”Quincy Jones is a musical genius and he had a big part in the sound of ”Off The Wall,” and ”Thriller,” but Bruce Sweden was the engineer. What this video doesn’t tell you is the recording techniques Mr. Sweden used. He recorded every track in true stereo. Whether volcals, bass guitar amps, snare, bass drum, etc, every instrument and volcal was recorded with two omni-directional mikes onto two tracks. Crazy but true. This is the true secret of MJ’s sound. Three, sometimes four analog 2 inch 24 track mutitracks were synced together. Bruce built a wooden drum stand that would raise the drum kit a foot off the floor thereby decoupling the kit from the floor. He made isolation boxes for the high-hat and bass drum. He wanted no leakage. Because the drum kit was decoupled from the floor low bass frequencies don’t travel and make noise all over. Inside he would put two mikes for bass drum and the same for the high hat. This led to what you hear on Thriller.
Everyone thinks the drums on Beat It and Billy Jean are from a drum machine. SURPRISE. They aren’t. That’s the incredible clean drum sound Bruce got from his extreme drum kit set up. Michael’s volcals were done in this fashion: MJ would sing three feet away from a spaced pair of omni-directional microphones (recorded to 2 tracks in real stereo) He would sing again, only this time 6 feet away, but the recording volume was turned up to match the level of the volcal take before. Then the same as before only now 9 feet, 12 feet, and finally 15 feet. This was to duplicate the five part harmony of his brothers. With this unique recording volcal technique Bruce Sweden was able to get vast amounts of depth from Jackson’s volcals that would not have been possible recording the normal way. The rhythm tracks were always recorded on the first analog 2 inch 24 track. Drums, bass, rhythm guitars, percussion, keyboards were recorded in real stereo. Two spaced microphones in front of guitar amps not one. And yes..Two omni-directional mikes in front of the bass amp. He would get a second 24 track and sync the two up together with sync pulse on track 24 of tape 1 and the new tape 2. He would then do a stereo midtown of the rhythm tracks from Tape-1 to Tracks 21 & 22 of the new tape. (Note: On both multitracks Track 23 were left blank. In the days of analog it wasn’t a good idea to put music tracks next to sync pulses. You could but bad idea.)
With the stereo mix of the rhythm tracks now recorded on Tape-2 Bruce would put the rhythm track tape in storage. This was his secret to a crisp superfly rhythm tracks – Not to use it. Not running that 2 inch 24 Track hundreds of times through the machine. This constant playing of analog tape causes high frequency and transient loss. The only time the rhythm track tape would get played again was at the end – for the finally mix.” John Morris