6 iconic songs that use KORG synthesizers

The KORG M1, Polysix, TRITON, Mono/Poly, MS-20, M1, and ARP ODYSSEY are all powerful synthesizers for versatile sound design.

But, did you know that many producers and artists have simply used some of their most popular presets to make their hits? In celebration of KORG Collection 2’s release on Rent-to-Own, let’s take a look at how a handful of synths from the collection have been used in iconic songs across all kinds of genres.

1. “Grindin’” by Clipse

Clipse’s “Grindin’,” produced by the Neptunes, is perhaps the most classic example of a ‘lunch table beat’ – the drum programming is so iconic that kids can bang it out on a lunch table and it’d still be recognizable.

But, did you know that the percussion from its timeless beat is comprised entirely of presets from the KORG TRITON? You can find the exact same sounds Pharrell and Chad Hugo used in the preset ‘B116: Percussion Kit’ under the ‘Drums’ category (shoutout to Mathew Garland’s blog for this tip).

2. “Electric Feel” by MGMT

The KORG Mono/Poly is a fascinating piece of kit; although its claim to fame is its ability to switch between mono and poly (a single voice vs. many voices), it really shines when used for stacking and layering. Cheers to Equipboard for sharing this video of MGMT using a KORG Mono/Poly to record the flute-ish lead synth sound featured in their smash hit “Electric Feel.”

3. “Bar a Thym” by Kerri Chandler

I’ve been a long-time fan of Kerri Chandler, whose intense but accessible brand of deep house has been a staple of four-on-the-floor DJ crates for decades. In researching for this article, I finally found one of my sound design holy grails: I learned how the Jersey house legend made the synth sound from “Bar A Thym.” Wikipedia cites that in the song, the Jersey legend wields the ‘Brave Arp’ preset of the KORG Polysix. I’ve always loved how this sound has so much movement, while retaining a solidity that acts as the bedrock for the rest of the tune.

4. “Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock

Some of our younger readers may know Herbie Hancock as the guy in the final level of that WIRED video where Jacob Collier explains harmony. Many, however, will recognize Herbie Hancock as a living legend of musical composition, performance, sound design, and innovation.

Always one to embrace new technology, Herbie Hancock turned the jazz world on its head when he released Head Hunters. “Chameleon,” perhaps the most recognizable track from the record, prominently features an ARP ODYSSEY bassline. This plucky, funky patch helps establish “Chameleon” as one of the most iconic jazz recordings of all time.

5. “Da Funk” by Daft Punk

Daft Punk used a KORG MS-20 setting consisting of saw waves in stacked fifths and a subtle envelope on the filter to dial in the gritty synth lead heard on “Da Funk.” Few instrumental lines steal the show quite like the synth does in this track. Check out this cool recreation video from GAK to see exactly how the MS-20 can be used to craft this sound.

6. “Show Me Love” by Robin S

The final track on this list needs no introduction. Suffice to say, the main plucky bass sound from Robin S’s “Show Me Love” was made with a KORG M1. In my opinion, this is one of the most iconic synth patches in all of dance music. Producers continue to emulate this sound to this day, as it’s a staple particularly in house sub-genres. It’s pretty amazing to load up an M1 and listen to a real piece of dance music history.

What are your favorite songs that feature KORG synthesizers? Let us know in the comments below.

Recreate these sounds and more yourself with KORG Collection 2:

November 17, 2020

Max Rewak Max Rewak is a record producer, audio engineer, and music writer, based in New York and currently working in Sounds content at Splice.