Steal This Sound Herbie Hancocks “Chameleon”

Herbie Hancock’s music has traversed many paths over the years, but in the early ’70s, the album Head Hunters set the standard for jazz funk fusion. Using a combination of Clavinet, Rhodes electric piano, and ARP synth, Head Hunters also
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 Herbie Hancock’s music has traversed many paths over theyears, but in the early ’70s, the album Head Hunters set the standard for jazz-funk fusion. Using a combination of Clavinet, Rhodes electric piano, and ARP synth, Head Hunters also featured innovative tones, because back in ’73, funky Clav lines and fat, resonant synth bass were far from clichéd. This month, we’ll recapture the funky and unmistakable ARP Odyssey bass sound used in the intro of “Chameleon.” I used GForce Oddity (left), a faithful virtual recreation of the Odyssey. Prodyssey (pictured below) for Use Audio’s Plugiator tabletop synth (reviewed July ’09) is also spot-on, but any analog-style monosynth will work great.

0710 STS Oddity
0710 STS Prodyssey

Step 1. We’ll use just one oscillator, set to a sawtooth wave. If you’re using Oddity, select saw in the filter mixer section and turn up the blue VCO1 slider.

Step 2. Set the VCF cutoff frequency very low—almost off—then set resonance to around the middle of its range.

Step 3. Route an envelope generator to control the filter cutoff and turn it up about 75%. On Oddity, select “ADSR” using the switch beneath the red filter mod slider in the filter mixer section.

Step 4. Set the ADSR controls: attack at zero, medium decay, low sustain, and medium release. If you’re using a synth with separate envelopes for filter and amplitude, set them identically.

Step 5. Add distortion! I found it easier to match Herbie’s sound with an amp simulator, as opposed to a stompboxstyle distortion. The “Small Tweed Combo” model in Logic’s Amp Designer plug-in really hit the spot. I pumped up the gain and mids a hair, and easily nailed the tone.

Step 6. The amp modeling will really change the tone, so now we’ll fine-tune. Tweak the filter cutoff, resonance, and filter mod controls (as well as envelope decay and release) to really get things dialed in.

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