The above shot comes from a brief sampling session in which I completed a basic sampling of a grand piano for the upcoming VSCO 2 and other applications. It’s a bit dusty, but sounds pretty nice!
One of the most common issues I have with the latest line of “high quality” virtual instrument products is the lack of variety in the libraries they provide. If it is a brass library, they might give you a trombone with every articulation imaginable, but it is still only one trombone, either qualified best for one specific purpose or forcibly rounded out for many.
Not many people realize one of the greatest and most valuable methods for drying out and clearing a room- shelves loaded with books and other odds and ends. My workspace is a rough space of odds and ends, irregular shapes, nooks and crannies, and all sorts of places ideal for absorbing and dissipating sound waves. All those college textbooks, product manuals, books your parents bought you as gifts, anything… it’s ideal material to kill that room noise and give you a clear, dry tone ideal for sampling and recording, especially when coupled with good mic usage.
Brass instruments can get a little tricky to tell apart the further you go back, but a modern set of puzzles remains today in the families of the “more or less conical-bored” low and mid brass. Many people know well of the tuba (at least the BBb garden variety, not so much the half-dozen-odd if not more other kinds), and perhaps the Euphonium and the Baritone (although God help them tell the difference), but few can tell apart the plethora of German brasses. Exotic instruments like circular Eb Horns, Althorns, Tenorhorns (different from Tenor_Horns), Kaiser Tubas, Oval Baritones, Oval Euphoniums, Khulohorns, and so on and so on are commonplace throughout Germany. Let’s just say, any Organologist could find enough to write a thesis paper on!
In the world of independent sampling, one often runs into cases where they have an instrument with a range of pitches it can play but a strong desire to not make their sample library weigh in the gigabytes, much less have to deal with the (tens of) thousands of samples resultant from true chromatic sampling. In this case, they want to find the easiest method for sampling across the range of an instrument that will match a few criteria:
- The interval any individual sampled note can be stretched should not surpass a minor third. Major thirds are undesirable, but are in some cases, tolerable. Preferably, a major second is the most we *really* want to stretch if that’s possible.
- One must be cognizant of the “breaks” in the instrument, such as the partial changes of a trombone or the different registers of a clarinet, or the switches between different drums of the timpani. Also, the use of open strings and harmonics with open strings on bowed strings is yet another large consideration.
- Certain notes on certain instruments are troublesome due to the construct of that instrument or may not lend themselves to an even performance as others, for example, playing an in-tune note in 5th position of a trombone without having time provided to tune it during the session.
- The division of real notes and stretches should be fairly even.
A few months ago, we released VSCO 1.0, a free collection of some miscellaneous orchestral-themed sampled instruments. VSCO 1.0 was limited, and had some issues with user-friendliness among other things. However, now I’m hard at work over the next few weeks (read: months) revamping and replacing most of the old samples with new ones that are of much finer quality (read: not cut from random recording sessions of tracks I’ve made in the past or hastily played on borrowed instruments by me).
In VSCO 2, the plugin will behave as a single-instrument type of deal where the user loads up one instrument per instance. This will get through a few pesky bugs that were going on and will better play to Maize’s strong points. We’ll also be including multiple articulations per instrument, switchable by keyswitch, to allow more varied use. In addition, it’ll also have a slick new GUI, a broader and higher quality range of instruments, and more attention to detail with the samples.
First off, sorry for the long delay in news on the blog!
Over the summer we were super busy working on samples. which we kicked-off with a week-long intensive sampling session with VS members Samuel Hebert and Justin Belanger coming down from Canada to assist with the sampling. I then spent an entire month sampling more instruments in order to keep us busy for the next year. Best part, we got to record in a large auditorium and use a much nicer set of equipment than previous years (instead of a giant pile of SM-57’s).
Behold: the first step in sampling an instrument!
So yes, something we’ll be releasing quite a bit of in the next few months is brass. However, we did something that isn’t ordinarily done with brass libraries. If you look closely in the picture, you might see we stuck a ribbon mic behind the bell of the instrument to pick up on the warmth and sonorous elements of the timbre, then a large diaphragm condenser in front of the airstream to pick up on the airy, bright tone that projects from the instrument. This way, in a multi-mic environment, the end user can blend between the two to create the timbre they need for their piece.
And of course, for the reverb heads, there is the obligatory “ambient” mic. You can hear a live performance using just the ambient mics here (note that the noise will not be as present in the finished sample library). In between those two are some wide-spread mid mics which pick up the sound of the stage, which is quite nice when blended with the other mics.
Right now, I am sitting waiting for the stems from the sessions to slowly get mixed down… after that, they get sent off to be cut, tuned, and denoised and then it’s instrument-building time!
In the next couple weeks, look forward to more blogs covering ongoing sampling work and some of the behind-the-scenes on how it works.