How to get the 'Dawn FM' Sound

We show you have to get the sound from The Weekend's 'Dawn FM.

 Last month we released 'Nebula Sunrise', our tribute to the amazing 5th LP from The Weekend: Dawn FM. With production from OhOneTrixPointNever, it's a master class in mixing contemporary Pop and Leftfield, 80s Synth Pop music. 

We thought we would explore how to achieve similar sounds using Ableton Live, and a host of Plugins that can get us into the same sound world! 

We have audio example of what we have made, descriptions of why we did the things we did, and screenshots so you can copy the settings yourself! 


Example 1



Let's go through each element here. The Drums are made using Ableton's own '505 Classic' kit, but the kick is beefed up using 'Big Kick'. To get that chunky, 80s sound, we've ran everything through 'Vulf Compressor' set to '2-Bus Glue'. This setting is a parallel  compressor, so we're mixing the orginial more dynamic signal in with the smashed, compressed one. Lovely! 



(Ableton's 505 Core Kit, Big Kick and Vulf Compressor)


The Arp is the 'Classic Road' preset of Arturia's Juno 106 synth. The 106 is a go to for anything Synthwave, 80s or Vapourwave sounding; a real staple! 

We're beefing up it's Chorus effect using Arturia's Chorus Jun-6 and moving it even more around the stereo image with Baby Audio's 'Comeback Kid'



(The Jun-6 is using the 'Detuned' preset, and Comback Kid 'Analog Delay')


The Bass is two layers: An Arturia DX7 and Reaktor's 'Monark' synth. Together, we get a plucky "Live" bass sound and a rich, Moog style synth bass to fill out the low end! 




(The DX7 is using the 'Rom1A 15-BASS 1' preset, and the Monark 'Chicks')


The subtle pumping effect across both is using LFO Tool. It gives the bassline rhythm that's faster than the actually kick pattern, and allows precise control over the attack of the volume dip!


Example 2



This 'Scarified' style loop has a bunch of fun tricks in! The beat is a combination of drum samples from classic drum machines: The kick is DMX sample, the HiHats a 707 and the snare a Linn Drum. Mixing these together gives us something uniques, but all from the same style of era appropriate drum machine. These are all ran through Ableton 'Drum Buss' to get a chunky, saturated sound. 



There are Two basses in this clip. The first is a sub bass that's pumping to the kick drum (again using 'LFO Tool', but Ableton's Sidechain-compressor will get you there too). It's made again with 'Monark' (you see the theme here) and adds a heavy low end foundation with the beat.


(We're using the 'Electric' Preset)


The second bass sound is much more involved. It's also made up for two sound, a 'live bass' using plugin 'Modo Bass', and Ableton's own 'Strat Muted Guitar' preset within its 'Tension' instrument.



(Modo Bass set to a 70's J-Bass, and Ableton's Strat Muted Guitar')


MODO bass is a fantastic bass emulator if, like me, you don't have acess to a real bass or don't quite have the bass chops needed! The Stat adds an extra layer of brightness to the sound, as well as a very 80s 'is-it-a-guitar-or-a-synth' sound to the bass overall. 

Both are ran through the same chain: Archetype's 'Cory Wong' guitar and bass rig and a simple set of chorus, eq and compression.


(set to the 'P Bass' preset, the 'Cory Wong' guitar chain is an amazing Amp, Wah and FX collection from 'Neural DSP')


(Both 'Bass' guitars run through some extra chorus, eq and compression to widen and level out the sound)


Finally for this loop, we have an Artura 'Prophet' synth providing some sweet chords!  


 (The 'Classic Brass' is exactly that, the classic warm brassy sound from the 80s!)

This is ran through a simple chain of Redux to redux the rate and bit depth of the synth, and (you guessed it) more chorus!


Example 3



In this final example we are using Ableton's 'OP 808' drum rack for a simple, smashed, dry 808 sound. This is exaggerated using Drum Buss again, to saturate and squash together the sound of the beat!



Our chord sequence is made of three layers: Ableton's Wavetable, Arturia's 'Clavinet' and Ableton's 'E-Piano Detuned.

The Wavetable is a simple patch of just one sawtooth oscillator, with it's filter cutoff controlled by an envelope. As the attack of the envelope opens so does the filter. As the decay of the envelope, erm, decays, the filter starts to close giving our synth that iconic shape.


(We also add a Redux after the synth to degrade the sound quality a little)


Arturia's 'Clavinet' gives us a bright, organic feel that sits perfectly on top of the synth. 


Finally, Ableton's 'E-Piano Detuned' (found in Ableton's 'Core Library') adds a worn, wobbly midrange that finished off the sound! a healthy amount of reverb and echo also helps broad the sound sonically.


Lastly, the bass. Achieved with Arturia Mini synth, that is a fantastic emulation of the MiniMoog. 


(We are using the 'Groove Bass' preset for the thick, gritty bass tone)


Lastly, a note of the key of example 3: it's using the key of 'A Harmonic Minor', giving it it's haunting sound. Here is the midi for your own use! 



So there we go, hopefully this will give you a jumping off point to create 'Dawn FM' sounding tracks of your own. 

If you're looking for further inspiration, check out our 'Nebular Sunrise' pack, full of loops inspired by the album!