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April 4, 2012
The revolution of the home studio set up has allowed novice users to start making music instantly. With the advancements in VST plug ins and websites that offer pretty much every sample sound you can imagine, electronic music can be made easily. But which method is best for making your tunes? Well in today’s post we are going to discuss some points about using pre-recorded material, such as samples from records & sample libraries, and basic synthesis using your DAW’s FM or Subtractive synthesizers or 3rd party plug ins.
Firstly, lets talk about audio samples. Most audio samples come in the for of a “sample pack” which can set you back anywhere from $19.99 to $169.99 depending on the size of the sample, and quality of the recordings which the company has used. For example, anyone can create and sell their own sample packs much like a producer sells his own full length tracks. The only difference is the process in which these samples are created.
Interface Sample Banks
Native Instruments is a great example of some very high quality samples which have been engineered to near perfection. Their team of talented recording engineers have actually travelled to various studios, such as the famous Abbey Roads, to record various drum kits to give you that vintage rock sound. They use high quality mics and pre amps, eqs and compressors to give you the best representation of what it would sound like to actually be in the studio. Also they are produced by highly trained producers and made exclusively for their machine software/hardware combo.
As you can see above the Abby Roads kit is a great example of a quality sound pack. It gives you a great visual representation of what instrument you are playing through the dedicated interface, and some great sound design options with the volume envelopes and room controls on the right of the interface.
Another great example of high quality samples and packs produced by audio engineers is from Ableton Live. They are teamed up with a company called Cycling74 (www.cycling74.com).
Of course every DAW has their own host of audio samples and sound libraries so starting there would be your best bet if your are new to production. Also the only downside to the Native Instruments packs are that you need the dedicated Maschine Controller to manipulate and play the sounds. The Maschine package can get fairly pricey once you start purchasing all the sample packs but could be a great choice if you are looking for an all in one package. Of course you don’thave to buy ALL the sample packs. Just choose the ones that suit your style of production.
Audio Wav Sample Banks
Audio sample banks are pretty much identical to Interface sample banks with the only difference lying in the interface. These sample packs are much cheaper then dedicated software and hardware sample backs such as those found from Native Instruments or Ableton but some can be more expensive depending on the amount of samples found in the pack. For example, most packs range around 500 mb of sounds where some larger more expensive all in one packages can have over three gigs.
Now, when going this route there are a few things you have to keep in mind but sound quality is the most important. Not all sample banks are going to give you quality sounds. The demo song found on their store page may make the pack sound great, but I can remember numerous times where some samples were either recycled from other packs, or just not processed properly. The main reason you have to watch out for this is because any producer can create sample packs and sell them to shops much like they can with their full length tracks. The only difference is that they are producing samples in their bedroom with no mastering or mix engineer and very little processing. BUT! With that being said, you may enjoy taking raw sounds with no processing to get the sound you like.
Your best approach to buying sample packs is to do your research and ask some bigger named producers what they like to use. Also make sure you buy sample packs that lay within the genres you wish to produce music in. You wouldn’t want to buy an electro house pack if you want to make minimal techno, but then again there are no rules to music production and some samples from that electro pack may work well in techno.
Pros to Recorded Audio Samples
- Packs are made up for you. All you have to do is place the samples and loops in your DAW and arrange!
- A lot of great brands with high quality sample packs in a variety of genres (remeber to still do your research though).
- Very little processing needed (eq, compression).
- A great way to learn basic sound design as you can manipulate, chop, and resample sounds to your taste.
- Royalty Free which means you can sell your music to labels and make money of sales without having to worry about copyright infringement.
Cons to Recorded Audio Samples
- They are not exclusive. Expect to hear everyone else using the same samples as you.
- Using pre constructed loops will diminish the quality of your creative process.
Conclusion to using Recorded Audio Samples
Developments in recorded samples has come a long way since the introduction to home studio recording has become more popular. You can get some great packs and start making music right out of the box and even sell your music online when your done. The only thing you need to watch out for is originality as most of these samples are recycled, or used extensively by other producers.
Creating Your own Samples Using Synthesis
Synthesis is a very complex, and extensive topic which is impossible to explain in a short blog post like this (perhaps a dedicated feature on synthesis in the future?) but is fairly simple to explain its core conepts.
The easiest and most simple definition of synthesis as defined by www.dictionary.com is: “A complex whole formed by combining.” What this means is that by utilizing a synthesizers oscillators, and adding filters and LFO’s to shape the sound, you can create virtually any timbre your mind can imagine. Of course thinking of a sound in your head and understanding how to translate with a virtual or hardware synthesizer is not exactly ‘easy’.
If you like the idea of creating your own drum sounds, then their are a variety of ways you can do it. You can use your DAW’s built in FM or subtractive synthesizers, or buy a dedicated third VST dedicated to synthesizing drum sounds. One example of a dedicated drum synthesizer is Sonic Charge’s “Microtonic” (www.soniccharge.com). It is a basic, yet powerful instrument for creating percusive sounds.
To get started synthesising your own drums and percusive sounds, you must also understand the frequency spectrum and what notes make up say a kick drum, or snare drum. I’ve added a frequency chart that shows the Hz value of various instruments and where they should be placed in the mix. From this chart you can fine tune your oscillators tot he specific frequency range to get you the timbre in which you seek.
Note: This is a very complex topic so if you would like to know more feel free to contact me.
Pros to Synthesis
- No one else has your sounds. What you created is your own intellectual property.
- Will train you ear much better and make you become more accustomed to the production process and your synthesizers.
- There is great satisfaction in creating your own sounds.
Cons to Synthesis
- Very steep learning curve.
- May take away from creative process (spending hours fine tuning sounds is not uncommon).
All in all, your imagination is what will set you apart from the rest. Whether using samples, or synthesis there is no right or wrong way. As long as you use them creatively and in new ways that have yet to be done then just focus on having fun. All of these tools are meant to help you do one thing: MAKE MUSIC.
As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or topic ideas you would like to see in this blog please feel free to contact me through Twitter or Facebook and be sure to continue digging through the DJ Mag website on future updates!
Until next time!