The Harmonious Frenchman

On the 8th of July 2014 I entered the Audient studio of SAE-QANTM Brisbane to ‘Deep-Sample’ my chromatic Harmonica using a Royer 121 ribbon microphine. Sampling is a vital tool for the modern day composer and musician alike and is the process of capturing the various notes of an instrument to create a playable, virtual version of the instrument sampled. Various degrees of dynamics are required at different lengths (staccato, legato etc.) to create an accurate representation of the sound source, a process that can be quite time consuming but very rewarding. When sampling the rule of thumb is to sample at least every minor 3rd of the instrument so it can be stretched if needed to fill in the gaps (if a distance greater than a minor 3rd is sampled then it will sound unnatural because it has been stretched too far).

The harmonica is 3 octaves so I sampled all notes legato and staccato, loud and soft with chords. The loud samples were close, the soft ones about 30cm from the mic but also played softly. The next stage was to chop up the samples and label them (a1, b1, c1 etc.) ready for input into the sampler, in this case the EXS24 in Logic Pro.

Entering the samples into the EXS 24
Entering the samples into the EXS 24

As you can see in the picture above there’s a keyboard with the corresponding notes and samples. Once the samples are mapped to the relative notes on the keyboard then you alter the velocities for each sample, this is an important stage because it tells the sampler that when you strike the key softly a soft sample must be played and when struck with force a loud sample will be played. Velocity mapping can be as intricate and in depth as you make it, the only requirement is that when recording the instrument you must play every note in the instruments dynamic range which can sometimes be over 100 dB! So the more samples you have the more realistic the virtual instrument will be. Now for the fun part…composing with your very own virtual instrument! I have written the start of a song with my harmonica samples and it sounded French so I just went with it and added a few more instruments from Kontakt 5 (thanks to the kontakt team for their great contribution to the world of multi-samples!). Bon appetite!

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