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The 40 greatest synth sounds of all time, No 15: Human League - Don't You Want Me?

The Human League’s success was hard won - there were two cutting-edge LPs and a handful of quirky singles before their breakthrough, 1981’s Dare.

The band had split just as they were set to embark upon a lengthy tour, so singer Phil Oakey promoted Adrian Wright from lights to keyboards and hurriedly put together a new version of The League, recruiting Ian Burden and a pair of teen girls he saw dancing at a club – Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley – to provide backing vocals.

After the tour, the group hurried out a single, Boys and Girls, before joining forces with producer Martin Rushent for their first hit, The Sound of the Crowd. The lineup was then completed with the addition of Jo Callis.

Don’t You Want Me is built around a massive synth riff created primarily with Roland’s Jupiter-4, a skittering sequence (painstakingly programmed on a Roland MC-4), and the newly acquired LinnDrum.

Initially, Phil Oakey was unhappy with Rushent and Callis’ mix, but was thankfully convinced to give it a go. Bet he's glad he did.

Human League Synth Sounds

(Image credit: Future)

Step 1: This patch is often recreated by stacking oscillators tuned to open fifths. Given that the original Jupiter-4 had a single osc (+sub) per voice, we’ll leave the fifths to you. We’ll be using BazilleCM. Shut off the Delay, disconnect Osc 1 from Out 1 and send Osc 1 to a Filter input instead.

Human League Synth Sounds

(Image credit: Future)

Step 2: Send Osc 2’s output to the other Filter input, and find Osc 2’s PD Value knob (above where it says Saw) and crank it full. Run a cable from the Filter’s 24dB Output up to one of the Out 1 jacks. Locate Osc 1’s Fine Tune knob (above Cents) and set that to -7.0. Set Osc 2’s Fine Tune to 7.0.

Human League Synth Sounds

(Image credit: Future)

Step 3: Set the Filter’s Cutoff to 25. Run a cable from Env 2’s Out up to the Filter’s lower-left jack and max the knob above that jack. Go to Envelope 2. Set its Attack to 15 and the Decay to around 33. The Sustain should be set to around 41 or so, and Release should be set to 62.

Human League Synth Sounds

(Image credit: Future)

Step 4: Next, go over to Env 1. Give its Attack slider a nudge. The Decay and Sustain settings are fine. Push the Release up to 40 for that characteristic tail-out. Fine tune as you like. Play the sound using open fifths and stick a fat bass patch under your left hand for the full effect.

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