An unusual selection of vocals from the Masterbits Climax Collection sample CD and a bargain collection for TX81Z/DX100 from Emis are the sounds featured in this month's Patchwork.
Vocal Sample CD
It's easy, in this age of synths, samplers, drum machines, MIDI and personal multitrackers, to record music. One person can handle everything from drum patterns to lead guitar breaks without venturing outside the convenience of the "electronic" domain - or the bedroom for that matter. Where the whole solid-state system breaks down is where the vocal comes in. And it's no coincidence that the distinguishing factor between a commercially successful song and the sort of thing enthusiastic amateurs concoct in bedrooms every evening of the week is the vocal.
The trouble is that you can't program a "vocal" synth patch in the same way you can a string or brass patch. You can, however, avail yourself of the 664 vocal samples which make up the Masterbits Climax Collection Vol 1 sample CD. And while even these won't allow you to turn your sampler into Aretha Franklin, Robert Plant or even Tom Waits, they will allow you to incorporate a wide variety of human intonations into your otherwise mechanical music.
This first volume of the Climax Collection is made up of "expressive" sounds rather than the words that comprise a conventional vocal performance - the grunts and moans that escape from the lips of singers in their more spontaneous moments. So it is we find a listing that includes such samples as 'Schubidubopbop' and 'Schabadabadui' as well as the more comprehensible 'Wuh-Hu', 'Dwey-Dap' and 'Ribble-lt-Up'. It's entertaining reading, but far better sampling. The titles actually tell you as much about the samples as any print will (more than can be said of most synth patches) except to add that they have been sourced from a variety of vocalists - black and white, female and male. It's also worth adding that most of them lend themselves to "one shot" rather than looped applications.
By careful use of these samples you can give your music the feel of a live vocalist, if not a fully-fledged vocal performance. Of course, this isn't to say that the Climax Collection samples can't be used in conjunction with a "real" vocalist or even for ghosting - a process where some part of the recording is used to add feel to a track and subsequently removed once it has served to inspire the required performance from another musician (or, in this case, singer).
But there's a paradox presented by these samples: the more characterful they are, the more they contribute to your music, but the more they dictate the way you must shape the music to accommodate the sample. But of course, the same is true of a "proper" performance from a human vocalist.
Sadly, the more successful the samples on this disc are, the less useful they become. So distinctive are they that should they become common currency in commercial (widely heard) music, they will suffer the fate of sounds such as the Fairlight orchestral strike, DX "Rhodes" - piano and Lyn Collins 'Think' drum loop. If you're going to avoid the modern sound cliche trap, you might have to get in fast with some of these sounds and leave everyone else to follow you. Tg
Price £45 including VAT
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TX81Z/DX100 Voice Library
Emis are a UK sound-programming house/ST music PD library which seems to have sprung quite recently onto the scene with hundreds of sounds for many popular instruments. Today it's the TX81Z we're interested in. The Library consists of four banks of sounds: the first contains 32 sounds but the others only have 24 in order to retain compatibility with other DX instruments. If you have a DX100, DX27 or DX21, banks two to four will be identical for your instrument and can be bought separately (this includes the 192 DX100 ROM sounds for DX21 owners). The TX library should also be compatible with the DX11 and the V50. Time to plug in ears.
Bank one is subtitled General Group and contains a mixture of sounds - mainly orchestral but with some synthy sounds, and lots of pianos. Particular personal favourites include 'Acoustic Guitar', 'Soft Bass' and 'Vibraphone'.
Bank two is called Mixed Sounds 1 and contains sounds of a mainly synthy type. These range from "synthy" versions of various instruments to ethereal sounds and heavily modulated effects. Being a sucker for a filter sweep, 'SynthSweep' was among my favourites here.
Bank three is Mixed Sounds 2. It's similar in concept to bank two but contains more imitative sounds and provided the majority of my library favourites. 'Distortion' is an excellent overdriven electric guitar; there are some very usable brass sounds here, plus pianos, plus instruments such as 'Saxophone', 'Harmonica' and 'Steel Drum'.
Bank four is Orchestral Voices and contains many solo instruments such as clarinet, oboe, flute, bassoon and piccolo. Favourites include the trombone with built-in growl, the rich tone of 'Bassoon 1', 'Violin' with its emphasised bow scrape and the clear percussive zing of 'Xylophone'.
Few of the sounds respond to velocity - shame - but none fall below the level of workmanlike and some sounds do indeed shine and sparkle.
The TX81Z library contains 104 sounds and, for the asking price, it's a pretty painless way of adding to your own library. Available formats are Yamaha cassette or ST disk using the Chameleon demo program (see MT, December '89 review of Chameleon Universal Librarian). I particularly like the documentation telling you what the sounds are and how they can be used. I wish all libraries did this. An added advantage of the Chameleon format is that Emis have categorised the voices using Chameleon's Display Groups.
If you want to know exactly what you get for your money, a demo cassette is available containing pieces recorded with a selection of TX81Z sounds on one side and DX7 sounds on the other. Yes, Emis have a selection of DX7 sounds, too - of course.
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Tel: (0272) 561855.