Why is a Synth Pad Called a Pad?

The word pad in the term synth pad stems from an old orchestral arrangement concept. Sections of the orchestra would play sustained harmonies behind the main melody lines to add greater depth and to pad out the arrangement.

The term persisted to be used in synthesizers.

A synth pad is a sustained sound generated from a synthesizer, usually used as background sound or harmony to fill out the piece of music. Pad refers to ‘padding (spreading) out’ the sound to fill out the musical piece.

Depending on the context, a pad could be anything from a soft background sound to a normal chord progression. It serves the purpose of filling out the track with background sound. It’s not a leading melody because then it would be the lead and no longer a pad.

To understand this more clearly, I’m going to take you through more in-depth details.

The Difference Between a Synth Pad and a Synth Lead

To get a more accurate answer, we first have to establish the difference between a synth pad and a synth lead. As mentioned before, a synth pad is more of a background sound that fills up a musical piece, whereas a synth lead is considered a foreground to the musical piece.


A pad is a background sound that is used to add atmosphere to the song. It aids in the creation of harmonies by providing additional depth to a musical piece.


A lead is a sound that grabs the forefront of any song. It’s what makes the song catchy and memorable to most people. A true “leading” factor of any musical piece.

What Does a Synth Pad Sound Like?

A synth pad is usually a sustained, lush, harmonious sound played softly in the background, which can give a track a more filled-out sound.

The Best Synths for Pad Sounds

Most modern synths will be able to produce some sort of pad sounds, but the following are particulary good options.

Roland JUNO-DS 61 Synthesizer

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My top pick is the Roland JUNO-DS 61 Synthesizer. This is a very well-rounded synthesizer suitable for any occasion. This lightweight synth is a bit pricey but has everything you may need. With 61 keys at your disposal, this device offers an incredible array of sounds to choose from. If you are looking for an all-around synthesizer then look no further than this one!

Korg MONOLOGUEBK Synthesizer 25

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My budget pick is the Korg MONOLOGUEBK Synthesizer 25. This is also a more portable option, in addition to being more affordable, and has a good well-rounded base for you to work with. It has 25 keys, which means it’s a lot smaller than the top pick and has a more limited use than the Roland JUNO-DS 61 Synthesizer. If you’re looking for a starting synth, then this one will get the job done.

Can any Instrument be a Pad?

Any instrument can be a pad because it’s not the instrument in question here, it’s the sound that matters. Any instruments that can provide a necessary background sound to fill out the track can be a pad.

As long as the sound follows the background nature of the pad, then it falls under the same category and can be used as one. For example, a guitar along with a good reverb effect or delay effect can easily be a pad sound due to its atmospheric nature and sound.


A synth pad is used to fill the music with atmospheric sounds. It adds depth to the song’s composition or melody by playing quiet, ambient noises in the background. These sounds are very popular due to their capabilities of producing a wide variety of sound effects suitable for diverse music genres.

If you are looking to acquire a good synthesizer for your musical endeavors, then my top pick is the Roland JUNO-DS 61 Synthesizer.

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option or starting synthesizer then my budget pick is the Korg MONOLOGUEBK Synthesizer 25.

Milan Trajkovikj

Milan Trajkovikj

I’m the Deputy Editor for Musician Wave and a touring and recording bass guitarist. I love to share my passion for all things music. I’ve been playing music for over ten years and I love exploring it further through writing. You'll also find me on the Musician Wave YouTube channel.

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