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Years & Years Gear Guide - The Sound of Synth Pop

Published: Fri January 09, 2015  News Feed
The success of BBC 'Sound of 2015'  winners Years & Years may have surprised some, but these Londoners are simply the best example of one of the rising musical trends of the past couple of years: the Sound of 2015 is the sound of Synth Pop! So check our Years & Years Gear Guide for a look at what equipment they use and other great options for creating this type of music!

Years & Years Synth Pop Gear Guide

Synth Pop has definitely been on the rise, as the success of acts such as Chvrches and now Years & Years seems to prove. This is the sound of the moment, so it should come as no surprise really, that Years & Years have been voted BBC's Sound of 2015!

In fact, the setup used by these Londoners is not that much different than the one used by Chvurches (check our Chvrches gear guide for more details). The band, comprising
Olly Alexander (vocals & keyboards), Emre Turkmen (keyboards) and Mikey Goldsworthy (bass & keyboards) has been attracting attention since their first gig at Ronnie Scott's in London, not that long ago.

They describe their music as "Soulful Electronic Pop", but for everyone else it's classic, modern synth pop! Here's a guide to most of the equipment used by Years & Years to create their music:

From Left in the pic:


Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MKII in White
Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MKII in White
The Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MKII (white) is one of the world's favourite DJ MIDI controllers. Maschine Mikro MKII USB controller has been taken to the next level to improve your workflow to make it easier, faster and and more intuitive than ever. Maschine Mikro MKII midi controller features touch pads with improved sensitivity and colour coding make performance a breeze.

Novation 49 SL Mk II USB MIDI Controller Keyboard
Novation 49 SL Mk II USB MIDI Controller Keyboard
The Novation 49SL MIDI controller is the first keyboard to provide automatic, instant and intelligent control of all major sequencers and all automatable plug-ins. SL Mk II provides a full DAW and plug-in control surface, that visually feeds back all control information to the user. A giant 144-character display, back lit LED buttons and LED ringed encoders show the status of all controls. Ultra-quick mapping of all 56 knobs, faders and buttons is managed by the groundbreaking Automap 3 PRO software.

Novation Launchkey 25 Keyboard Controller with Launch Pads for Mac, PC & iPad
Novation Launchkey 25
The Novation Launchkey 25 is the most full-featured device in its class (or at this price!) Take Novation's insanely popular Launchpad Ableton Live Controller, cross it with an incredibly versatile 25-key keyboard controller, add iPad integration and what do you get? The new Launchkey from Novation: a next generation keyboard controller, a powerful new hardware/software instrument and fully featured DAW control surface all in one. Result

Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12
The Prophet 12 is the next step for Dave Smith’s revered line of Prophet synthesizers. Each of the Prophet’s twelve voices is composed of a brand new hybrid digital/analog architecture that sounds different than any other DSI synth, yet retains the true Prophet vibe.

Turkmen uses an iPad and a Laptop, and we wouldn't be surprised if he uses Ableton Live, of course, as it's the standard for Laptop live performers.


Olly Alexander of Years & Years

Nord Stage 2
Nord stage 2

For some more intimate ballads, Alexander can be seen playing a Nord Stage 2 keyboard. The Nord Stage 2 88-key Stage Piano represents a stunning new take on the famous Nord Stage digital piano series. This digital piano features Nord's latest sound generation technology in each of the Piano, Organ and Synthesizer categories. Inside and out, the Nord Stage 2 represents the current state-of-the-art in instrument design for the professional and semi-professional keyboard player.

Roland GAIA SH-01 Synthesizer
Roland GAIA Synth
There's also footage of Alexander playing a Roland GAIA synthesizer. The Roland GAIA SH-01 Synthesizer is nailed on to be a classic part of Roland folklore. Its huge sound, amazing ease of use and crazily affordable price, the GAIA SH-01 is a "high-performance value synth with old school charm". The Roland GAIA Synth has a huge palette of sounds to choose from. The onboard effects offer reverb, distortions, bit crush, fuzz, flanger, reverbs, delays, the list is endless. And all this can be controlled in real time adding to your already amazing live performance.


Moog Voyager

Goldworthy's main instrument is a Moog Voyager analog synth. We couldn't make out which particular Voyager it is, but it delivers teh classic, warm analog sounds Moog is known for.
Fender American Deluxe Jazz Bass MN Natural
fender Deluxe Jazz Bass

Finally, Goldworthy can be seen playing a Fender Deluxe Jazz Bass on some songs. The deluxe version of the popular bass has distinctive black trapezoid inlays. Other features include active/passive switch and passive tone control for even more tonal options, and classic Jazz Bass block fretboard inlays and binding"

Fender’s new American Deluxe Jazz Bass delivers the modern features that bassists demand in a sleekly familiar design.

Watch Years & Years, live:


Quite a few of the gear used by Years & Years is expensive, high-end stuff. But anyone can find some great gear suitable for synth pop at budget friendly prices! Our recent list of Best Gear of 2014 had quite a few of these products - full of vintage, retro sounds and modern features, such as the Akai Rhythm Wolf, below:

Akai Rhythm Wolf
The popular Korg Volca range is also another great option for those seeking to make some great synth pop music!
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