Did Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ Copy A Synth Demo Record?


In the latest video from composer and sound designer Anthony Marinelli, he is joined by musician and sound designer Kevin Maloney, who reveals the origin of the iconic synth sound of Michael Jackson‘s Beat it.

In the video, Maloney demonstrates how the intro sound from Beat It was ‘inspired’ by The Incredible Sounds of Synclavier II, a blue vinyl audio demo disk for the Synclavier. 

“It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right…”

Maloney and Marinelli go on to discuss how the sound was based on a Synclavier preset, and how the demo disk melody, created by Denny Yeager, was recreated in the studio for Beat It.

For those that were deep into synths, and the synth music of the day, the sound was also immediately recognizable from the beginning of Tangerine Dream‘s 1981 album, Exit.

Did Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ copy a synth demo record? 

It’s pretty clear that the iconic sound of one of the best-selling singles of all time was copied straight from the Synclavier demo record.

Synthesist Alex Ball dug into this a few years ago, and raised the issue of copyright and credits. Ball notes, though, that Yeager went on to work together on Bad, where Yeager was credited with ‘certain Synclavier effects’.

Here’s Ball’s take on the iconic start of Beat It:

The sound is iconic – but, arguably, it was Jackson’s use of the sound on Beat It that made it so iconic. Like some other presets from that era, the sound is so inextricably connected to a famous track that it’s challenging to use.

Composer Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL) was up to that challenge, though, using the iconic sound as part of the 80’s-inspired sound palette for his score to the 2016 film Deadpool.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at the making of the Deadpool score – and you can’t miss that sound:


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