Is there a name for this type of synthesizer effect?

I feel like I’ve heard this sort of synthesizer sound in many songs, but the only one I can think of off the top of my head is Magic Man by Heart. The sound that I’m talking about is at exactly 4:01 here. After playing a little riff, the synthesizer’s note slowly “bends” down until 4:10, then fluctuates a little in tone but not pitch for a few seconds and then “bends” back up and goes into another riff. I’ve always liked that sound; it has a “futuristic” feel to it.

Is there a name for this effect?

Surely you aren’t talking about pitch bending?

No, I am talking about a specific kind of “instrument” sound on a synthesizer. I don’t know if it’s a Moog synthesizer or what but it is a unique and distinctive tone. Did you listen at 4:01 in that song?

Ah, I see. I did listen, but I thought you were talking about the effect, not the sound.

Unfortunately I don’t have an answer. To me it’s just a standard synthesised buzz.

This is kinda guesswork, but - the basic sound is a square wave being run through a low-pass filter with an ‘envelope’ controlling the filter. It’s really interesting that he is able to take the pitch from audible to sub-sonic and back up - these days, the pitch bend wheel won’t let you do that without some tweaking. Those days, you could probably set the pitch wheel so that it could control in larger or smaller increments. The fact that he’s playing two notes at the same time (and they’re not always the same interval apart) probably indicates that this is a poly - something. As to brand, that’s almost impossible to tell from the sound. WAG - this is a poly-Moog, but that could have been one of the ARP 2600s as well. I don’t think it could have been a micro- or mini- Moog, because they weren’t really good for playing two notes at once, and the clip sounds too precise to have been overdubbed with the technology that they had at the time.

ETA: According to Wiki, I’m full of shit - they claim it’s a Mini Moog.

It sounds to me like a couple of different wave forms stacked on top of one another. One is a square, the other may be a sawtooth or reverse sawtooth with a bit of the edge taken off. This is totally possible in one take with the original moog because it had 3 VCO’s (voltage controlled ocillators) plus a noise generator…

The swirling sound you hear after the pitch dip is the VCF (voltage controlled filter) ocillating back and forth through the frequencies high to low. At least that’s my guess…

I can’t answer your question, but that song is very very similar to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song.

What’s happening here is that has two oscillators playing square waves tuned a fifth apart. The filter has its resonance set fairly high and the cutoff frequency is set to follow the keyboard.

On some analog synths getting a glissando like the one you hear is trivial: you just turn the frequency potentiometer. On the Minimoog, however, oscillators 2 and 3 are locked to oscillator 1, which is controlled by the keyboard and lacks a frequency knob. By default, the pitch bend wheel only gives you +/- 5 semitones, which is too little to achieve the effect here. However, the Minimoog has an internal jumper that allows you to change this, which is probably what’s happening.

Anyway, the term “subsonic” is a bit of an exaggeration. The slide goes from about 400 Hz (G3) down to about 50 Hz (G0), which is still within audible range. I know this not because I have perfect pitch (I wish) but because I looked at a spectrogram of the segment, which showed something interesting. The glissando overlaps shortly with the harmonics of the previous musical phrase. On a Minimoog, this would be impossible; there are too many notes playing at the same time, although very briefly. This means that the synth part was probably recorded in two takes that were crossfaded.

I remember playing on an Oberheim OBX A or similar back in the day that made some pretty glorious noise and would have been a contestant for that sound.

I thought about an overdub, but I thought the rhythms were too close for the tech of the time.

Okay, not sub-sonic, just below the capacity of the built in speakers on a MacBook Pro struggling to overcome the kids watching TV in the next room. Where’s the “smiling pbthththt” emoticon? :slight_smile:

Is this clip too early for any of the Prophet synthesizers?

It’s not really an overdub, though. The parallel fifths are obtained by tuning oscillator 2, that’s why the rhythms match perfectly. The melody that starts with an arpeggio and the part that starts with the glissando are (likely) two different takes. Either they crossfaded two takes on two different tracks, or –more likely– they punched-in the pitch-bend section. It’s also a slightly different patch as the parallel fifths are gone.

If Magic Man was released in 1976, that was too early for the Prophet-5, which I think was released around 1978.

You people are amazing!

It’s definitely a Minimoog on the song. The one note bending into the next effect is labeled “Glide” on the Minimoog. There a several other names it goes by depending on the brand of the synth: portamento, glissando, slide, lag, slew, and even “integrator” on the Korg MS-50.

I take it as a credit to my sonic memory that I never thought about this, but can remember the songs well enough to know that you’re right. Although I wouldn’t agree with very very similar, just similar in the rhythm. There’s screaming of course but that wasn’t exactly uncommon in 70’s hard rock :slight_smile:

(They do do a good version of immigrant song in concert, though.)

That’s not quite what “glide” does and it’s definitely not what’s happening here. “Glide” smoothes out the transitions between individual notes. In technical terms, it’s a lowpass filter on the control voltage. In non-technical terms, you’d hear it as notes of the melody sliding into the next (think Elvis singing).

I just took a look at the Minimoog manual and found an easier way to get the big glissando than fiddling with an internal jumper for the pitch bend wheel. You can connect an external source of control voltage that gets added to the CV coming from the keyboard. Using an external device, you can do pitch modulation that far exceeds the limits of the pitch bend wheel. Like the pitch bend wheel, this will affect all oscillators so there’s no way to have two oscillators hold a note while a third one does a glissando, like what’s happening very briefly on this track.

Actually clicked over to them performing “Dreamboat Annie” on VH1 while reading this thread. Sure enough, they’re playing Magic Man. Looks she was actually playing a Moog.

Yes, you can see a good shot of it starting 4:55 in this video:

Anyway, the knob she’s turning controls the cutoff frequency for the filter. Modulating the cutoff frequency of a filter with a high resonance/emphasis/Q (all means the same thing) is a cliché of 70s synth music and later techno music. BTW, in this version, you can hear what the glide setting does. It’s particularly noticeable when she plays two notes that are far apart.

Read a (sorry–print) interview with the ladies where they said they had wanted to be Led Zeppelin. Nancy Wilson plays some smokin’ riffs and, though she’s not Jimmy Page, she’s hotter.

ETA: Watching that video, either she grew a moustache or it’s simply that she’s hotter than Jimmy Page and not that much of a guitarist, as if it matters.

It’s mainly the rhythm which is distinctive and cool. There’s also a chord change during the verse that sounds the same. Put those two things together and without having heard it for a while, I felt like I was listening to a slower female version of the Immigrant Song.

Ah yeah, looking into their repertoire a bit more it seems they were into Led Zep a bit, the similarities are probably not coincidental then. (And boy, hasn’t she put on some weight!)