Sound Design: Black Eyed Peas Dirty Bit Synth in Logic Pro, Part 1

In Part 1 of this Quick Tutorial, we'll be looking at how to reproduce a synth sound from a recent pop hit, The Black Eyed Peas "The Time (Dirty Bit)"...  

In Part 1 of this Quick Tutorial, we'll be looking at how to reproduce a synth sound from a recent pop hit, The Black Eyed Peas "The Time (Dirty Bit)": For this tutorial, we'll be using Logic's ES2 softsynth and recreating the stringy synth arpeggio sound that you hear by itself at the beginning of the song. We won't be able to reproduce it exactly, since a different synth was used for this song, but we can get quite close. Let's get started.

Watch The Black Eyed Peas "The Time (Dirty Bit)"

Step 1 - Set Up the Logic Project

Open Logic, and start with a new empty project containing one empty Software Instrument track:

Click and hold the default EVP88 button at the top of in the I/O section of the channel strip and choose 01 Logic Instruments > ES 2 Hybrid Synth from the pop-up menu... open the default ES 2 window:

Step 2 - Analyze the Sound

Take a moment and listen to the sound, which fortunately is fully exposed in the song's intro: it starts out as a very sharp, short buzzy bass tone in octaves, with lots of bright upper harmonics. Then, both the attack and decay of the tone lengthen a bit before the arpeggiated chords start. It's somewhat like a string synth sound, but brighter, and it has some chorusing and a little bit of long reverb behind it. During the first part of the arpeggiated figure, the attack and decay are short again, but slowly lengthen during the course of the phrase. 

Step 3 - Create the Sound

So, without further ado, here's my ES2 patch:

Try to reproduce these settings as closely as you can - if you do, you should be most of the way there, and I'll explain the remaining parts.

First, note that the ModWhl (Modulation Wheel) controller has been mapped to both the decay and attack of Envelope 3 (this is in the first two slots of the Router.) While playing the opening bass pulse, start with your Mod Wheel all the way down, then gradually open it up in the third and fourth bars of the opening, like so:

Also note that because this is a bright, stringy sort of sound, we're using sawtooth waves throughout, which tend to have bright string-like buzz. The first oscillator provides a small amount of upper-octave buzz to the sound, but the body comes from the second and third oscillators, which are slightly detuned to give a slight chorusing to the pitch. 

Other points: We're in Poly Unison mode, which lets us play multiple notes at once if necessary, but doubles up the notes to add some thickness. And we're passing the mixed oscillators through a high-pass filter, which removes some of the lower harmonics and emphasizes the upper; we're adding a little bit of chorus after the filter stage, and most of the other functions are disabled. 

Two particular values I want to point out, as they're probably hard to read: the Attack for Envelope 3, which controls the amplitude of our sound, is set to just above zero, 0.16ms. This is so it has some room to lengthen when we add the Mod Wheel control. For the same reason, the Decay for that Envelope is set to 46ms. But the ranges of control (again in the first two slots of the Router) are set higher for the Decay than for the Attack; this is so that as we add more Mod Wheel modulation, the Decay will get proportionally longer than the attack—that is, when the Decay is at its maximum, the Attack won't be too long and make the sound too slow.

Step 4 - Final Touches

The final step is to add a long reverb, like PlatinumVerb's 'Bright Long Verb', and set its Wet Mix quite low:

And those are the basics. As always, you should experiment with these settings. But most of all, have fun!

Want to get deeper into Sound Design with Logic's ES2? Check out SteveH's Logic 206 - ES2 Exposed.

Richard Lainhart

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Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films h... Read More


Greg M
Nice tutorial Richard, slightly confused though as you say you use sawtooth waves throughout but OSC 2 + 3 are set to Pulse width modulated square waves in the image.

hey amazing tutorial, confused as well with the pulse wave though but yeah i used the pulse wave instead of the saw as the picture shows.

Also, do you happen to know how do they do that effect where they change the pitch of the vocals, they use it a lot. they even do like melodies with the vocal pitch shifting ..can't figure out, i tried with autotune and by playing autotune's keys, but it doesnt work.

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