Example: Pop, Rock, Rap, Electronic, R&B, K-Pop, Drill...
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Example: Love, loss, overcoming adversity, party, faith, personal growth, reflection...
Example: Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Grimes, Beyonce, Billie Eillish, Pink Floyd, BTS ...
A bridge is used to provide a new perspective or shift in your song's mood

5. Learn From Real-World Examples

An excellent way to learn how to make '80s music is to study the work of the era's most iconic artists and bands. As you listen to their music, make notes of the sounds, instruments, and production techniques that resonate with you the most. Don't be afraid to draw inspiration from their works, as it can help you find your own 80s-inspired sound. By combining your newfound knowledge of songwriting techniques, production tips, and iconic instruments, you'll be well on your way to making your own nostalgic hit.

The '80s was a decade of fantastic music that has influenced countless artists and genres since. By understanding the fundamentals of 80s music styles, using iconic analog synthesizers & drum machines, mastering songwriting techniques, and drawing inspiration from real-world examples, you'll be able to make your own distinctive tracks that genuinely capture that 80s essence you're after. And remember, try Lyric Assistant, an amazing songwriting tool that will help you craft your 80s-inspired hits in no time!

Frequently Asked Questions

What defines the sound of 80s music?

The sound of 80s music is often characterized by the use of synthesizers, drum machines (like the Roland TR-808), and gated reverb on drums. Melodies were catchy and hook-laden, and there was a notable presence of electronic elements, even in genres that were traditionally more acoustic. Additionally, the use of digital recording techniques came to prominence during this era.

How can I recreate the iconic 80s synthesizer sounds?

To recreate the iconic 80s synthesizer sounds, you'll want to use digital or analog synthesizers that offer a wide range of presets similar to the Yamaha DX7 or Roland Jupiter-8. Look for classic synthesizer sounds like lush pads, bright brasses, and distinctive basses. Allow yourself to experiment with the various oscillators, modulators, and filters.

What are some of the most influential 80s music genres?

New Wave, Synthpop, Hair Metal, Pop Rock, and Hip-Hop are among the most influential genres of the 1980s. You'll also find that other styles like post-punk, electronic body music, and house music had a significant impact on the sounds of the decade.

Which drum machines are essential for 80s music production?

Essential drum machines for 80s music production include the Roland TR-808 and TR-909, the LinnDrum, and the Oberheim DMX. These machines are known for their characteristic sounds that helped define the rhythm tracks of the decade.

Can I make 80s music without vintage gear?

Absolutely. Modern software emulations (VSTs), sample packs, and digital audio workstations (DAWs) come loaded with retro-inspired sounds and effects. These tools can closely mimic the textures of vintage gear, making 80s music production accessible to anyone, regardless of budget.

What were some common production techniques used in 80s music?

Common production techniques included heavy use of reverb, especially gated reverb on snare drums; punchy and compressed vocals; layering synthesizers for a fuller sound; and chorus effects on guitars. Sampling began to emerge as well, although in a more primitive form compared to today's standards.

How important is the use of MIDI in creating 80s music?

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) was a groundbreaking technology introduced in the 80s. It allowed different synthesizers and sequencers to communicate with each other, synchronizing them perfectly. Understanding how to use MIDI is crucial for authentic 80s music production.

What role did the bass guitar play in 80s music?

In 80s music, the bass guitar often took on a rhythmic and melodic role, driving the groove alongside drum machines. Synth bass lines were also very popular for their ability to provide a consistent and danceable low-end. Playing with a slap technique or using chorus effects were also common practices for bass players during this decade.

How can I effectively use reverb to get that 80s sound?

Reverb, especially gated reverb, is key for that 80s sound. Use it predominantly on snare drums and sometimes on toms to get that pronounced, dramatic effect that cuts off sharply. Reverb can also be applied more subtly on vocals and synthesized pads to add depth and ambiance consistent with the era's sound.

What is the role of guitar in 80s music production?

The guitar in 80s music varied widely, from the jangly, chorused clean tones in New Wave to the overdriven, high-gain solos in Hair Metal. The use of effects like chorus, flanger, and delay were common to enhance the texture of the guitar parts.

How do I make my tracks sound 'lo-fi' like many 80s recordings?

To attain a 'lo-fi' quality similar to many 80s recordings, you can use bitcrushers, tape emulation plugins, or sample at a lower bitrate. Rolling off some of the high frequencies and boosting the mids slightly can also help achieve that vintage tape warmth.

What vocal styles and techniques were popular in 80s music?

Vocalists in the 80s often employed a strong, emotive delivery. Techniques like belting and the use of vibrato were commonplace. Vocoders and talkboxes were also utilized for robotic-sounding effects, particularly in Synthpop and certain Rock genres.

Are there any key chord progressions or scales that characterize 80s music?

While there is no single chord progression or scale that defines 80s music, many songs relied on simple progressions that heavily featured I, IV, V, and vi chords. Minor scales and the use of colorful extensions, like added ninths, were popular for synthesizer melodies and solos.

How did 80s music videos influence the music creation process?

Music videos became a vital marketing tool in the 80s, with MTV leading the charge. The visual aspect influenced musicians to create more theatric and image-conscious performances, often resulting in more dramatic and narrative-driven songs.

What's the best way to learn 80s production techniques today?

The best way to learn 80s production techniques is to study the music of the era, watch tutorial videos, emulate the sounds using modern software, and practice mixing and mastering techniques that reflect the period's characteristics. Engaging with communities of vintage music enthusiasts can also provide useful tips and feedback.

Can I use auto-tune in 80s music production?

Auto-tune was not available in the 80s, but using it subtly in modern 80s-inspired music is acceptable. If you're aiming for authenticity, it's best to focus on capturing a good vocal performance without relying too heavily on pitch correction software.

Which artists should I study to understand 80s music production?

To understand 80s music production, study artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, The Cure, Duran Duran, Whitney Houston, Def Leppard, and Depeche Mode. These artists cover a broad spectrum of the 80s soundscapes and will provide good insights into the decade's production techniques.

How do I capture the 80s aesthetic beyond just the music?

To capture the 80s aesthetic beyond music, pay attention to the visual elements like album art, fashion, and typography from that period. Incorporate neon colors, geometric shapes, and stylized graphic design which reflect 80s pop culture in your overall presentation.

What are some challenges I might face when making 80s music?

Some challenges might include the difficulty of sourcing and emulating vintage equipment, capturing the authentic tones and production methods of the era, and balancing the line between homage and cliché. Additionally, integrating modern production values while maintaining an 80s feel can be an artistic challenge.

How can I make sure my 80s music appeals to a contemporary audience?

To ensure your 80s music appeals to a contemporary audience, blend vintage sounds with modern production techniques. This can involve crisp and clear mixing, incorporating current musical trends, and adding a unique twist to 80s elements that resonate with today's listeners.

Write Hit Songs Like a Professional Songwriter

The ultimate songwriting tool that takes your creative vision to the next level! With just a few clicks, you can unleash your inner songwriter and craft a hit that's uniquely yours. You own it.

Example: Pop, Rock, Rap, Electronic, R&B, K-Pop, Drill...
Example: Happy, sad, inspirational, romantic, gritty...
Example: Love, loss, overcoming adversity, party, faith, personal growth, reflection...
Example: Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Grimes, Beyonce, Billie Eillish, Pink Floyd, BTS ...
A bridge is used to provide a new perspective or shift in your song's mood

About Toni Mercia

Toni Mercia is a Grammy award-winning songwriter and the founder of Lyric Assistant. With over 15 years of experience in the music industry, Toni has written hit songs for some of the biggest names in music. She has a passion for helping aspiring songwriters unlock their creativity and take their craft to the next level. Through Lyric Assistant, Toni has created a tool that empowers songwriters to make great lyrics and turn their musical dreams into reality.

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