Everyone knows the famous drum and bass intro to this track, but what about the synth chords? Suffice to say, it’s more than just a single synth sound going on here; it’s helped by an endless equipment list, which could only come with a huge ’80s production budget.
Our money is on a Jupiter-8, which was Greg Phillinganes’ polysynth of choice at this time, layered with E-MU Emulator vocal samples and then this layered up with the real orchestra directed by arranger Jerry Hey. Then this was all mixed down by Bruce Swedien and produced by Quincy Jones.
Listen: Michael Jackson - Billie Jean
How to get the sound
To recreate an approximation of this sound, we used the Logic Vocoder plug-in to emulate the polystring synth and vocoder ‘ooh’ sounds within one preset. To get this sound, set the wave balance at around the mid-way point and use the release control so the sound tails off with just a bit of release. Pretty simple really!