The Iconic Sounds Of Synthesis: Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon Bassline

Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon was an instant jazz standard when it was released, on his 1973 album Head Hunters.

This video, via Future Music Magazine, takes a look at recreating Hancock’s classic Chameleon bass sound, using the new Korg ARP Odyssey

Head Hunters also features another Hancock standard, Watermelon Man. The album is recognized as one of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone.

Here’s the original version of Chameleon:

Hancock plays Fender Rhodes, clavinet, ARP Odyssey and ARP Soloist on the album.

25 thoughts on “The Iconic Sounds Of Synthesis: Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon Bassline

  1. Reasonable and serviceable. A great sound to make on these new Odysseys.

    But it might need more salt. The original has a pronounced quack – more resonance? Faster envelope, played more staccato? Certainly seems like there’s more high end, mids overdriven. It’s nearly an acid sound. Maybe it was plugged in hot to a mixer channel in the 70’s.

    This recreation is darker, boomier, more sluggish, almost brass-like. I’m not convinced this is a 2-oscillator sound, it could be slapback, ADT, or manual double tracking in the original recording that gives the sound its depth.

    Probably someone knows, I’m just making an ear-guess.

  2. I understand how influential this song was but….damn is it annoying today, especially around the 6 min mark.

    Sort of like how annoying November Rain has become.

        1. come off it bro. I actually like Herbie Hancock, its all just a bit much sometimes. I listen to Return to Forever, but I can still admit a lot of 70’s jazz has pacing issues that can become overbearing. Return to Forever’s first album struck a perfect balance though. I’m more of a mellower jazz guy

  3. This was a cool Album and a bench mark for many up and coming Musicians, Herbie is very progressive and melodic on this tune he really stretches out at the end of this tune its a classic the whole album.

  4. Needs better miking for the narration. The resonance and ambient reverb made his words blur together in a sonorous rumble that made it difficult for me to pick out distinct words. Granted, I have tinnitus, but a lot of other demo videos are very easy to understand because the vocal audio is given as much attention as the synth audio (for example see Marc Doty’s videos, or Nick Batt’s.)

    1. It’s different, but not too far off. It’s in the neighborhood, maybe one house down.

      What would you tweak to get it closer? I feel like some minor tweak would get it right on.

  5. Great cut and a classic groove! This and his Rockit album are some of the best electronic fusion albums out there.

  6. On the song “Chameleon” It is the ARP Odyssey on bass not Korg !!!. Alan R Perlman okay? Get it right. The lead was the ARP 2600.

    1. Yes – as noted in the article, Hancock played the ARP Odyssey.

      The Korg ARP Odyssey is designed to be an updated reissue of the original, so it sounds very similar.

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