Hello folks! If you’re new here, then welcome to the Audio Artemis blog on all things sampling. My name’s Jo, and I set up Audio Artemis to help educate, elevate, and empower womxn in the audio sampling world, given just how overwhelmingly male-dominated the field is. As part of this mission, I’m going to be starting this blog to help demystify the whole process as I know so many people (womxn or otherwise) would find it all pretty bewildering.
A bit of disclaimer: I haven’t been sampling for very long myself. It’s something I too found pretty intense for a while, but I suppose I decided to make this (if anything one thing) my “new lockdown skill”. And boy, what a powerful skill to have as a composer in this day and age. From more practical benefits like new potential revenue streams, to career benefits like defining and packaging your “sound”, it’s something that I think everyone (especially womxn) in the (media) music industry should try and learn a little bit about. So I hope this becomes a valuable resource for you on your sampling journey. I’ll be filling it with various tips and tricks I’ve been taught or picked up, as well as personal experiences and anecdotes.
So let’s get to it!
Perhaps the stage of the process that most composers will already have some experience of is doing their own recording. Most I know not only record music in the home studio (when appropriate), but also their own sounds to be sampled. I’ve heard all sorts of interesting instruments and household objects finding their way into media scores in recent years, but the vast majority of said composers doing this that I know of won’t go on to make a proper VST instrument or library out of these, and because of that the recording process is largely just a shadow of what it is when you’re setting out to make a VST. If you’re recording samples for personal use, you know you can probably get away with a lot more sound “imperfections” – wider variations in tuning, dynamics, timbre, or even articulations. If later on you realise these “imperfections” are just a little too distracting, a little editing in post will usually do the trick.
No such luck when making VST. EQ, compression, maximising, automation, and surgical frequency treatment are powerful tools (especially in skilled hands), but it’s time consuming and distracting. At best, you’ll add half a day’s work onto your schedule. At worst, you’ll have to re-record or even re-imagine the instrument. Just like the best way to get a good professional recording of an orchestral score is to get good musicians to record it well in the first place, so the best sample libraries are the ones which are recorded well at the start. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to get the lead percussionist of the Royal Philharmonic to come in for some toy xylophone samples, but a bit of time thinking is about ADSR, dynamics and their volume levels, articulations, timbre, and so on, are vitally important. If you find you need a bit of time to experiment during the recording stage first get an idea of what exactly you want, then be sure to spend more time recording the same notes in as many different ways as you can and multiple times over. Yes it’ll make the DAW session look pretty overwhelming (even with the best organisation), yes it’ll send your family and neighbours and pets loopy hearing the same F# over a hundred times in a hundred different ways. But you’ll be glad for it when you’re editing and mapping the instrument together without needing to do much (if any) tweaking. If you think you’ve got everything you need, do two more takes, just in case!