Synthesis: Kavinsky

SYNTHWAVE – Synthesis & Era

“Synthwave – also called Retrowave (but Retrowave has more to do with everything to do with the rebirth of the Retrowave, of which Synthwave is a part) -, draws its sources from everything to do with the 80s.” (Synthspiria, 2019) 

Like the name suggests Synthwave as a genre has synthesis in its very core, making use of all types of analog and software synthesisers, drum machines etc; Synthwave tries to emulate the sound of 1980s video games, films and analog instruments. Though it has only been around for under two decades, synthwave has amassed immense popularity and keeps growing rapidly with its use in mainstream film and other media.


Being born on 31st July 1975, Kavinsky’s music is highly inspired by the sounds of the 80s and that era. “Using an old Apple computer, given to him by his friend Mr. Oizo, he set to work trying to make music inspired and influenced by the thousands of movies he’d watched as a young boy, extracting the good parts and refining them into his own concept.” (KAVINSKY, 2014)


With only one studio album to his name and not a not a big public image, there’s only some information available to narrow down Kavinsky’s use of equipment and his synthesis style, some of which are :

  • ARP 2600

“Some of Kavinsky’s earlier songs — like “Nightcall,” relentlessly jackhammering “Testarossa Autodrive,” and “Grand Canyon,” which creeps around a central ARP 2600 synth line……..” (Brown, 2013)

  • Yamaha DX7

In a TV interview, Kavinsky stated that the entirety of his EP Teddy Boy was written and recorded on a Yamaha DX7, which was famous and notable for the synth-pop sound of the 1980s.

  • Vocoder


With a mix of Subtractive Synthesis using the ARP 2600, FM Synthesis using the Yamaha DX7, Vocal processing using the Vocoder and his heavy use of DAWs which he states he creates a majority of music using. Kavinsky has covered pretty much all bases when it comes to synthesis and that combined with his influences from the 80s can easily be identified from his biggest hit “Nightcall”.

(, 2011)

The main synth line starting at 0:10 mark has been produced using analog subtractive synthesis with an ARP 2600 as mentioned in an interview. The Vocals starting at the 0:30 mark have been put through a vocoder which can easily be identified. And the chord progression that starts playing at the 1:14 mark seems to be created using FM Synthesis with an analog synthesiser like the Yamaha DX7 which he has used extensively on his EP in the past.


Synthspiria. (2019). Synthwave: Everything About This Genre Coming from the 2080’s. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Nov. 2019]. (2011). Kavinsky – Nightcall. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Nov. 2019].

KAVINSKY. (2014). KAVINSKY. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Nov. 2019].

Brown, H. (2013). Daft Punk-Endorsed Kavinsky Isn’t A Musician, Has 30 Million YouTube Views | The Village Voice. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Nov. 2019].

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