The Synth Sounds of Prince's "1999"

Welcome back to another episode of our ongoing series "The Synth Sounds Of...", in which William Kurk breaks down famous, synth-laden tracks and recreates them with gear in the studio.

While past episodes have featured some of the biggest pop stars and hits of the ‘80s—like Madonna's "Into the Groove," Hall & Oates' "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)," and Van Halen's "Jump"—today we’re turning to pop royalty and the jam of the millennium with Prince’s "1999."

As William explains, the purple one first recorded this party anthem with an Oberheim OB-X, Tom Oberheim’s answer to Dave Smith’s Prophet-5. To nail those same tones, we’ll use the much newer OB-6, the Oberheim/Smith collaboration, for the song’s earwig of a synth line.

Prince’s synth sound from "1999" was so popular in fact that Smith and Oberheim included it as a preset filter in the OB-6 when the instrument was released in 2016.

To really get that signature Prince sound, William uses an LFO to modulate the synth’s VCO, adding depth and movement to the choral-like synth line. Next, he gets to the additional effects: "Chorus—chorus, chorus, chorus, chorus, and more chorus."

William warns of the thin, boring tone you'll get without the chorus and LFO: "Brace yourselves. You’re gonna go back in time, before Prince was born."

You can use the audio files supplied in those sessions, or use the software instruments found in the Arturia V Collection 6. (See below for details on a Reverb Exlusive Arturia Sale.) For our Soundcloud demo, which you can hear below, we've used the free Disco DSP OB-Xd soft synth, the Arturia Jup-8 V, and two different drum collections: the Reverb LinnDrum Sample Pack and the free Symplesound Purple Drums.

Be sure to watch the full video to learn how to recreate the part yourself in our Ableton Live, Logic, or Pro Tools sessions below.

Download Reverb Exclusive Project Sessions
Use the Provided Audio Files in These Sessions

Arturia Sale: Now through the end of our "The Synth Sounds Of..." series on May 15, U.S. customers can get a Reverb Exclusive discount on the Arturia software synths used in our videos. Use promo code REVERBSOUNDS at checkout for 33% off the Arturia Prophet V and 20% off the Arturia V Collection 6.

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