Saturday, January 1, 2022

TECHNIQUE: The Art of Sampling. Part 5. Synthesizer Style Editing Parameters.


Most sample players offer synthesizer type editing and control after the sample sound generation. 

In fact, most samplers closely resemble synthesizers. Just replace a synth's traditional oscillator generating sine, saw, and square waves etc. with a sample generator/player and what comes after pretty much follows the 'standard' subtractive synthesis format. 

You'll find filters, envelope generators and modulators and mod routings that can alter and shape your basic samples beyond recognition if you wish.

You can find out more about synthesizer basics from here:

Just swap the 'analog' synth oscillator for a sample playback generator and you'll pretty much have the basis of a software or hardware sampler/sample player. 

I develop a lot of my sample soundware projects into patches for Zampler which is a free VST sample player with synth style editing, so I'll use this instrument to illustrate some of th emore common synthesizer style editing parameters. 


Synthesizer Filtering.

So in most analog/subtractive synthesizer models, the processor we would find after the oscillator (or in our case the sample generator) would be the filter. The filter deals with the 'timbre' of a sound and can be used to make our samples sound brighter or darker. If we imagine a sound that contains frequencies across the human hearing spectrum from 20hz - 20khz, then the filter can be used to remove some of these frequencies. 

The most important filter parameter is the cut-off frequency. This is the point, in hertz, at which the filter starts to work. There are different filter types including low-pass filter (LPF) which allows frequencies below the cut-off frequency to pass through, similarly, a high pass filter or HPF allows frequencies above the cut off parameter to pass through. 

So taking a low pass filter and reducing the cut-off frequency will remove higher frequencies producing a darker, a less bright sound. 

Filter resonance amplifies and emphasises frequencies around the cut-off point. This can be used to give sounds more 'edge', or more definition, perhaps assisting them to cut through a complex mix, etc.

Digital processing has allowed for a range of different filter types to be included in designs such as band-pass filtering which allows frequencies around the cut-off point to pass. Notch filtering which removes frequencies around the cut-off point and comb filtering which passes alternate bands of frequencies to produce more interesting timbres. 

Synthesizer Envelope Generators. 

Envelope generators are used to control the shape of a sound and is a form of modulation. The most common type is and envelope applied to the level of a sound, or used to modulate the synth/sampler's amplifier section. 

A basic envelope generator has four parameters: Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release, often abbreviated to ADSR, and these four setting affect the level of our sound over time.

So, for example, the Attack portion of the envelope determines how quickly our sample will reach maximum level. If we're editing a string section sample, for example, we may choose a fast attack time for a fast, cutting, arco style sound, a longer attack time will cause the sound to slowly build, for a gentler, slower, legato style sound. 

Similarly, the release time comes at the end of the sound and determines how long it takes our sound to fade away once the key is released. So an organ sound, for example, may go from maximum level to zero instantly, the moment the key is lifted. Again, a slow, gentle string section sample may require a longer release, fading to nothing over a period of time after the key is released. 

This example is an envelope applied to the amp section of the synth sampler, but envelopes can also be used to modulate other sections such as the filter. This affects the timbre of the sound over time, opening and/or closing the filter across the duration of the sound. 

The complex modulation routings of modern digital and software samplers allows for envelope generators to be assigned to almost any other section. So an envelope could be used to modulate pitch, panning, or other sections of the filter including resonance. The possibilities are almost limitless. 

Synthesizer LFOs

Another common synthesizer modulator is an LFO. These devices are used to create regular, cyclical modulation of other sections of the synths. So applied to filter cutoff, for example, will cause the filter to open and close in a cycle. 

The frequency, or speed of the LFO can be adjusted to apply long, slow effects or short and fast changes. 

LFOs often also have wave types that can be applied, so a sine wave, for example, produces gradual changes, whilst a square wave produces instant modulations.  

Again, LFOs on modern digital and software synths and sample players can be used to modulate almost any other section. So an LFO can be applied to pitch to produce vibrato and tremelo effects, or to panning to cause a sound to move left and right in the stereo picture. 

These are three of the more common/popular synth/sample player sections, but, again, the advent of digital and software instruments has seen the arrival of many other parameters and creative devices limited only by the imagination of the designer. 

Hope you enjoyed this latest installment of 'The Art of Sampling' and found it useful. In the next part we'll take a look at some of the more common effects processing that can be applied to samples. 

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The information contained within this blog post is offered on an informal basis and is correct to the best of my knowledge. I accept no responsibility for outcomes arising from the mis/interpretation or use of this information and/or associated download files. Always download files via security/scanning software.

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