Learn how to recreate the intro to Prince’s 1999 on an Oberheim OB-X from a synth programmer who worked on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album

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Unlocking the Iconic Synth Sound of Prince’s “1999” with the Oberheim OB-X

When it comes to iconic synth sounds in music history, Prince’s “1999” is often at the top of the list. Released in 1982, this funk-pop anthem not only showcased Prince’s musical genius but also introduced the world to the mesmerizing sound of the Oberheim OB-X synthesizer.

The Oberheim OB-X was a polyphonic analog synthesizer that played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of the 1980s music scene. Its distinct sound and versatility made it a favorite among many musicians, including Prince. In fact, the OB-X was heavily featured on several tracks from his “1999” album.

So, how can you recreate that iconic synth sound from “1999” using the Oberheim OB-X? Let’s dive in!

Oscillators and Filters

The OB-X featured two voltage-controlled oscillators (VCOs) per voice, giving it a rich and full-bodied sound. To recreate the “1999” synth sound, start by selecting a sawtooth waveform for both oscillators. This will give you that classic, gritty sound that is characteristic of the song.

Next, it’s time to tweak the filters. The OB-X had a 12dB/octave low-pass filter, which is essential for achieving the desired sound. Set the cutoff frequency to around 500Hz and the resonance to about 50%. This will add a subtle but noticeable bite to the sound.

Envelopes and Modulation

To further shape the sound, let’s work on the envelopes. The OB-X had two envelope generators (EGs) – one for the filter and one for the amplifier. For the “1999” sound, set the EG1 attack to around 10ms, decay to 800ms, sustain to zero, and release to 500ms. This will give you a snappy and punchy sound.

For modulation, the OB-X had a modulation oscillator (LFO) that could be used to add movement and depth to the sound. Set the LFO rate to around 1Hz and assign it to modulate the filter cutoff frequency. This will create a subtle wobble effect that adds a touch of funkiness to the sound.

Effects and Processing

To truly capture the essence of Prince’s “1999” sound, don’t forget to add some effects and processing. Experiment with some chorus and reverb to add depth and space to the sound. Additionally, try adding a touch of overdrive or distortion for extra grit and character.

The Oberheim OB-X played a crucial role in creating the iconic synth sound of Prince’s “1999.” By understanding the key elements of the OB-X’s synthesis architecture and tweaking the parameters, you can recreate this timeless sound in your own music.

So, fire up your synthesizer, dial in those settings, and let the spirit of Prince guide you as you embark on a journey to unlock the magic of “1999.” Happy synth programming!

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