When it comes to iconic sounds of synthesis, few are as memorable as Vangelis‘ Main Titles for the classic science fiction film Blade Runner.
When Blade Runner was released, in 1982, many were confused by the movie’s narrative. Others were put off by the story’s dark tone, or by Harrison Ford’s deadpan voice-overs.
Few recognized the movie as a future classic.
The completeness of Ridley Scott’s fully realized, all-enveloping world, though, was immediately recognized. And even after more than 25 years, Scott’s visuals, combined with Vangelis’ stunning score, set the standard by which other science fiction films are measured.
Vangelis entire score to Blade Runner is a classic, but the “brass” theme from his Main Titles is iconic.
Embedded above, the opening scenes of Blade Runner, which kick in at about 2:30, immediately thrust you into a stunning futuristic world. The amazing visuals are accompanied by depth-shaking electronic drones and percussion, and a soaring Yamaha CS-80 lead that concisely sets the tone for the film.
While Vangelis used the rare CS-80 extensively throughout Blade Runner, synthesists have been using all sorts of synths to approximate the iconic sound of his Main Titles since.
Here’s a demonstration using the Yamaha CS-70, a younger sibling to the CS-80, to recreate the iconic sound:
But do you have to have a rare vintage Yamaha synth to get that awesome sound?
This video demonstrates using a cheap Korg MicroKorg to recreate the Blade Runner brass sound:
Check out this take on the Main Titles performed on an Access TI Polar:
It’s not an exact match for Vangelis’ original, but the Access synth sounds fantastic and very musical.
Next up, a cover of the theme using an Access Virus TI:
Think a Moog Minimoog Voyager can nail the Blade Runner Brass sound? Check this out:
Cool – but not that close to the original.
Here’s a take on the Main Titles, done on the Roland Juno-60:
This video offers a visual guide to programming a Vangelis Blade Runner style brass sound on the Roland June-60:
Again, it’s not a match to the sound of the classic synths that Vangelis used, but it sounds great, nonetheless.
The Oberheim OBXa is a monster synth that can make gorgeous brass sounds, and it’s perfect for taking on the challenge of Vangelis’ iconic theme:
The Korg Radias was used in creating this cover of the Main Titles:
Here’s a visual guide to programming the Vangelis’ Blade Runner brass sound on the Korg Radias:
Finally, this cover of the Blade Runner Main Titles does an incredible job of capturing the sound and feel of Vangelis’ original:
An Ensoniq ESQ 1 is used here for the CS80 brass leads, a Juno 6 for electronic beeps, and a Korg x5 and Juno G for various bells and percussion.
Think software is the way to go?
Here’s an attempt at the iconic Blade Runner brass sound using using the MiniMogue VST software synthesizer:
For this live cover, Guillermo Moran used the ME80 VSTi for the CS80 parts:
Here’s another soft synth take on the sound, using UVI CS-M:
Here’s a surprisingly close version of the Blade Runner brass sound, created on a Moog Little Phatty:
Here’s another take using the Slim Phatty, by Bob ‘T’:
A Yamaha SY-77 is used for the metallic harp sound. Roland MKS-7 (raw noise) plug into the Moog Slim Phatty does the rocket noise sound and Hollow Sun VP330 does the string sound.
This demo, via Julien Lecoq, uses aTEISCO S-60-F:
Ultimately, it’s tough for any synth to match up to the sound of the classic Yamaha CS-80. Trying, though, is a great way to explore and understand the capabilities and limitations of a synthesizer.
The CS-80 was way ahead of its time when it was released in 1977 and is still considered one of the most playable synths of all time. Vangelis owned seven CS-80’s at one time,. You can hear the CS-80 all over his Blade Runner soundtrack and much of his finest work.
Check out the examples, and then leave a comment with your thoughts on Vangelis’ iconic Blade Runner Main Titles theme…..and the synths that you think come closest to matching the Yamaha CS-80.
Note: If you’re interested in reading more about Vangelis and his keyboards, don’t miss this SOS article on Recording Vangelis.