Friday, May 28, 2010
Today's selection is what used to be one of my favorite bass sounds I'd programmed for my old SQ-80 back in the day. It's very digital sounding and can add a nice bite to other bass sounds when layered. (The name of the patch was inspired by the liner notes of a Shriekback album that listed not only the gear used, but the name of the synth patches they used which pleased the hell out of me for some reason...)
8 mono 24-bit/44.1k WAV samples of the C and G keys for 4 octaves.
GO GET THEM!
In the past, I've been pretty critical of Propellerheads on this blog, particularly the "closed system" nature of Reason and their insistence on requiring their users to buy an entirely separate program if they actually want to do proper recording. What a hamfisted workflow! But when they get it right, they get it right.
As you've probably heard, Reason 5 is on its way, and the 'Heads have gradually been revealing the new features in a series of videos. Nothing lit me on fire until today when they announced that Reason 5 would include live sampling, something virtually unheard of in the world of software samplers for some stupid reason. Instead of just loading in a recording you made in another program, Reason 5 will let you sample your sounds live from within the sampler itself, just like... oh, every hardware sampler ever (Oberheim DPX1 notwithstanding...). This is something I've been wishing the major sampling platforms would introduce for years now, so it's nice to see someone finally take the lead.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Ulf over at ihavesynth sent me this video which gives a little behind the scenes look at the much talked about Teenage Engineering OP-1. Be sure to check out the article as well!
Product: Deep Tech-House
Genre: Techno, Minimal, House
Distributed by: Sample Magic
Price: £59.95 (DVD) or £49.95 (Download)
Demo: Audio demos on product page.
Today we'll be having a look at the latest offering from British sample maestros Sample Magic, the creatively titled Deep Tech-House. As the name suggests, this library is aimed at artists skirting the edges of minimal, deep house, and tech house, although the soulful feel to many of the loops wouldn't be alien to Detroit techno or traditional house either. The library is available in both download and physical (DVD) formats, which is a nice bonus for those who want the choice. With that out of the way, let's dig in and see what we've got!
The bulk of the collection is made up of loops - 830, to be precise - all in 24-bits and with the original tempos between 125-127 BPM. The loops are all divided up into folders to make it easier to find exactly what you're after.
Things start off with a hefty collection of bass loops. These are all helpfully tagged with descriptive names and musical keys. Here, you'll find everything from classic house squarewave synth bass to hyper-edited bass guitar parts, from dirty subs to hard FM digital goodness. The basslines themselves tend to be heavily repetitive with some standing out more than others, but there is enough choice here that it's unlikely the aspiring house producer isn't going to find something to like.
Next up are the so called 'combi loops'. These are suites of 3 related loops apiece with minimal drums, a bass, and a chord line. Each of the loops has varying amounts of the individual parts with the idea being that you could build a more or less complete track by arranging them and adding your own touches. I'm not really a fan of the whole "here's a complete song" end of sample libraries, but these could definitely come in handy for soundtrack or commercial artists on a deadline, or complete noobs who are still getting a feel for constructing their own tracks.
As you might expect, the largest portion of the loops is dedicated to drum loops. Here you'll find over 200 four-on-the-floor loops complete with lots of soul and swing. There's a pretty even split between purely synthetic-sounding and more organic-sounding loops with touches of manipulated percussion and vocal snippets adding to the funk. Overall, I'd say the drums veered mostly into the deep house/techno realm than the more tech-oriented end, but the beats tend to be minimal enough that you can add your own bits and pieces to lead it into whatever genre you so choose.
Conversely, the smallest folder is next with the effects loops category. On offer are about a dozen or so glitchy, highly-effected rhythmic loops that will fit perfectly in the intro or breakdowns of tracks as well as adding the odd bit of rhythmic spice to the main drum parts.
The music loops folder is stuffed full of sampled chord riffs, filtered sounds, synth blips, and more, usually with multiple elements per loop. Most of the loops come in several variations of differing complexity. It's here that the more tech-oriented sound comes to the forefront. Lots of filtering, reverse edits, and bouncy synthetic echoes. There's a ton of material here and it's all very well constructed and produced.
The synth loops category is a bit more stripped down than the music or combi loops, often consisting of only a single chord progression or lead line, although occasional accents from other sounds pop up when appropriate. Lots of very soulful stuff here... jazzy chords, burbling Detroit synths, etc.
The final category of loops consists of 'top loops'. As you might expect, these are mainly hihat, percussion, and light snare/clap lines that are designed to add a little instant attitude and groove to your existing drum parts. Very useful!
In addition to all the loops, there are 8 sampler instruments offering up a great range of kicks, snares, hats, percussion, chords, and hits for constructing your own grooves. As in the rest of the collection, the production quality is very good and the sounds are extremely useful.
One final thing to mention here that is a nice extra touch, but the DVD version includes a 'users guide'. This is a small thing, but it includes installation tips, a list of the equipment used, as well as some production tips aimed specifically at the deep house genre. An excellent little bonus. Overall, Sample Magic has done a top notch job with this collection. Great production, generous variety, both loops and individual sounds, a nifty little user's guide... you'll find it all here. A great source of inspiration for househeads everywhere! [9/10]
Rare series of books from the 90's that has been long out of print. Split into 2 volumes, these books are absolutely awesome reading if you're interested in vintage synths. Virtually every analog synth you've ever heard of (and probably many you haven't) is covered here with technical specs and write ups providing background info and pinpointing unique features.
Info at the listing...
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
v1 (may 2010)
• eight granular streams simultaleously
• loading up to 12 sound-files (aiff,wav) for each stream (96 tot.)
• dynamic wave-pad scrub, wrap-around selection, crop, normalize draw, etc...
• grid quantize: zero-crossing, bpm, phase and samples
• mutli windows (resizable) buffers for fine scanning explorations
• quick sndfiles exchange, mouse jumping on the windows (buffers)
• envelope/windowing menage up to 12 pre-generated shape (prototypes)
• envelope/windowing loading and menage up to 12 sound-files (aiff,wav)
• dynamic envelope buffer load/save, normalize, crop, resize length etc...
• main mixer 8 channels + 1 master, solo/mute and VST supports
• quick-record export master channel, progressive file autoname, select directory and re-sampling/quantize outfile
• trigger mode granular streams: foreground, sync, all
• DSP settings and statusbar informations
• snapshots (presets) memory: up to 24 for each stream and 24 for the main mixer
• fast buttons snapshots store/recall
• simultaleously (streams and main) transition (interpolation) between snapshots (in a given time)
• clients menage: include/esclude widgets from transitions
• four draw table for transitions curves
• micro-pad interpolating between four snapshots
• HV_pad (i.e. hyper vectorial pad), 9 snapshots pad (4 pad near), and auto-explorer (spiral, dunk, reflects) engine
• MIDI Input mapping: learn/manual, rescale range and exponential curve
• MIDI Output sync: enable/disable, continuously or mouse up send
• voices selection shorts key,
• windows float/no float mode
• fully menaging the project (as a folder), save/save as and load, ask when exit
• drag and drop support: streams/windowing wave-pads (audio files) and project folder (main mixer)
• oscilloscope, spectralscope, sonogram viewers"
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently picked up a Zoom H2 to do some field recordings as a source of sample fodder. This actually isn't the first time I've done such a thing, as many, many years ago I owned a Sony TCD-D7 portable DAT recorder and snuck into the construction site for what would become the Bryce Jordan Event Center at Penn State in the dead of night and recorded some girders and metal percussion sounds. That night ended with me being chased by a (thankfully) severely overweight security guard. Since then I've learned a few things that have made this process run a little more smoothly, so I thought I'd share those with you today.
1. Scout Your Locations
Have you ever watched one of those car commercials that centers around beauty shots of the car driving through absolutely stunning scenery? That didn't happen by accident. Before the film crew even schedules their flights, someone went out, found the location, studied it for potential trouble spots, and took extensive test shots. This saves the film crew untold amounts of time and trouble and is a practice you should consider when making field recordings. Visit the location first and study it for things that might interfere with a pristine recording... heavy traffic, an air conditioner or fan, attack dogs, etc. Is there a time of day when these sounds might not be an issue? Which brings me to...
2. Learn to Really Listen to the Environment
Human beings, especially those of us who live in the city, are quite talented at learning how to block out the background noise that permeates our lives. This is one thing you really need to unlearn to get the best out of your field recordings. When you really start paying attention, you'll probably be amazed at the cacophony you tune out every day. Planes flying overhead, trains sounding their whistles in the distance, police sirens, the dull rumble of freeway traffic, electrical hum from heavy lighting... all of these can make getting a crystal clear recording more difficult. But if you learn to hear them in the field, versus when you're editing in your studio, you'll save yourself a lot of frustration.
3. Be Aware of Yourself
Obviously, there are many things you can do to avoid outside interference with your field recording, but what probably screws up more amateur field recordings than anything else is the recordist themselves. If you're using a high quality condenser mic (which you generally will for such endeavors), even one with a very narrow pick-up pattern, you'll be amazed at how much it picks up. The rustling of clothes, breathing or coughing, even just shifting your stance can ruin an otherwise great recording if you're not aware of them. If you have trouble controlling these types of issues, consider setting up your device to record and walking away from it for awhile. If you are indoors, be aware of other low level sounds such as computer fans, air conditioning, or even such seemingly innocent things as an aquarium.
4. Use Headphones
The best way to save yourself time and catch mistakes before you get to editing your sounds is to monitor what you're recording with headphones. You'll want closed-back headphones for the best results, as these will cut you off from the environment when you're listening or double checking a previous recording. Headphones let you adjust your monitoring to taste and can help you catch those low level or background noises much easier.
5. Pay Attention to Your Levels
Aside from background noises, the thing that ruins more field recordings than anything is improperly set input levels. Most field recorders worth their salt have adjustable gain levels, or at least a simple way of lowering or raising your recording level so it doesn't clip. Some modern field recorders even have options to strap a built-in compressor or limited across the inputs, but this is recommended only for when you are recording extremely loud things, as it is much more preferable to retain the natural dynamics of a sound in the raw form so you have more flexibility when it comes time to edit. Take time to get the levels right. Make sure it's not so quiet that it'll get lost in the noise floor and not so loud that the resulting recording sounds like bacon frying.
6. Embrace Imperfection
As reader Fractured rightly pointed out in the comments of the previous post, pristine recordings are great, but there is a certain character to imperfect recordings that shouldn't be written off either. Obviously, some applications demand perfect, clean sounds. However, if you're recording sounds for sampling purposes, a little background hum, the squeal of a car with crappy breaks, or a distant train might just add that special something that really gives the sound an identity. Never underestimate the value of happy mistakes.
And finally... if you want to make a recording on private property, get permission first. That next security guard might not be so overweight. So how about it... any other field recording enthusiasts out there care to share their experiences or tips?
Monday, May 24, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
The weekend is here and now, for the first time in a long time, so is Free Sample Friday! Today it's 8 24-bit samples of a panel of gridwall being hit with a drum stick. If you're not familiar with it, gridwall is, quite literally, a wall made of a grid of thin, round metal that retailers use to display clothes and other items. I was just putting away the gridwall that my band takes on tour with us to display merch when it struck me that it would probably make some cool metal percussion sounds.
The result is this set of 8 different hits of varying strengths. Most of the differences between hits are rather subtle, so used as a set, or put into round robin mode or velocity mapped on a single key if your sampler allows it, could lead to very expressive and convincing metal percussion lines. Try throwing them into a granular synth such as Absynth, Alchemy, or Kontakt and they'd handily melt into melodic instruments too. Or use them as attack transients to layer with other synths to add some interest. Hell, if you hacked off the hard attack portion of these, I think the ringing sustains on these might work well as ride cymbal like sounds.
By the way, these are the first recordings I've made with the Zoom H2 recorder I just picked up. I'll let you know my initial impressions on that next week. Until then, enjoy!
GO GET THEM!
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Product: Minimal Techno Revolution Vol. 1
Format: Digital download of 24-bit WAV and AIF/Apple Loops, Rex Loops, EXS/Kontakt Instrument files
Genre: Techno, Minimal, Electro
Distributed by: Sounds of Revolution
Demo: Audio demos on product page.
Oliver Schmitt is at it again, this time taking aim at the austere synth lines and geometric synth drums of the minimal techno scene. Like previous collections, the sample material is divided up among both loops and individual hits/instrument sounds. This gives you the best of both worlds allowing you to take inspiration from the loops and maintain your originality at the same time. So with that out of the way, let's have a listen...
The bulk of the collection is made up of loops (available in WAV, REX2, & Apple Loop formats) - 700 of them, to be precise. These are split into separate folders for Drum, Bass, and Synth loops. The file naming convention here is extremely helpful, listing the original tempo, the key (if applicable), and a descriptive name, making it easier to find the specific loop you're looking for. The bass loops kick off the collection with a wide range of contemporary flavors on offer. From gritty bit crushed squiggles, to fat analog moans, to hard digital coldness, just about every basic mood and style you're hearing in minimal techno these days is represented here at least a bit. The programming is funky when it's appropriate, strict when it needs to be, and the production techniques and sound design are top shelf. If something here doesn't inspire you, you may be beyond help.
The drum loops are up next and are further divided up into rather self-descriptive folders marked Clicks, Drum Kits, Experim, Hihat, and Perc. Schmitt's usual talent for creative and futuristic sounding programming continues here in abundance. All the sounds and production are absolutely current sounding and genre appropriate. All the beats are very well constructed and thought out, but even at their most cerebral, they don't lose that Teutonic, head-bobbing funk.
The synth lines are up next and run the gamut from sparsely delayed analogs to filtered funkiness to gritty gated grooves (how's that for some alliteration)? There aren't as many samples in this category as the others, but what is here is quality and will hopefully lead you into making your own creative synth loops. Attention to sound design and production continue to show through as high priorities.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, this collection also includes some individual instruments and drum sounds for constructing your own beats and loops. The sounds are available in pre-mapped instruments for Logic's EXS-24, Native Instruments Kontakt 3, and of course as the raw WAV files for you to map into any other sampler. Root keys are indicated in the file names when relevant, but the names here aren't descriptive at all, merely 'Clap 001', 'Clap 002', and so on. Even vaguely descriptive names would be helpful here for those who prefer to map out their own samples. Thankfully, the samples are subdivided into categories for bass sounds, claps, classic percussion, cymbals, electro stuff, fragments, kicks, perc, SFX, Shakers, SID, Snares, Synths, and Toms. Most of the sounds, as you may have gathered, are synth drum and percussion sounds. These all sound great and would probably interest just about anyone making music with a taste for very electronic sounding drums. While most of them are fairly light, as you would expect for minimal techno, they are all punchy, crisp, and precise sounding.
I've been amazed at the sheer number of really great independent sample developers there seem to be cropping up everywhere and it is clear that Sounds of Revolution are aiming for the top. This library, like their prior offerings, is amazingly consistent and is almost complete devoid of filler material you'd never want to use. If minimal techno is your thing and you're looking for a good sample collection to get you started, you could certainly do a lot worse than to check this one out! [10/10]
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
If you've been following this blog for awhile, you know that this year has been anything but normal so far as the usual regularity of updates. I released an album at the end of last year, and as a result, I've been on tour pretty much constantly since the beginning of the year. I've tried to post as often as I am able, but between the travel schedule, the lack of sleep, and all the detail juggling that goes into booking and managing a tour, the updates haven't been as frequent as they have in the past. The should change in the coming week or so.
Tonight was to be the final show of my band's 30-date US tour, but we had to cancel it due to a freak snow storm in Colorado and Wyoming. So our ragged team of musos is on its way back home for some well deserved rest. I expect things to ramp up a bit gradually, as I am completely exhausted, but by this time next week, we should see things coming back up to the usual pace.
I want to thank my readers for their patience during this crazy time and promise you can soon look forward to the return of favorites such as the product reviews, tutorials, & Free Sample Friday. I am also hoping to start creating some video tutorials and introduce some new features, but there will be a bit of a learning curve there, so you can expect that further down the line. In the meantime, thanks again for coming back even during the downtime and if there are any article topics you'd like to see covered here, by all means, bring them up in the comments!
Thursday, May 13, 2010
KVR forum user Phil Greens posted some free samples produced by a plastic bottle. Here's what he had to say:
"Here are 2 sets of original home cooked samples of an empty plastic bottle (24/44.1) wav + sfz (dry/ambient).
Some of them have been slightly tweaked (eq/dyn).
They might sound completely useless but I thought it would do no harm to share "