[Click above for larger image.]
Continuing last month’s tribute to
Michael Jackson, let’s recreate the instantly
recognizable intro of “Beat It.” Back in ’82,
Michael and producer Quincy Jones
employed a dream team of keyboardists
and synth programmers, including heavyweights
Greg Phillinganes, Steve Porcaro
(of Toto fame), and Michael Boddicker, who
wrote last month that this was originally a
factory demo sound, played by Tom Bähler,
from a Synclavier. In addition to high-resolution
sampling, the Synclavier had powerful
additive and FM digital synthesis, plus
multitrack sequencing. Fully-loaded systems
could cost upwards of $200,000.
Not having a vintage Synclavier around,
I let Waldorf Largo (reviewed last month)
provide the metallic mayhem. You could
also try other “digital-sounding” virtual
synths such as the Prophet-VS mode of
Arturia Prophet V, PPG Wave 2.V (part of
Waldorf Edition, reviewed Dec. ’07), or
Image-Line Ogun (reviewed Mar. ’09).
1. Start with an initialized patch. In Largo,
just click the Edit button above the
patch name and select “Init Program.”
2. Select an appropriate basic waveform.
This is trial-and-error — you want it
bright and rich, yet not too heavy on
atonal high harmonics (check out my
web audio examples for help). I chose
the “Fuzz Wave” wavetable in Largo.
3. Largo’s PPG-style wavetable synthesis
lets you sweep through waveforms,
either manually or using a mod source,
for tonal variation. I manually honed in
on a variation by setting the wave
number in the top corner of the wave
form display to 60.
4. I selected the “Chorus 2” wavetable on
oscillator 2, tuned one octave higher
(with wave number 44), and used
envelope 3 to modulate the wave
number for timbral motion. Configure
the mod routing by clicking the pop-up
menu next to the word “Wave,” select
“Env3,” and slide the slider up to a
value of 50 — Largo displays
parameters and associated values at
the top of the window as you mouse
over them. Click the Envelopes button
and set Env3’s attack to 89, decay to
0, and sustain and release full up.
5. Experiment with the oscillator volumes
in the mixer section; oscillator 1 gives
more fundamental and oscillator 2 will
give more movement and high end.
6. I decided to forgo filtering, but
discovered that Largo’s filter drive still
affects the sound, so crank that guy up
to around 51. Bypass the actual
filtering by pressing the round “power
switch” at the left of the Filter section.
7. In the Envelopes section, set the amp
envelope’s attack to 0, decay to 85,
sustain to 28, and release to 100.
8. It’s still pretty bland — time for the mojo!
Click the Common button. Set Unisono
[sic.] to 6, detune to 18, and spread full
up. Now we’re triggering six stereo
detuned voices with every note. Yeah!
9. I used Largo’s high shelf EQ to kick up
the high end a touch, and added some
channel bus reverb using Audio
Damage’s monster new reverb plug-in,
Now play the familiar note sequence:
| G, G, E, E | G, G, D, D | in octaves, and
you’ll be showin’ ’em how funky and
strong is your fight!
Web Extra: Audio Examples
Here's some notes on this month's "Beat It" patch. Click the file names for audio.
osc_1_raw.mp3: This is just the simple "Fuzz Wave" wave playing from oscillator one with no effects.
osc_2_raw.mp3: This is the "Chorus" wave from oscillator two. You can hear the wavetable sweep as a result of the Env3 mod routing.
unisono.mp3: This is both oscillators with the Unisono set to six voices in the Common section. This stacks things up and makes it big and stereo-ized.
full_intro.mp3: The entire complete patch with reverb.
If you're lucky enough to have Waldorf's Largo virtual synth, you can load the "Beat It" patch. Simply click on the File menu above the patch name display in Largo, and click "Load Program" (why can't they all be this easy?) Click here for my mirror site with the patch download!
Enjoy, and drop me a line of you have any questions!