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The art of sampling

June 25th, 2009

This informations works not only for the SP 1200 sampler but also for all the
other samplers: replace "SP-1200" with the name of your favorite sampler.

your friendly neighborhood… THX

source: SP 1200 user manual; appendix A – fonte: manuale utente della drumachine E-mu SP 1200 (pp.67 e seguenti) 



Recording good samples is not always easy; creating a really super set of sounds requires patience, practice, and skill. Sure, you can get musically useful results within a few days after working with the SP-1200, but as you learn your craft the quality of your samples will improve dramatically.
Sampling involves two major processes:
1. Taking the best possible sample.
2. Manipulating the sample within the SP-1200 (truncating and looping).

What comes out of the SP-1200 can only be as good as what you put in. Strive for maximum fidelity when sampling. Here are some ways to increase sample quality.

• Live sampling: Sample “live” whenever possible, rather than recording a sound on tape then sampling from the tape.
• Beware of overloads: The SP-1200 is a digital recording device. Unlike analog recording devices, distortion does not increase slowly past a certain level; rather, it increases rapidly above the overload point, and produces a “non-musical”, splattering type of distortion. Monitor your levels carefully.
• Sampling direct vs. sampling via microphone: Whenever possible, sample electronic instruments directly into the SP-1200. Avoid using a recording console, direct box, or other device in between the instrument and SP-1200.
• Maintain the instrument to be sampled: Tune your instrument if applicable, and check that the instrument doesn’t have any loose parts that rattle, squeak, or make other noises.
• Sampling acoustic instruments: Choose the microphone and mic placement as carefully as you would for any recording project. Musicians sometimes note how hard it is to get a good “sound” in the studio, but that’s what sampling is all about…getting a good sound, and once you’ve got that sound, keeping it.
• Play naturally: Sometimes it’s a lot harder to play one note than several hundred. Unless you’re trying for a special effect, play the sample as you would normally play the instrument. It’s often a good idea to play several notes, and use truncation to zero in on the best of the bunch.
• Avoid ground loops: Ground loops occur when electricity can take two different paths to ground. If there is a resistance difference between the two paths, this can generate a signal (consisting mostly of digital “hash”) that can work its way into the recording chain. With all the instruments patched in place and connected to each other, turn off the SP-1200 and insert a ground lift adapter between the SP-1200 plug and the wall. CAUTION: Removing the ground connection defeats the safety advantage of using a three-wire plug. Make sure the SP-1200 chassis has some other path to ground (usually via the audio input and output cables). Having two paths to ground can cause ground loops, but having no paths to ground can cause a potential shock hazard if there’s an equipment malfunction in the studio.
WARNING: E-MU cannot be responsible for the use of ground lifters in improperly or inadequately wired environments.
• Using signal processing while recording: Just as with regular recording, there are no absolutes about recording signals with or without signal processing. Some engineers feel that tracks should always be recorded flat to allow for the maximum number of options during mixdown; others prefer to record with a bit of processing, especially if the processor might be needed on another track when mixing.
Here are some thoughts about the use of various types of signal processors when recording samples.
• External Preamp: If you need to preamplify the signal being sampled, set the Sample section GAIN SET to 00 dB and use an external, high-quality preamp to increase the signal level going into the SP-1200. The SP-1200 preamp noise level, while acceptable, is sometimes not as quiet as an external mic preamp.
• Limiting Dynamic Range: Limiting the signal being sampled can put a higher average signal level into the SP-1200, thus improving the already excellent signal-tonoise ratio. Also, the limit point can be set just under the SP-1200 overload point, which makes level setting less critical.
• Equalization: If using EQ gives a better instrument sound, then use it. You want the best possible sound going into the SP-1200, so if a little EQ is indicated, it’s usually better to add it while recording rather than having to think about it during playback.
• Compression: Compression can be helpful when looping sounds since it evens out level changes, thus reducing any tendency towards loop “glitching” due to abrupt level changes between the beginning and end points of the loop. If appropriate, use the SP-1200’s decay option to shorten the overall decay time and restore the original signal dynamics.
• Audio “exciters”: To brighten up a sampled signal, use a device such as an Aphex Aural Exciter or EXR Projector. Both of these devices add a high-end “sheen” without adding the stridency encountered with excessive high-frequency equalization.
• Using noise reduction: A number of single-ended noise reduction units (such as the MicMix Dynafex or Rocktron Hush) are now available; these do not require that the noisy signal have been previously encoded, as is the case with Dolby and dbx. If your source signal is noisy, one of these devices can help to greatly clean up the overall sound quality as you sample.
Maintaining sample quality when sampling from tape recordings:
Follow common-sense recording practice — be extremely careful about mic placement, use noise reduction when recording samples on to tape, limit the signal going on to tape rather than limiting the signal coming off the tape into the SP-1200, and add aural enhancement if desired.
Sampling from Compact Discs: This is a great way to get high quality drum sounds, especially with so many records having solo drum intros and breaks.
Creative use of multi-tracking: Try multi-tracking sounds on a conventional recorder, then sampling the combination sound into the SP-1200. For example, combining electronic and acoustic percussion sounds can produce some very useful results.

Proper use of truncation and looping can conserve memory and create novel effects; let’s show how it’s done with an example. Suppose you want to sample a long, sustaining sound such as a gong. Although this will eat up a fair amount of memory, here are some suggestions.
• Compress the gong sound when sampling to even out level variations. This will help create the smoothest looping effect.
• Set a loop after the initial attack of the gong, and loop as short a section of the sound as possible to conserve memory (see Fig. Appendix-1).
• Truncate that portion of the sound after the loop end point.
• With looping, the sound will have infinite sustain. For a more realistic effect, use SET-UP function 18 (DECAY/TUNE SELECT) to set the gong for decay. Use the slider to set an appropriate decay time. Looping can also provide echo and DDL effects. Loop a complete sound so that it continually repeats. Then, use SET-UP function 18 to set a decay time; the repeats will fade out over the decay time. The effect is very similar to echo.


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  1. thx1138
    July 15th, 2009 at 16:43 | #1

    qui c’è un ottimo how-to:
    AKAI S900 VIDEO MAN.zip – 486.69MB — http://www.zshare.net/download/562917677ccbf54e/

  2. Hal3xx
    July 14th, 2009 at 23:28 | #2

    Ok,grazie delle Info,questi giorni lo provo con un masterkeyboard per vedere se ho risolto il problema del suono e poi vedrò che fare!ti darò poi le mie impressioni,per il momento grazie!

  3. thx1138
    July 14th, 2009 at 21:14 | #3

    grazie del commento e dei complimenti.
    ho notato anche io questo fenomeno: premendo il tasto PB l’akai suona molto piu’ basso di quando lo suoni con un controller (mpd o tastiera midi). io mi trovo molto bene con l’mpd24 (anche con Ableton Live 8 risponde molto bene, ho dovuto installare i driver asio4all pero’, io uso un pc laptop toshiba), ma alcuni dicono che le pad sono troppo sensibili, comunque si puo’ regolare la sensibilità. prima di prenderlo ti conviene provarlo.

  4. Hal3xx
    July 14th, 2009 at 11:44 | #4

    Ciao,scusa l’off topic ma ho visto che sul tuo blog tratti spesso l’argomento akai s950 e hai pubblicato i link a dei tutorial;vorrei capire come mai quando campiono un suono e lo assegno ad una delle uscite o al mai mix quando schiaccio il tasto P.B per risentirlo,il volume è bassissimo anche alzando il canale del mixer al massimo sembra quasi che le uscite del 950 non siano amplificate,c’è qualcosa che devo regolare?Ho letto e riletto il manuale ma non ho trovato niente!!!Io vorrei usarlo con un mpd24 come fai tu però finchè non risolvo questo problema non so se vale la pena comprare un controller!!!
    Grazie in anticipo se avrai voglia di darmi una risposta,complimenti comunque per il blog!!!
    Un saluto.

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