synth used in BILLIE JEAN for bassline.

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Postby Bill Wolfer » Sat Dec 08, 2007 7:05 pm

Micke wrote:I think Billy Wolfer played the synths on "Billie Jean" so maybe he can shed some light on this. According to an article in an old Keyboard Magazine, he used a Prophet 5, Jup-8 and CS-80 on the songs he contributed to.

Micke


I used a CS80 to play the chords that move against the bass line on Bille Jean. The bass part was already there when I recorded, so I can't say who played it (I'd guess Phillangaines) or what synth it was. Sounds like a Minimoog to me.

I can't believe it's been 25 years. Wow.
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Postby JBug » Sat Dec 08, 2007 7:17 pm

Micke wrote:The Minimoog does the bassline in P.Y.T. This has been confirmed by Greg Phillinganes. Moreover, I've read that Michael Boddicker used two Minimoogs hooked together for some of the bass lines on that album. Whether this setup was used on this particular song I really don't know.

EDIT: If I'd make a guess I'd say the bass on "Thriller" was done with this setup (i.e. two Minimoogs hooked together)

Micke


I remember reading an article about how Billy Jean was recorded and what synths were used and it did say that the bass part was played on a minimoog.

I was in Keyboard, many many moons ago but i remember it very very clearly.
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Postby Sir Ruff » Sat Dec 08, 2007 7:49 pm

Bill Wolfer wrote:
Micke wrote:I think Billy Wolfer played the synths on "Billie Jean" so maybe he can shed some light on this. According to an article in an old Keyboard Magazine, he used a Prophet 5, Jup-8 and CS-80 on the songs he contributed to.

Micke


I used a CS80 to play the chords that move against the bass line on Bille Jean. The bass part was already there when I recorded, so I can't say who played it (I'd guess Phillangaines) or what synth it was. Sounds like a Minimoog to me.

I can't believe it's been 25 years. Wow.


wow cool! straight from the source!

it's amazing how well that record still holds up today. I mean it still has the sound of the early 80s in terms of the synth sounds and rnb/funk production style, but it was so well executed that one can listen to it today (or yesterday), and not feel it's so dated. it's really a testament to "the more you put in, the more you get out". But conversely it's not over-produced like many of the late 70s disco records that preceeded it. All the sounds fit in perfectly.
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Postby Micke » Sat Dec 08, 2007 8:20 pm

Bill Wolfer wrote:
I used a CS80 to play the chords that move against the bass line on Bille Jean. The bass part was already there when I recorded, so I can't say who played it (I'd guess Phillangaines) or what synth it was. Sounds like a Minimoog to me.

I can't believe it's been 25 years. Wow.



Thanks for confirming this, Bill

Did you play the keys on any of the other tracks, for instance on "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin" and "Beat It"?

Micke
Last edited by Micke on Mon Dec 10, 2007 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The (Yamaha) CS-80 is a step ahead in keyboard control, and a generation behind in digital control" -- Dan Wyman, Jan 1979
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Postby Bill Wolfer » Sat Dec 08, 2007 8:31 pm

Micke wrote:

Thanks for confirming this, Bill

Did you play the keys on any of the other tracks, for instance on "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin" and "Beat It"?

Micke


Yes, I played on three tunes altogether, Billie Jean and the two you just mentioned. I wish I could remember more details about what I played on those two, but I don't. I imagine it was a prophet, and maybe a jupiter 8. I just played pad sounds on those two songs. They were all fun sessions. Quincy was super nice, Swedien was always funny, and it was great to hang out with all of those top notch session players. I was the new kid in town at the time.
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Postby SWAN » Sat Dec 08, 2007 11:19 pm

Bill Wolfer wrote:
Micke wrote:

Thanks for confirming this, Bill

Did you play the keys on any of the other tracks, for instance on "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin" and "Beat It"?

Micke


Yes, I played on three tunes altogether, Billie Jean and the two you just mentioned. I wish I could remember more details about what I played on those two, but I don't. I imagine it was a prophet, and maybe a jupiter 8. I just played pad sounds on those two songs. They were all fun sessions. Quincy was super nice, Swedien was always funny, and it was great to hang out with all of those top notch session players. I was the new kid in town at the time.


Great to see you posting in here Bill.

I was wondering-how much artistic freedom did you get to contribute in sessions like these? Is it a case of Quincy/producer having a pretty good idea of what they want or did you get quite a lot of input?

Thanks in advance :)
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re

Postby PaulRice » Sun Dec 09, 2007 3:51 am

Hey guys, I appreciate all your help. Especially from bill.

I have gathered all the info everyone posted here and use it towards my research and sound creation.

BILLIE JEAN is a such a great song. The sound is timeless. You cant really tell if the song was made in the 80's or today. Its that perfect. The best part about this song is its unique bassline. While basslines for other song have to fallow the main melody, the bass for billie jean isnt fallowing no main melody, its actually random, but that an exception because it worked.

Thanks again guys.

I have another question in regaurds to billie jean. If you watch the live performance of billie jean from his DANGEROUS or HISTORY tour on you tube, The strings sound differnt fromt he record. I was wondering what keybord or module was used for the live shows? The patch sounds kinda like a "OOH-CHOIR" sound. any input or qpinions?

TO BILL: I was wondering if CS-80V is close enough to the actual cs-80?
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Postby elsongs » Sun Dec 09, 2007 4:49 am

Sir Ruff wrote:sweet!

far more than I thought, and quite a variety. what on earth did they use the portasound for? and why have 3 jup-8s? seems like overkill for recording.


They used the Portasound for the verses on "P.Y.T." Listen closely and you'll hear a Portasound "piano" sound played on the "and of" beats.

Why 3 JP-8s? Dude, the album was produced by Quincy Freaking Jones. Because he can.
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Re: re

Postby elsongs » Sun Dec 09, 2007 4:54 am

PaulRice wrote: The best part about this song is its unique bassline. While basslines for other song have to fallow the main melody, the bass for billie jean isnt fallowing no main melody, its actually random, but that an exception because it worked.


It was lifted from this blues tune...the song escapes me. But MJ had a knack for lifting musical concepts from older songs (i.e. The end of "Wanna Be Starting Somethin" borrowed from Manu Dibango's "Soul Makosa"). I guess that makes MJ the original hip-hop artist :)

Yes, I know jazz musicians lifted parts from other songs way before that.
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Postby elsongs » Sun Dec 09, 2007 5:00 am

Were the strings on "Billie Jean" real strings? I mean they obviously sound like it, but just want confirmation.

Also, what was the Emulator for? The vocal samples ("Don't think twice!" etc)?

I can spot the Synclavier easily playing the countermelody in the 2nd verse.
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Postby Micke » Sun Dec 09, 2007 5:15 pm

The strings in Billie Jean are definitely the real thing.

Am not sure what the Emulator does in this song but the countermelody (mentioned by elsongs above) is probably played on the Synclavier or Synergy.
Greg Smith is credited with playing on the tune alongside Bill Wolfer (CS-80), Boddicker (Emulator) and Phillinganes (Minimoog), and I believe he handled the Synergy.
"The (Yamaha) CS-80 is a step ahead in keyboard control, and a generation behind in digital control" -- Dan Wyman, Jan 1979
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Postby Bill Wolfer » Sun Dec 09, 2007 7:34 pm

SWAN wrote:I was wondering-how much artistic freedom did you get to contribute in sessions like these? Is it a case of Quincy/producer having a pretty good idea of what they want or did you get quite a lot of input?

Thanks in advance :)


In all of the sessions I did for Thriller, I was always impressed by how much Michael knew exactly what he wanted, from the first demo sessions at his home studio to the final work with Quincy at Westlake.

We started Billie Jean by Michael singing the top three notes of the opening chords, and we spent a long time trying to find the right harmony. As you know, there are a million ways you can harmonize three moving notes, and I tried about every one, but Michael had a clear sound in his head that he wanted, not only the harmony, but the synth sound itself. It was a patch he had heard me fooling around with when we were on the '81 tour, and recreating it wasn't easy either, because he could only try to describe it to me.

Michael was especially hands-on for all three of those songs (Bille Jean, Wanna be startin' somethin' and Beat it), because those were his compositions, he had done the 16 track demos in his house, and he had a clear solid vision of every little sound.

So, the artistic freedom in this case was always Michael's. We were just there to get the sound out of his head and onto tape. It wasn't easy for him, because he didn't play an instrument. He could just sing the parts, and try to describe the sound he wanted. But he was always patient, and we worked as though we had all the time in the world.

For me, it's easy to hear the difference between Michael's songs and Quincy's, and I could see that they were starting to move in different directions. For example, Michael told me that at first Quincy didn't like Beat it, and felt it was out of place on the record. Michael stuck to his guns, worked extra hard on the demo, and won his case, and Beat it went on to win record of the year.
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Re: re

Postby Bill Wolfer » Sun Dec 09, 2007 7:41 pm

PaulRice wrote:TO BILL: I was wondering if CS-80V is close enough to the actual cs-80?


I haven't tried it, because I still have my CS80! But to me, the best part of the CS80 can't be re-created in an emulation, because the instrument itself is so expressive in so many ways that can't be approximated in software. Polyphonic aftertouch, the ribbon controller, the feel of the keyboard, the expression pedal, on and on.

If someone took the guts of a CS80 and put them into a MIDI controlled box, it just wouldn't be the same instrument.

Notwithstanding that, I have heard good things about the CS80V. I imagine it's better than nothing, considering that CS80s are as rare as hen's teeth and are selling for small fortunes these days.
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Postby Micke » Sun Dec 09, 2007 7:57 pm

Thanks Bill for the interesting insider-info :)
"The (Yamaha) CS-80 is a step ahead in keyboard control, and a generation behind in digital control" -- Dan Wyman, Jan 1979
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Postby dracena » Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:45 am

Bill, thanks for sharing this info. I quite like Billy Jean and Beat It and it was great to hear some production details from the guy who actually participated in recording of these songs.
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