Friday, November 4, 2011

Chris samples some instruments

The amazingly tiny and amazingly awesome sounding Korg Monotron-
my first and only analog synthesizer
As mentioned in the previous post, I have all but made the transition from fishing season to music-making season. For the most part, I stab myself with hooks far less when I'm playing with synthesizers. But don't get me wrong, I freaking LOVE fishing! It's just so darn cold out. Well, it's not that cold, but cold enough I don't want to stand outside for hours just to get a big fat skunk.

The other day I realized you could easily do round robin sampling in Kontakt 5. (Mini-music tutorial for non-music people: when I say sampling, I'm talking about taking sounds of real things, recording them, then making it so I can play those sounds back on my keyboard) That evening, I warned Claire she was about to hear me hitting a snare drum a bunch of times, and I headed into the garage.

I pulled out my hand Edirol R-09 stereo portable recorder, put it on a ladder, assembled one of my snare drums, and started smacking it with a drum stick. A few minutes later, I copied those audio files to my laptop, cut them up in Pro Tools, and loaded them in Kontakt. I recorded 3 velocity levels (loud snare, medium snare, and quiet snare) and 11 samples per velocity level. Using Kontakt's built-in group start options feature, I turned on round robin, and ended up with a pretty nice sounding instrument!

Garage Snare Demo by chrisbeckstrom

What you're hearing is MIDI notes in Logic triggering the sounds I recorded, which are in turn loaded into Kontakt. It turned out so well I had to sample some more stuff.

I love the Korg Monotron. It's a tiny, iPhone-sized analog synthesizer, which now costs about $39. I got it for Christmas last year, and it is pretty great. Most of the sounds I usually use in my music are either created by real instruments or samples of real instruments (i.e. digital). This is my one and only analog synthesizer, so far. A lot of people like the sound of analog stuff; I really like how imperfect they can be. Especially the Monotron...

On my commute home yesterday, I recorded into Pro Tools almost every pitch the Monotron can make. It's difficult because there's no normal keyboard- it's a ribbon controller. You play it with your finger, or a pencil, or anything else, but it's hard to hit specific notes. I loaded up a tuner so I could get accurate pitches, and began recording. A short commute later, I loaded the samples into Kontakt, mapped them to the right keys, and started playing. This is the Kontakt instrument recorded dry, no effects:

Mono monotron by chrisbeckstrom

It sounds pretty close to the real thing, except the pitch-accurateness of it all. And it's next to impossible to play arpeggios on the Monotron. Turning Kontakt to polyphonic (I can play more than one note at a time) it sounds like a completely different instrument:

Polyphonic monotron! Playing jazz by chrisbeckstrom

I was pretty happy with myself! It still sounds pretty rich and analog-sounding, warm and gritty like the Monotron is. Then I added a low pass filter and an LFO to Kontakt, trying to emulate the other features of the Monotron. I tried a few filters, and they didn't cut it (pun intended)... But then I found the "Daft LP" filter. And I was in love. I'll just assume they're talking about Daft Punk, who I love. Here's what my instrument sounds like with an LFO modulating pitch and the Daft low pass filter:

Monotron w filter by chrisbeckstrom

Now THIS sounds like the Monotron I know and love!

I'm going to continue working on this, adding these knobs to the user interface, trying to get it as close to the real thing as possible. Why? After all, I have the real thing sitting right next to me! I'm doing this mostly to see if I can, but also it's really nice to play chords and hear the Monotron. Maybe I could disregard the Daft LP in Kontakt and send the sampled Monotron back out into the actual Monotron's filter. THAT would be cool.

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