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(:E cries at...

Hernan's Blog of Hate!

[ Friday, July 18, 2003 ]


1. Tomorrow friday July 18th some gomelos with too much money, influences and egos, are trying to pull a Love Parade just like the ones in Berlin (well, this is the 3rd try). I'd like to go, to watch as usual, I'm a voyeur, but there's no point going alone, besides, this days I've been in a luck for gays hitting on me.. Face it. The Parade wants to be gay. And lesbical and moist and uninhibited and fag, just like Berlin's. And yes, I, once and for all, declare myself OUT OF THE CLOSET: I'M HOMOPHOBIC, I HATE GAYS. Sorry, if I may hurt any feelings. (Well, not at all.)

2. You may find out some stupid jokes in this issue of "Electronica: what is it good for?". There's 2 reasons for that: a) Read this post's title. Notice the "for Dummies" Suffix. Havent you ever read any book with that suffix? Well, it's not worth it, it isnt good for shit. It's just a bunch of stupid jokes. b) I find myself joking to try to hide my present frustrations.

Ready to read something extensive?

Electronica for Dummies #4 - Digital Sampling - Wavetables and wavetable Synthesis. (And some farting.)

I. Synthesized sounds vs. Sampled sounds.

Last rant I wrote about subtractive synthesis, a method to generate waves (among others like Additive, Granular, Amplitud Modulation, Frequency Modulation, Ring Modulation, Wavetable and Physical Modeling Synthesis - You can buy and read this, written by Eduardo Miranda- not AgentPong) that will mostly be used as musical instruments. For years, synthesizer manufacturers used this technique to create sounds that could emulate those in nature, like those produced by a piano, clavi, bass, guitar, strings, claps, birds, drums, etc. because it was inexpensive in terms of memory, you only need the right "Oscillator->Filter->Amplifier" combination, and 100 (or 128 as in the MIDI standard) different configurations of parameters to simulate each sound in the synthesizer.

This kind of synthesis was widely used by sound cards for console games and personal computers like Amiga, Atari, Mac and (later, of course) PC. But, in order for those synthesized sounds to sound more natural, you have to add to them effects like reverb and modulation (vibrato), and effects had been sold by even higher prices than synthesizers. Another limitation of some cheap keyboards was that, for the immitation of a single sound over the whole 5-7 scales, they used just one configuration transposed to fit all pitches. That means that they may have synthesized an almost perfect immitation of a Piano C3 note. But when that sound got synthesized a little more to change its pitch to produce a C2, C1, C0 or C4, C5, C6, etc (that is, C notes on different scales) the sounds began to sound funny. Unnatural. So a better keyboard would use a configuration for a specific range of notes, and so on. BUT! still sometimes you can perceive the difference when you played 2 contiguous notes from different ranges...

So one solution to these limitations was to capture or record the immitated sounds (with even naturally achieved effects) and store them in something called a wavetable. Obviously, this became a viable solution when storage capacity became not an issue, so keyboards and sound cards manufacturers like Ensoniq began using this technique offering sounds much more close to those of nature. BUT there are various factors:

- The quality of the waves. The higher the sampling frequency (hopefully 44100 Hz) and bit rate (16 bits) the better the sound and the higher the memory requirement.
- Better keyboards mapped more different samples of a sound to more note ranges, to avoid the unnatural sounds when transposing the samples to reach other pitches.

So, just like the keys of a computer keyboard have a graph associated to the respective character, a key in the synthesizer would have a sound mapped to it. NOTE: You already know "fonts" (.ttf's for instance) which are combinations of characters mapped to a computer keyboard, but there are also "sound fonts" (.sf2) or combinations of sounds to be mapped to a keyboard. (as you may have imagined, there's also companies that sell sound fonts.)

II. Digital Samplers

Dont get me wrong. Subtractive synthesis was analog first, like in Moog Synthesizers, used since the late 60's. But the lack of all things analog radicates in control. When these techniques were taken to the Digital realm, the possibilities were multiplied and everything was easier, why is that? maybe because of the new possibilities in control mechanisms. Let's start by saying the "word" MIDI. It provides programming for note and controller (effects) events, synchronization of equipment (other keyboards, digital effects processors, lights and video equipment, to name a few), ease of edition, slow processing, memory and data transmission requirements, etc.

So what a digital sampler tries to do, is to make as easy and controllable the process of working with sampled sounds. Digitalized waves in the end. They provide:

1. Mapping of sounds over ranges of notes (Key zones. All the key zones conform the "key map")
2. Transposing of samples to simmulate other pitches in their "key zones"
3. Change of tempo over a sample (later)
4. Other effects like subtractive synthesis, pitch wheel, modulation, LFOs over the samples.

It's obvious that these samplers can not only be used to store and play samples of musical instruments or drums. Electronic musicians store in them any sound they would like to play through a song, like some catchy phrase("da funk back to the punk come on", "Back with another one of those block rockin' beats"), some industrial sound (listen to Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Aphex Twin, ... nowadays PC game music), and any sound their "sampling ear" (mentioned in part one of this shitty guide) catches in the air (like a fart, I dunno). Then, the digital sampler is revealed as a triggerer of sounds, sounds that can be modified using transposition, change of tempo and synthesis. Imagine the possibilities! Now, if you listened to electronica, realize you've heard them! Just LISTEN to the chemical brothers (a suggestion? the album "Come with us"). Look for them, they're everywhere.

III. The process of working with samples:

Imagine that you have some bass line, some guitar and/or piano, and some electronic drums (The Next update). Notice the "some" adjective (either you have a really good one, or a crappy one that needs production ;) ). Now, if you want to add some sampled sounds to it, for example, some speech, evil robot, piece of another song, plane taking off, bird, dog, typing sound, machine working, your grandma talking, your girl moaning, some toilet flushing, a fart, whatever:

1. You dont have a good sound to sample if you dont know where you're going with it. Some farting can be JUST the sound you need. REALLY! Just hear Aphex Twin, the future classical music.

2. Once you know what sound you need, try to get it with as much sound quality as you can. What we dont want is overdose of effects over one sound. It wont sound natural! (Or perhaps that's what you want?) Subtle effects work better. Unless you wanna make noise.

3. Once you have the digital wave (a WAV file or whatever): If it is basic sound (a single hit/beat/attack) you're done. Note that if you plan to simulate a musical instrument, you should have a sounds for different "key zone", so the instrument sounds natural. But if it contains multiple hits (like a drum loop, a speech with multiple words, or a 4/4 bar of some song) that you may want to use as a looping background sound, it's a must to break the wave so you have a multiple waves, one for each hit. Complex?? through wavelab, sound forge or coolEdit yes. OR, you could use "Recycle" which detects attacks in a wave and saves the broken pieces in some file (.rex format). You can also input the number of bars and the signature of the loop to find its tempo. (so you can input a one or two 4/4 bars, and it will tell its tempo). When a loop is broken down to beats it can be played easily and mostly natural at different tempos than the original. This can be done through a loop player, another kind of sampler, oriented to looping sounds obviously.

4. Now, with single waves for each sound, you must map each sound to a key or range of keys of the digital sampler.

5. So far, we have a digital sampler device with a lot of mapped sounds. Now we need to play those sounds through some MIDI controller (assuming a MIDI-compatible and stand-alone digital sampler, but now most keyboards come with sampling functions). One way of perfectly programming those sounds is through a MIDI sequence, which allows to program WHEN to play any sound, how long it will play, and if it will be affected by transposing, filtering, modulation, chorus, reverb, etc. This assuming the digital sampler supports those effects.

6. Mix them with the rest of the song. Done.

IV. Samplers: "What are they good for?".

- Samplers are mostly used for triggering sounds in the middle of songs. When the sound is triggered, it lasts as long as the player keeps pressing the key. So, if you press rapidly one key that has the sound of the word "fuck" mapped to it, it would sound like the typical "fu-fu-fu-fu-fu-fu-fuck!" heard all over colombian cheap radio stations that claim to sound young (because of sounds like that).

- Wavetables are another use, extensively exploited in sound cards for the PC and keyboards, like the famous Yamaha clavinova series, that store high quality sounds for each key and instrument.

- Electronic music is where samplers are a must. Multiple artists work hard to process their sounds through synthesis, or through synthesis over waves captured from nature, and, in order to reproduce them live, they use digital samplers in which they previously stored them.

- Loop players are a must in trance, house and even some techno music. Basically what musicians do is to store some rhythm in a loop player, and they apply filters to it over the whole song or mix. Over the applied filter, they play with cutout and resonance parameters. This rhythm is combined with the drum machine patterns for the song/mix, which results in a richer and groovier rhythm.

That's it, for now. I really recommend that you "try and buy" reason by downloading it from Kazaa. It's not as hard as it may look:

Here is the NN-XT Digital Sampler device from Reason 2.0. You can see here:

- The global (upper) zone, parameters that affect the whole device. There are some controllers (pitch wheel, and 2 other wheels for other effects like modulation), the actual patch (configuration indicator), a general subtractive synthesis option: cutout/resonance + some envelope parameters (Attack, Decay, Release), and the general output level or volume.

- The "remote editor panel" (lower) zone, which is where individual sounds are loaded, mapped into key zones and modified by subtractive synthesis, LFOs, mod & amp envelopes, etc. Notice the big LCD screen, it is called the "Key Map Display", this is where you map sounds to ranges of notes. In the left upper region, info about the selected sound is shown (sampling frequency, bit rate). At the bottom are the "sample parameters" a lot of other parameters that can be modified for each sound, like its pitch.

Hate bye. (And watch out for gays disguising as normal people)

Hernán [12:49 AM] -

the hatemachine,
according to svigle