Synth Part Saturday: student blogger Bubba Ayoub’s commentary on great synth parts

Our student blogger Bubba Ayoub isn’t just a musician, maker, vintage synth geek, aspiring sound designer, and living example of how Bob’s legacy continues to guide and inspire creativity in all ages. He’s also the author of our “#SynthSolo Saturday” Facebook posts appearing regularly online, nearly every weekend.

Love great synth parts? Then you’ll love these videos with Bubba’s commentary. You might also love Bubba’s enthusiasm and his sophisticated appreciation of great music from across the decades.

Here’s our irregularly updated archive of all the #Synthsolo Saturday posts from Bubba, starting in May 2014. (And don’t miss the posts that started it all: Epic Synth Parts, and Epic Synth Parts, Part II).


Dec. 13, 2014 Rush, “Tom Sawyer”

“Canada’s Rush released their debut album 40 years ago, but I would argue that their classic period came a few years later, when Geddy Lee started playing Taurus pedals, Minimoogs, and giant Oberheim synths on stage and in the studio. Case in point, the perennial staple of classic rock radio (and textbook case of how devastatingly effective restraint is) ‘Tom Sawyer.’ Those Oberheim filter sweeps still get me every time, and if I’m not rocking hard when the solo comes in at the end, you can safely assume I’m dead.”

Dec. 6 Big Black Delta, “Huggin and Kissin”

“Huggin’ and Kissin’ by Big Black Delta is a pulsing, vivid exploration of huge synth sounds and excellent vocal processing. I’ve got no idea what the song is about, because every time I try to listen to it with the words in mind, that hyper-kinetic screamer of a synth solo comes in and words lose all their meaning.”

November 29, 2014 Raymond Scott, “Lightworks”

“Raymond Scott was light years ahead of his time. With his Manhattan Research company, he built some of the first sequencers after scoring countless Warner Brothers cartoons, and seemingly out of nowhere created a breathtaking collection of synthesizers bearing exotic names like Chromatic Electronic Drum Generator and Circle Generator. While dreaming up and creating all these incredible machines that no one can quite figure out how to repair today, he created many jingles and advertisement sounds, such as this one.”

November 22, 2014 Jack White, “Lazaretto”

“Jack White has been one of contemporary music’s most wildly interesting figures ever since The White Stripes started tearing up stages in Detroit at the end of the ‘90s. White was an early adopter of the Little Phatty, using it to devastating effect on the last White Stripes album, and then again on the title track to his latest solo effort, Lazaretto. Who needs lots of notes when you’ve got a synth sound like THAT?”

Nov. 15, 2014 Volt Per Octaves, “Super Milk”

“I’ve heard it said that the family that plays together, stays together. The Volt per Octaves quite literally are that, and they do it using sweet, gorgeous-sounding analog synths and FREAKING ADORABLE melodica parts.”

(Music at about 1:37.)

November 8, 2014 The Flaming Lips, “Can’t Let It Go”

“2011 was a great year for The Flaming Lips. They solidified their status as the weirdest band to ever make it to a major label for, among other things, releasing a 24-hour song on a USB drive in a human skull (as in, from a person who was once living but now is dead). To use lead Lip Wayne Coyne’s words, ‘It’s powerful and sad and weird and it’s disturbing and it’s abstract.’ The closing section of ‘Can’t Let It Go’s propulsive string synth melodies and dense layer of foggy Mellotron choirs make it an excellent choice for soundtracking the inevitable moment when your last friend gives up the fight and joins the undead side of the zombie apocalypse.”

October 31, 2014 Brooklyn Organ Synth Orchestra, “Tubular Bells”

“Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is a classic instrumental tour de force that somehow managed to become a huge seller. In 2011, a clowder of keyboardists from Brooklyn-based bands gathered in Joe McGinty’s studio (or as I like to call it in my dreams, Heaven), to perform a supremely groovy genre-hopping rendition of ‘Tubular Bells.’”

October 31, 2014 Tangerine Dream, “Rubycon”

’Rubycon’ by Tangerine Dream – Band might not be the most obvious choice for a spooky synth record, but it’s one of two albums I can think of that have made me literally shiver in abject terror… I guess that’s not too shocking when you consider that William Friedkin later said of Tangerine Dream that if he had known about them at the time, he would have used their music for The Exorcist.”

October 25, 2014 Bernard Hermann, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”

“Once upon a time, there was a world in which the wail of a theremin wasn’t something to be scared of. And then Bernard Herrmann wrote the score for The Day the Earth Stood Still, featuring prominent theremin over some downright chilling accompaniment, forever linking the sound of a theremin’s throbbing vibrato with dark foreboding.”

October 25, 2014 Jonathan Coulton with Sara Quin and Dorit Chrysler, “Still Alive”

“2007’s Portal is one of the most interesting, original video games ever created. It also has the distinct honor of being one of the only games I’ve ever become so engrossed in as to actually complete it and its sequel, Portal 2. When I stumbled onto a version featuring theremin empress Dorit Chrysler playing some classic B-movie theremin, I knew I had found a permanent addition to the Halloween playlist.”

October 18, 2014 John Carpenter, “Escape From New York”

“The legend himself, John Carpenter – The Master of Horror. No further introduction necessary.”

October 18, 2014 Voyag3r, “Victory in the Battle Chamber”

Voyag3r is my favorite thing in Detroit music at the moment. They’re a three-piece guitar, synth, and drums band and they put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. The combination of the unshakeable grooves and an omnipresent sense of doom akin to the atmosphere of the horror movies Voyag3r takes so much influence from makes for a spellbinding listen.”

October 11, 2014: Genesis, “Abacab”

“I’m not going to admit that I adore ‘Abacab’ by Genesis. Just because I can’t get enough of the finest Sequential Circuits Prophet 10 and ARP Quadra action known to humankind doesn’t mean I am okay with the idea of a Genesis without Steve Hackett. Oh, who am I kidding?? This song is awesome!”

September 20, 2014: Soft Cell, “Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?”

Back in the dark ages before I escaped the tyranny of ad-driven FM radio, I lived for the moments when the station would break protocol to play something completely awesome and unique. One of the best of these moments was the first time I realized there was an extended version of Soft Cell’s minimalist synth-pop classic “Tainted Love” that segued into The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go?”

Who can say no to great synth sounds and Motown?

September 13, 2014: 1970’s-era Desi Arnaz Jr. television appearance on “Donny & Marie”

I have no idea what’s going on here, but I like it more than words can adequately express. So just listen along and join me in wishing that we still lived in a world where this happened on prime time television shows.

September 6, 2014: Head East, “Never Been Any Reason”

Illinois band Head East is remembered (when they are remembered at all), for their one and only hit, “Never Been Any Reason.” But what a tune! They kick things off with the first of several smooth mini-solos using a fat Minimoog sound that just gets better with repeated listens.

Bonus: Head East is still kickin’ out the jams, playing small venues mostly in the midwest. Here’s a 2013 fan video of “Never Been Any Reason” featuring a chromed Minimoog keyboard detached from the main unit. (You can tell it’s vintage by the oscillator drift!)

August 30, 2014: Stevie Wonder, “Boogie On Reggae Woman”

In the early ‘70’s Stevie Wonder wrangled complete creative control from Motown records and promptly released several of the most original, inspired, and unique albums of any era. Often playing most if not all of the instruments himself, he also collaborated with Malcolm Cecil and Bob Margouleff, creators of the legendary TONTO synthesizer. For “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” he played the huge synth together with Cecil and Margouleff, who tweaked the knobs and played the ribbon controller while Wonder played the keyboard.

August 23, 2014: Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “For You”

Manfred Mann`s Earth Band’s interpretations of Bruce Springsteen songs are my favorite examples of covers completely reimagining songs for the better. I’m a sucker for sawtooth waves, portamento, and galloping solo riffage, all of which is present in this version of “For You.”

August 16: Suzanne Ciani, “The Fifth Wave: Water Lullaby”

Suzanne Ciani. She has been called the Diva of the Diode, and Queen of the Soft Drinks (for her sonic logo work including the iconic Coca Cola pop-and-pour sound). Her 1982 album Seven Waves is a masterpiece, filled with beautiful, evocative synthesizer music. “The Fifth Wave” is by a wide margin my favorite track on the record.

August 9, 2014: Billy Cobham & George Duke Band, “Stratus”

George Duke (whom you might remember being sampled in an earlier #SynthSolo Saturday) was one of the original kings of synth-shredding, as shown in this clip of him playing drummer Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” with a star-studded band at 1976’s Montreux Jazz Festival.

Full show here:

July 19, 2014: Genesis, “In the Cage”

Forty years ago Genesis released a sprawling double concept album filled with convoluted storylines and obtuse imagery. It happened to feature some of the best songs Genesis ever wrote, including Tony Banks’ Hammond-ed tour de force, “In the Cage.”

July 12, 2014: Electric Light Orchestra, “Turn to Stone”

Electric Light Orchestra used Minimoogs extensively in the ’70s. I can speak from experience that there is nothing quite like putting on ‘Out of the Blue’ for the first time and listening to that positively virtuosic synth bass line that is NOWHERE NEAR LOUD ENOUGH in the mix.

July 5, 2014: REO Speedwagon, “Ridin’ the Storm Out”

REO Speedwagon’s “Ridin’ The Storm Out” features an epic Minimoog intro with excellent use of the Minimoog glide feature, something that keyboardists didn’t really have until synthesizers came around. Also, killer filter sweeps throughout the song.

June 28, 2014: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)”

The last few #synthsolo Saturdays have focused on technically impressive displays of synth power. This week we’re going to switch it up and look at a song with a great synth sound that just enhances a groovy tune, “December 1963” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. It’s short, sweet, and largely unobtrusive, but that’s what makes it great. Boogie down!

June 7, 2014: Daft Punk, “Digital Love”

Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter noticed that few musicians were putting synth solos in songs anymore, so he went into the studio and unleashed a torrent of ecstatic, synth-y goodness over this song.

Interestingly, George Duke, whose “I Love You More” is the sampled basis for “Digital Love,” was an early practitioner of the exact sort of pitch-bent, guitar-slaying synth solo that the robots employ here:

May 24, 2014: Theme to TV’s Big Bang Theory

From early adopters in university music labs to deadmau5, the ?#?synthesizer? always fit perfectly into the pantheon of nerdy pursuits. So it’s appropriate that The Big Bang Theory theme song includes a synth solo that once caused this author to listen to it approximately 40 times in a row.



Meet the next generation filled with Bob’s inspiration: BMF student blogger Christian “Bubba” Ayoub (seen here with the “Abominatron,” the first Bob Moog prototype modular) is a former member of the Maker Corps of the Henry Ford Museum, where he designed teaching plans meant to bring innovation into the classroom. He has presented ideas at Maker Faire Detroit, made artbots with June Tinker Hack Invent Saturday, and taught workshops to teachers looking to bring Making to the classroom.

He began playing synthesizers at age 10 because of a love for progressive rock bands like Yes and ELP, and voraciously seeks new and interesting music to listen to. His Juggable Offense music project is an ever-shifting mass of psychedelic space rock centered around modular synthesis, Moog equipment, and sonic exploration.

Bubba is currently seeking a dual degree in electrical engineering and software engineering (with hopes of a life spent designing and building synthesizers) at the University of Detroit Mercy. Follow him on Twitter at @JuggableOffense, and check him out on SoundCloud.