The combo of a Shure SM7 microphone into a Neve 1084 microphone preamp / equalizer was used for every vocal on the Thriller album. Bruce Swedien told Future Music, “We used the same mic and pre throughout the album – I used my Shure SM7, serial number 232, which is very early [...] The mic pre we used was a Neve 1084 – I’ve got two of them in a gorgeous oak case and I used to carry them with me from session to session.”
Louis Johnson’s bass line for “Billie Jean” was recorded direct through a custom DI with a UTC transformer belonging to engineer Bruce Swedien. Johnson’s bass was a Music Man Stingray custom built for him by Leo Fender. The bass was recorded along with the drums to a custom, portable mixer made by George Massenburg.
The four-chord progression of “Billie Jean” is one of the most recognizable synth parts in pop music. It was performed by Michael himself on a Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer.
The unmistakable drum sound for “Billie Jean” was created by drummer N’Dugu Chancler and engineer Bruce Swedien. Chancler’s drums were set up on a plywood platform in Westlake Audio’s Studio A with a wall of gobos surrounding the drum set. The bass drum wore a custom slip Swedien had made which zipped over the entire front head after the mic had been placed in the drum. Drums were recorded to a 16-track tape machine through a custom George Massenberg mixer with a Shure SM57 on snare, RCA 77DX ribbon mic on hi-hat, Neumann U67s on the toms and overheads, and some sort of Sennheiser mic on the kick drum. During mixing, Swedien applied reverb from an EMT 250 digital reverb unit. Michael Jackson Thriller Recording Notes,