Brian Eno is, to me, the undisputed king of ambient music. He coined the term, “ambient music” in his groundbreaking album “Music for Airports.”
Here I will revel in his sound-creating process and offer some captured bits of what I know of it – not as an attempt to deconstruct, per se, but more as an aspiration to his greatness.
As I learn more, I will post more, and update this one.
Last updated: 1-March-2019
Equipboard has a nice listing of Brian Eno’s equipment that he uses to make his music. I’ll draw some of it from there to start and add my own inputs as I go along.
The Yamaha DX7 is a known favorite and Brian Eno is a master at it. To get this DX7 keyboard sound, Image-Line’s Sytrus is probably the one I would use. It can make the DX7 sound that Brian Eno is known for.
The DX7 was used on his “An Ending (Ascent)” tune from his Apollo album.
Sonic Charge Synplant
Brian Eno is a known user of Sonic Charge plugins. He uses the Synplant synth. Synplant is a unique synthesizer in that you grow sounds from seeds and branches and can get some wonderful mutations from them. It sounds both vintage and edgy at the same time with a naturally organic nature about it. No wonder Brian Eno chooses this synth to use.
Izotope Iris is a wonderful synthesizer for layering sounds upon sounds (4 layers in Iris 2), and plucking out the bits of the sound that are needed. It sculpts sounds and you can carve out some really good ambient tones from it. Brian Eno uses Iris.
Native Instruments Absynth
He uses Native Instruments Absynth.
Expert Sleepers Augustus Loop
The tape loop effect that he used was an all-original idea of his and it worked fantastically. Now you can get this effect in several vst tape loop plugins, but none to the extent or length needed.
Sonic Charge Permut8
Permut8 is a delay plugin from Sonic Charge that randomizes what goes into it by way of a 12-bit digital delay with a variable sample rate.
Brian Eno has used Sonic Charge’s plugin, Permut8.
In one video, he uses Permut8 on a drum track with the preset “b8” and “drum clunker” listed on it. He has two instances of it maybe not the same.
Similar – but different…
Shimmer, Mikron Cascade, Mikron Reverb, Blackhole, and GrainSpace
While it is not known if Eno uses ValhallaDSP Shimmer reverb, it certainly seems he inspired it. It has that ability to take a guitar, for example, and turn it into a lush, evolving soundscape.
The same could be said for Mikron Reverb, and Mikron Cascade. They are similar to Shimmer.
Blackhole by Eventide is another similar reverb, but with a bit less shimmering effect and more clarity, which can be very useful in many circumstances.
GrainSpace is nice and maybe a bit similar to the others, but I like it a bit more.
None are better than the others, but they are simply all different for different situations.
Generative Music Synthesis Tools
Brian Eno used the term Generative Music to describe music that self-generates or makes itself.
SSEYO made a generative music program called Koan and Brian Eno had used this for some music. It is now defunct, but Intermorphic is the new company making similar products.
Within ProTools is a MIDI randomizer that Brian Eno was seen using in a video interview.