by Dave Polich
There are actually two bass lines for
Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” — the
snaking main figure, and a secondary
accent played a fifth above the root,
falling only on the first and fourth eighth-notes
of each bar. For the live version at
the This Is It concerts, how was bassist
Alex Al going to accomplish this? Two
Minimoogs — that’s how! Here, we’ll replicate
this using two instances of Arturia
Alex dialed in the primary line, using a
dark, rubbery bass sound, on his restored
vintage Minimoog D, and played it with his
right hand. Set the first two oscillators to
sawtooth waveforms, both at the 16'
pitch. Filter Cutoff is almost all the way
down, filter Emphasis (resonance) is just
a bit up from minimum, and Amount of
Contour (filter envelope amount on other
synths) is set to 3. Set the filter envelope
Decay to about 210ms and the sustain
level to 8 to get a sound shape similar to
an electric bass guitar. The decay switch
is off, Loudness Contour (Moog-speak for
volume envelope) decay time is at about
two o’clock, and loudness Sustain level is
all the way up.
The accent line was a job for Alex’s left
hand on his Minimoog Voyager Select. On
this synth, while oscillator 1 was still a 16'
sawtooth, oscillator 2 was outputting a
sawtooth set to a fifth above oscillator 1.
Filter Cutoff, Emphasis, and Amount of
Contour were all at about nine o’clock, with
the filter envelope Attack set to 200ms,
Decay to 600ms, and Sustain level to 2.
These settings give us a sort of “wow”
sound. The Loudness Contour Attack and
Decay are set to 300ms and 600ms,
respectively, but the Sustain level is zero,
because we want a very short-duration
sound for this accent.