That “dreaded” Yamaha DX7 – instant 80s

If you are a fan (or hater) of 80s music, you have surely heard the sound of this synthesizer. Because no one could avoid using the DX7 at one point or another in that decade. This polyphonic, monotimbral digital synth was all the rage back then (it was in production from 1983 to 1989). And in the hands of synth gurus, it could produce just about any kind of sounds you can think of. Yet for most of us, this instrument is only famous for a handful of well recognizable sounds, so called patches. Why is that, you may ask. Well, it’s because you had to be very smart, very patient, very open minded and (remember it’s the 80s!) pretty sober to be able to program it. You even had to read the fucking manual (RTFM) or, better yet, buy certain handbooks about how to program the Yamaha DX7. And to get useful and original sounds out of this thing, well you had to be fukken good. No wonder you could earn a good, steady income by just creating and selling your own patches.

Have good patches, man?

Yamaha DX7 determined the eightiesNow that wasn’t the case with most musicians, so they either bought some super-duper patches, or defaulted to the factory patches. Fortunately this thing actually came with pretty good sounding ones. Those are the sounds that you will be able to recognize immediately.

DX7 – king of the fake Rhodes

First of all, the most famous, cheesiest electric piano sound on Earth, which was considered to be the DX7’s take on the Fender Rhodes, even if it wasn’t exactly the intention of Yamaha. They probably just wanted to include “something like this, something like that”, if you know what I mean. But anyway, who could resist that sound on a slow pop or rock ballad?

Chicago – “Hard Habit To Break”

Phil Collins – “One More Night”

Fretless bass imitation

Then there’s the bass, aggressive, percussive (FM synthesis was a perfect match for pop music), and you could create incredibly busy bass lines with it, without it becoming muddy (notice that I wrote the word “muddy”, NOT “annoying”). It was also good for that fake chorused fretless sound.

Madonna – “Live To Tell”


Genesis – “Land Of Confusion”

The DX does it all – charmingly imperfect

And finally a song that kind of “demoes” the DX7. We have flute, electric piano, but even a harmonica solo created on the Yamaha.

Tina Turner – “What’s Love Got To Do With It”

2 Replies to “That “dreaded” Yamaha DX7 – instant 80s”

  1. Yamaha corporation was not attempting to mimic The Fender Rhodes sound with the Yamaha DX7, instead it offered a keyboard with the ability to move in a different direction by offering technology capable for creating hundreds of thousands of sound variations. As unique as the Fender Rhodes is it is limited to one sound (albeit the only sound it will ever need) and although the DX7 will never supplant the Fender it is an astonishing instrument capable of mimicking almost every other instrument with the exception of the grand piano. And yes, it is capable of also mimicking the Fender Rhodes because I programmed a pretty convincing Rhodes into it myself

    1. Good point, Pianomante. The original patches should have inspired users to create their own unique sounds based on them as starting points. Unfortunately, not many people dug in, RTFM (“read the fucking manual”) and learned to program the beast this synthesizer truly is, except those few great minds with intelligence way above the average population.

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