(musTh625) moving from DAW-based musique concrete to virtual samplers

As you add virtual samplers (Kontakt) to your closet of techniques available to you as a computer musician, it can help to understand the function of a virtual sampler – why to use one, and what interesting things can you make it do. As an introduction, I’m organizing the post into a set of questions.

what can a virtual sampler do?

A virtual sampler allows you to

  • easily transpose recorded samples through the use of a MIDI keyboard
  • set start and stop points within an audio file
  • create looping sections within an audio file that continue as long as you hold down a key (and also in other ways)
  • add synthesis-based processing to your samples, through the use of envelopes and effects

All of the above capabilities are non-destructive processes, generated in realtime by the virtual sampler.

how can MIDI be of help?

Since MIDI is a control language that describes performance actions, it can provide note control for starting and stopping notes in time, transposition information through keyboard tracking, and performance controls that can vary a sound while it is playing through the use of Continuous Controllers (CC). Since MIDI was designed to separate performance controls from sound generation, it is up to you to program instruments that respond to MIDI data in interesting and musical ways.

why would a sampler also include synthesis?

We traditionally think of synthesizers as generating sound from scratch, and samplers as using prerecorded audio as the source of their sound generation. In reality, digital synthesizers and digital samplers are fairly similar. A digital synthesizer must use a sampled waveform to generate sound. Sampled waveforms are really very short digital samples (often one cycle in length).

Synthesis techniques and controls offer a wide variety of audio processing and transformational techniques that can be used in realtime. Without diving deep into synthesis, it can be useful to understand some basic synthesis elements that we will use in our sampler instruments. Kontakt provides envelopes, low frequency oscillators (LFOs), filters, and other effects that can be applied to sampled audio.

I will go over introductory synthesis controls in my next post.


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