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The 40 greatest synth sounds of all time, No 37: Enya - Orinoco Flow

Taken from the 1988 album Watermark, Orinoco Flow was a global hit for Irish singer/songwriter Enya. The song has the spacious, lush sound characteristics of new-age music from this era.

Orinoco Flow’s trademark pizzicato chords were made using Roland’s D-50 synth. Roland’s theory was that the hardest part of an instrument to synthesise convincingly is the attack, so the D-50 had around 100 samples of attack taken from real life instruments.

This, alongside the subtractive synthesis engine and various textured sustain samples, gives the patch its strangely synthetic, yet real tone.

Now, let’s make our own version of this sound by layering an edited DuneCM patch with a sampled string from our City Nights sample pack.

Enya Orinoco Flow Synth Sound

(Image credit: Ableton)

Step 1: We can approximate the original patch by using two parts. First, load DuneCM’s String Section MH preset to make the sustain portion. Set the Amp Env Sustain and Decay to 5% to give the string patch a more staccato sound. Reduce the Attack to 40%, for a more plucked sound.

Enya Orinoco Flow Synth Sound

(Image credit: Ableton)

Step 2: Now we open our DAW’s sampler, and import the strings sample. We turn on the sampler’s snap to zero crossing function, then set the start point to the last note of the loop. Set the root note of the sample to A1, so it’s in key with the other part. Hear that the sampled string adds a realistic attack.

Enya Orinoco Flow Synth Sound

(Image credit: Ableton)

Step 3: Turn DuneCM’s channel to -6dB for balance. To create a spacious feel, we’ll use reverb. Add HY-FX CM onto an FX send, and the Factory 04 preset. Set the Wet/Dry mix to full, then send both channels to it, making the sample’s send amount higher for more high frequency splash.

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