Functions and features of the Oberheim synthesizer
The Oberheim synthesizer was developed by Tom Oberheim. Like the Prophet-5, this synthesizer was loved by many musicians and was played in many recordings. Eddie Van Halen, who passed away the other day, used this for the sound of the intro to "Jump". The characteristic of Oberheim is its tone. The sticky, thick, strong sound that you can recognize as soon as you hear it has gained popularity from many keyboardists including Joe Zawinul of Weather Report and Lyle Mays of the Pat Metheny Group.
Oberheim has produced well-known analog synths such as the 4 Voice, 8 Voice, OB-X, OB-Xa, OB-8, Oberheim XPANDER, and the MATRIX-12. Of these, the OB-6 is still available. I also owned the Xpander (648,000 yen). The Xpander was a sound module type synth with 6 voices with no keyboard. I could create the sound of "Jump" and of Lyle Mays. The sound of the Xpander was thick and had good sound pressure, and it had an overwhelming presence that did not get buried by other instruments even in a band. The Xpander sound is still one criteria when choosing a synth. I couldn't master it because of the rich modulation function. The oscillator I also owned was the DCO (Digitally Controlled Oscillator) MATRIX-6. It was a low-priced Oberheim synth (298,000 yen), but this synth also sounded a little thinner than the Xpander, but it still sounded good. My favorite analog synthesizer brand is "Oberheim".
Oberheim 8 Voice
Weather Report / Keyboard Player: Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul is an Austrian keyboardist who started his career with a saxophonist, in Cannonball Adderley's group. When he was in the band, his own song "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" became a big hit reaching #11 on the Billboard and #2 on the Soul charts. After that, he recorded with Miles Davis on "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew". In 1970, he formed the best electric jazz band, Weather Report, with Wayne Shorter.
Zawinul was an Oberheim and ARP lover, and kept writing great songs. I read the book he wrote. I was impressed by the words, "Music college teaches you the theory of how to play the piano, but it doesn't teach you how to really play it."
These are Zawinul-like words. He knew how the instruments should be played, such as how to play the piano and what to do with the synthesizer. Zawinul stuck to synthesizers, while many musicians disliked electric instruments and wound up in acoustic jazz. For Zawinul, whether it was the acoustic or electric category didn't matter, he needed the "synthesizer sounds". And, it just happened to be an electric instrument... I think Zawinul sees synthesizers on the same line as acoustic instruments.
■ Recommended album: "Heavy Weather" (1977)
The 8th album by Weather Report. Their masterpiece, and the biggest hit as well. In 1977, the album won the "Album of the Year" in the jazz category from "Down Beat" magazine. Bassist Jaco Pastorius became a full-fledged member, completing the strongest rhythm section in Weather history with Peter Erskine. There are well-known songs such as "Birdland", "A Remark You Made", "Teen Town", and "Havona".
Recommended song: "Birdland"
A masterpiece in the history of electric jazz named after "Birdland", a jazz club in Manhattan, New York City. The Oberheim 8 Voice plays an impressive synthesizer bassline at the beginning. This sound can be called the "Oberheim sound".
Also, the Oberheim plays an important part throughout the song, including creating the brass sounds. When Weather Report came to Japan in 1980, I heard their sound at the Shibuya Public Hall. In addition to Jaco’s overwhelming presence, Zawinul's sound is different from the deeply-effected sound created by Eddie Jobson from the UK, and the dry sounds (with less effects) that characterizes individual synthesizers are well recognizable. The overwhelming sound pressure is still unforgettable.
Another highlight was the second half of the song, where the Oberheim synth played the theme with the left hand and a high-speed improvisation was performed with the right hand. This improvisation can be heard both in the studio and live.
Musicians, albums, recommended songs, keyboards picked up in this article
- Artist: Joe Zawinul (Weather Report)
- Album: "Heavy Weather"
- Song: "Birdland"
- Instrument: Oberheim 8 Voice Synthesizer