How to recreate the Chameleon bass sound on the Korg ARP Odyssey

A step-by-step guide to programming Herbie Hancock's classic tone

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Taken from Herbie's 1973 album Head Hunters, the distinctive Odyssey bass sound on Chameleon's intro has been sampled by many major-label and indie artists. Though it's basically a two-oscillator detuned sawtooth sound, it has bags of character and it epitomises what a funky synth bass sound should be - deep, punchy, juicy, gritty and chunky!

We've tried in vain to recreate this sound on many monosynths over the years. You can often get close, but we've only been able to truly nail it with an Odyssey. There's just something unique about the way the oscillators, filter and envelopes interact and musically distort in the Odyssey that can't easily be replicated on any other synth.

Read on and watch the video above for the detailed recipe. For more on how to get the most out of Korg's ARP Odyssey, check out Future Music issue 291, which is on sale now.

Step 1: First off, reset all controls on the Oddy to zero. Set both oscillators to sawtooth then push up the levels to full for both oscillators on the mixer. Set the tuning so the midway point on each oscillator is middle C, then slightly detune Osc2 to thicken the sound.

Step 2: On the new Odyssey select the Rev1 filter, set cutoff to around 1/4 full and resonance to almost full. Set the Drive switch to 'on' for more overall level and grit and then set the filter to trigger the ADSR with the amount to filter level set to around 3/4 full.

Step 3: Assign the VCA to AR envelope with fast attack/short-ish release. Set ADSR to almost-fastest attack, short decay, tiny bit of sustain and short-ish release. Set keyboard CV to half; use S/H for extra dirt. Set S/H input level 1 slider to full but keep the S/H to filter level low.

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