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© Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis
Many different types of bass sounds are appropriate in funk, but three come to mind in particular.
The first is the smoother Minimoog-type bass, as used on tunes such as Stevie Wonder’s Superstition. This sound can be approximated with a couple of sawtooth waves and a triangle slightly detuned with a medium attack, medium decay and long sustain on the filter envelope and fast attack, medium decay, fast release and long sustain on the amp envelope. Set one of the oscillators to 32’ and one to 16’ and use a low filter cutoff.
The next type is the bright punchy sound used on tracks such as Parliament’s Flash Light. Use two triangle waves driven hard into a Minimoog’s (or equivalent) mixer, with copious amounts of LFO to osc pitch (on the mod wheel) and pitchbend.
Finally, there’s the ARP Odyssey bass used by Herbie Hancock on. Again, it’s a two-oscillator sound (try a square wave and saw with detuning) driven hard into the Odyssey’s mixer and filter, with a bit of resonance, low cutoff and medium filter attack/fast amp envelope attack.
Rumour has it that Herbie layered a fast attack sound with a more sustained sound to get the final result. This explains why it’s so difficult to recreate with just one synth part, and if you listen closely to the record, it does sound like two parts layered together.
Hear it on: Stevie Wonder - Superstition; Parliament - Flash Light; Herbie Hancock - Chameleon