The Synth Sounds of Bruno Mars: "Finesse," "24K Magic," and "Uptown Funk"

As one of contemporary pop music's biggest artists, Bruno Mars often hearkens back to the sounds of previous eras of funk, R&B, and '80s pop to craft his chart-topping hits. Today, we're back for a special episode of our The Synth Sounds Of... series, where we'll use a collection of synthesizers and music software to show how Bruno Mars gets these tones.

"Finesse" takes as its inspiration the "new jack swing" style, as heard in songs like Janet Jackson's "Nasty," that used new rhythms made available by the Roland TR-808 drum machine. Bruno Mars' track places a fat Minimoog-style bassline on top of the beat—which William Kurk recreates with a Moog Sub 37. To get the organ sound of the Roland JX-3P, Will uses Roland's new boutique version, the JX-03, using a MIDI controller to play the notes from the sound module. (The JX-03 is also available with its own keyboard.)

To round out the song, Will uses the Roland Cloud software synth version of the JX-3P for some strings, as well as the iconic orchestra hits that found their way in countless songs of the new jack swing era. (You can sign up for a free trial of the Roland Cloud Instrument Suite.) Those hits came from rackmount and tabletop synth units like the Roland XV-3080, JV-880, and JV-1080. Will uses the Roland Cloud version of the JV-1080 in our video above.

Like "Finesse," "24K Magic" was also produced by The Stereotypes. But instead of new jack swing, it's inspired by the Dayton funk sound made popular in the '70s and '80s by groups like the Ohio Players. Instead of the Minimoog, which Will suspects was used for the original bassline, he employs instead a Novation Bass Station II.

The essential synth brass stabs—probably made on an Oberheim OB-X or the Prophet-5—is recreated using the Prophet-6. A Korg Minilogue with added delay is behind Will's version of the song's fluttering arpeggios that fly over top of the track.

"Uptown Funk" may be the most recognized song out of them all—and you may even be recalling parts of "Oops Upside Your Head," "More Bounce to the Ounce," and other songs whose writers have brought infringement claims against Mars and producer Mark Ronson.

The fat bass tones come from both a live bass and the synth bassline, which Will uses a Sub 37 to recreate. While the original song probably used a Korg Trident or an OB-X, Will again uses the Prophet-6 to remake the song's synth brass tones. But the song also features a separate horn line, played by live horns or a combination of live and synth brass, which, as in "Finesse," Will makes with the JV-1080 plugin found in the Roland Cloud Instrument Suite.

Be sure to watch the full video above. And to play with these synth sounds in your DAW of choice, download some of our Bruno Mars sessions or preset packages below.

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