In the March issue, we recreated classic house pianos using modern soft synths.
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In the March issue, we re-created classic house pianos using modern soft synths. This time around, we’ll take a deeper look at the house organ bass sound that launched countless ’90s hits, like Robin S.’ “Show Me Love” and Nightcrawlers’ “Push the Feeling On.”

Let’s start with the basics. The source of that bass sound was the legendary Korg M1, which is now available as a downloadable soft synth from the Korg website for the astonishingly low price of $49. So if you want to skip right to the real thing, stop reading here, buy the synth, and fire up patch number 17, “Organ2.” If you’re feeling adventurous, here are a few ways to get the sound using different synths.

The Real Deal


Thanks to Jack Hotop, Korg’s resident Merlin of sound design, here’s the inside scoop: If you have a hardware or software clonewheel—or, gasp, a real Hammond organ—then the basic sound is created as follows: The 16' drawbar set to 8, the 5-1/3' drawbar set to 6 or 7, and the 2-2/3' drawbar set to 2 or 3, with third harmonic percussion toggled to normal (not soft) volume and fast decay. From there, slap on a chorus using medium rate and depth and a 50/50 wet/dry mix. After the chorus, add a hall reverb with a two- or three-second decay and a 20/80 wet/dry mix. Feel free to tinker with these settings until the sound sits correctly in your mix.

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05-2011 Dance: The '90s House Organ Sound by KeyboardMag

Apple GarageBand

If you’re using a Mac, you can fire up GarageBand’s Tonewheel Organ instrument and use the following settings: the Drawbars slider set fully to the left in the “More” position, percussion level fully to the right (“3rd”), percussion time at 50 percent, click at 10 percent, and a tiny bit of distortion. After that, add chorus and reverb as described above.

Ableton Live

Ableton’s Operator can deliver a serviceable approximation of the sound by setting the algorithm to all carriers, then turning oscillator 1’s coarse tuning to 1 at 0dB (max), oscillator 3’s coarse tuning to 3 at –7.3 dB, and oscillator 4’s coarse tuning to 6 at –1.9dB. In this example, we have oscillator 2’s coarse tuning set at 2 with that oscillator turned off, as its use is optional. Slap the chorus and reverb on and you’re ready to roll.

*Download the Korg M1 plug-in.