Sounds, samples, & software upgrades for the modern studio
New software, systems, sounds, updates
Brass Super Section Sample CD
Ask anyone who's tried. The hardest instruments to recreate using standard synthesis techniques are those of the brass family. Trumpets, saxes, trombones, horns... they're the department where 'one man and his multitimbral synth' tends to come unstuck. Only, well... they're not. And I can prove it. Send me your name and address on the back of a fifty pound note and I'll tell you all you need to know about better programming.
Alternatively, you could invest your fifty quid in a new sample CD from Time + Space, and take all the sweat out of the process by using sounds which really are brass instruments - in all their 16-bit glory.
'Brass Super Section' comes to you from the Best Service Soundware Company in Germany. A mixed-mode CD, the brass riffs featured in audio form are also included as MIDI data files. This distinguishes them from the individual sounds of trumpets, trombones and saxes etc, which are not supported by MIDI files - for obvious reasons - but which have been very diligently sampled at semi-tone intervals over a 1½ - 2 octave range.
Interestingly, the individual sounds aren't, as you might imagine, the product of individual instruments. Each stereo recording is apparently made up of two instruments played in unison and panned hard left and hard right. This results in sounds which often don't end synchronously, but do have a much broader stereo spread. It might be argued that this also makes them somewhat larger than life, but you could always restrict your sampling to just one channel and pan this to centre for a mono effect. Personally, I like things just as they are.
The complete repertoire of brass playing techniques is covered in the collection - swells, short and long 'falls', stabs, overblown and soft playing effects as well as more conventional notes - and these are well documented in the accompanying booklet.
The riffs or 'licks', as Best Service describe them, make up a pretty eclectic selection which, cleverly, lend themselves to a wide range of music styles without ever sounding bland - as so easily might have been the case. It is, of course, perfectly possible to sample only short sections of the riffs, and even to combine these if your system permits that degree of editing.
Of course, if you're using individual sounds to program your own brass lines it isn't so much of a problem, but it can be where things starts getting tricky again, and where you have to exercise a little care and attention to detail.
But the sounds are convincing, the range is broad, the quality is superb - and there's MIDI file support. One couldn't reasonably ask for more - except perhaps volume two. NL
Hallelujah Vocal sample CD
If only Mama Cass had given Karen Carpenter that last sandwich...
We'd at least have had a couple more vocalists around, whose voices you could recognise. As it is, we seem to be awash with singers whose style and delivery are virtually interchangeable.
That's why when an album with a highly individualistic vocal style comes along, it's seized upon and can quickly establish an artist in pop's premier league. Enigma's 1991 MCMXC A.D. album was a case in point. Michael Cretu's effortless stitching together of its very disparate elements was certainly artful. Music for tired executives parked on the M25 it may have been, but it sold - massively.
Tepid on its heels comes Hallelujah, a new vocal sample collection from Best Service. It covers a range of styles from rap to gospel, but gives over the bulk of its time to yes... those haunting Gregorian chants. The featured choir apparently hail from Moscow, which seems an unlikely source for these pious plainsongs.
The 'dry' ambience of these recordings suggests that the choir have been confined to the studio, with an over-enthusiastic noise gate. Some of the most atmospheric and haunting vocal sounds have been chopped off quite ruthlessly. Whatever the reason for this, it'll take bucket loads of reverb to smooth things out and produce anything like a convincing decay.
'Though the first four tracks are given over to vocal phrases recognisable as Gregorian, the CD tends to concentrate on single notes and chords sung individually or collectively. My own feeling is this is no bad thing. Gregorian pop had its own brief moment with the release of the Enigma album, which was globally massive. Anything that takes you into that territory now is inevitably going to sound rather passe.
So what of the rest of the CD? Well, the cover mentions such exotic locations as Jamaica, Kazakstan, Rome, Harlem and Munich, but I suspect they can all be traced back to the same Munich Bierkeller (or possibly studio). Not that I have anything against Germany. The country has, I'm sure, produced many fine vocalists. What it hasn't produced - to my knowledge anyway - is a credible rap or ragga artist, and judging from this CD, they still have some way to go.
Frankly, I'm surprised at Best Service who have released some of the most creatively useful and enjoyable sample CDs of the past few years. Could they not have found a genuine rapper who, if not actually from Harlem or Kingstown, at least performed in his native tongue? Despite their enthusiasm, the artists here seem about as comfortable with what they're doing as Kraftwerk at a Eurovision Song Contest. Nil points, I'm afraid.
Thankfully, the nuns come to the rescue, ooohing and aaahing their way through a variety of samples in a good range of keys. And the gospel singing is both convincing and useful - not least because once buried in a mix, its source is unlikely to be recognised.
In tackling rap and ragga, Best Service risk repeating previous mistakes. And although they've built on other strengths, they aren't the ones that are currently most in demand. NL
Professional Music Producer Sample CD
"With this disk you have all the elements you need to make a hit record", the cover boasts. Certainly, AIM stand to make a considerable amount of money from anybody whose success is forged from this sample collection. Commercial use of any of the material requires copyright clearance and ultimately must be paid for.
This, of course, means that non-commercial use is free. But how do you know whether a track will become commercially successful? And at what point do you apply for copyright clearance? Clearly, this is something of a grey area and is bound to put people off. Things aren't helped by the inclusion of a number of samples which I know for a fact have been included on other CDs which don't require copyright clearance. I can think of nothing more galling than paying for the use of a sample from one CD that turns out to be copyright free on another.
This is a shame as the CD itself isn't at all bad and provides a reasonable cross-section of drum loops, analogue basses, guitars, stabs and vocals from a variety of styles. The latter, though not always entirely convincing, at least remain useable - for the most part anyway.
Like most sample CDs these days, it comes in split CD audio/CD-ROM format and apparently offers PC WAV-format data files for each of the audio samples. Not having a PC with a CD-ROM player and soundcard to hand, I was unable to put this to the test and had to rely on the audio versions, which, as I've said, acquitted themselves quite well. There's nothing here that's going to take the world by storm, but equally, there isn't the kind of the filler material encountered on most sample CDs.
I particularly liked the rap/hip-hoppy loops which have plenty of atmosphere and just enough deck scratching to engage your attention without swamping your track. Some excellent ambient analogue sounds provide real sonic interest and the neat, tightly-played funk guitars manage to excite without being so offbeat as to be unusable.
The Moog, Oberheim and Juno basses are about par for the course, as are the hits and stabs. Vocals range from the highly useable to the execrable: the gruff, tuneless, "I began to lose control, baby can't you feel it, there's lots of love inside that burns... your turn to heal it". It's not only aeroplanes that should come with brown paper bags.
The best thing you can say about copyrighted collections like this, is that the world and its sampler probably won't have a copy. So you're less likely to get that sinking feeling when one of them turns up in a shampoo ad - as recently happened to me.
It remains to be seen just how much the going rate is for a drum loop or a vocal sample - I suspect it would be linked to how much money you make from the track it's used on. And that's the kind jungle best left to the carnivores of the legal profession. NL
Voyetra has created a new Windows-based sequencing package for the PC, specifically designed to give optimum performance at a sensible price. MIDI Orchestrator retails at just £99, and for this paltry sum you get some impressive features, including 1,000 linear tracks, a graphic arrangement window, Piano Roll edit with zoom and snap facilities, Score printing, and for the clumsy computer user, the all important undo/redo function (all twelve levels of it!).
MIDI Orchestrator Plus is available from Arbiter's Computer Music Centres and is backed up by a dedicated Technical Support Line.
More from: Arbiter Group, (Contact Details).
Digidesign recently announced the arrival of its new TDM bus. Not being of the four-wheeled vehicular variety, this bus is meant for the expansion of ProTools, extending its multi-channel digital recording facilities to include things like digital routing, mixing, and patching capabilities. The TDM Bus will also allow Third Party hardware and software developers to expand its potential with DSP plug-in cards.
A starter kit is available from Digidesign which includes everything you need to run TDM on a basic 4 channel Pro Tools system. The kit contains a DSP Farm NuBuss card (which acts as a digital signal processing power resource for TDM-compatible software plug-ins), a TDM module, Pro Tools V2.5, and all the TDM software paraphernalia you need, including three DSP plug-ins: EQ, dynamics and Modulation Delay.
Further enhancements to Pro Tools software found in V2.5 include new Edit Window features that allow access to metering, send, EQ, level and voice assignment - all in one window. Also implemented is a rather useful feature of real-time screen scrolling during playback, which is ideal for seeing what's going on and where.
With all its expansion capabilities, Digidesign's TDM Buss represents an open ended solution to all manner of digital recording applications, and with the upgrading of the Pro Tools software to V2.5, a nigh-on perfect one at that too.
More from: Digidesign, (Contact Details).
For those wanting to get a CD-ROM drive for their PC, but lacking the motivation to actually go and buy one, Silica are the people to talk to. They will offer you a complete CD-ROM package for as little as £80, which includes the drive, three free software titles, an installation/driver disk, data and audio cables, mounting hardware and a manually specifically written by those sensible people at Amitek. The range of complete Amitek CD-ROM packages come in varying forms and prices depending on the actual drive's manufacturer. There is a choice from Sony, Mitsumi, Panasonic or Media Vision CD-ROM drives, the latter being the most expensive option at £151.58.
With this option, and THE MIX on CD-ROM for the PC, there is absolutely no excuse not to go and get one now.
For more information, contact: Silica, (Contact Details).
"It's another PC soundcard!", you scream. You'd not be wrong, but cast away any hasty reservations you might have about an already overpopulated market until you've seen what this one is capable of. The Ultrasound Max from Gravis features all the regulars; 16-bit, 48KHz sampling, General MIDI patches (all 5.6Mbytes of them) and Soundblaster compatibility, but in addition has the innovation to include three integrated CD-ROM interfaces, 3D Holographic sound and simultaneous recording and playback.
A built-in 4 watt stereo amplifier ensures you hear all thirty-two voices of the soundcard's polyphony, whilst it also supports external connections via a stereo pair of line outs. The system is RAM based (512K as standard), and is upgradeable to 1 Mbyte to incorporate future software releases, including the expansion of the GM patches. Also for the PC gameplayer, a joystick/MIDI adaptor is included, so you can plug in and play with high quality Soundblaster compatible sound.
The Ultrasound Max works with all PCs 386 or higher running DOS5.0, with support for Windows 3.1, and retails for £299.
Contact: Optech, (Contact Details).
(AMG/Time & Space)
Prolific sample CD producers AMG are seemingly not content unless they are releasing new wares. Their latest is a second course of the Remix! dish, sensibly enough titled Remix! II. It features the same mix of dance and remix orientated sounds that made its predecessor so, er, happening, as well as new elements from the Megabass team.
Remix! II contains over 200 new drum loops, a wealth of vocal effects, hooks and chants, sound effects, and an ample selection of instrument and synth sounds. Costing £54.95, the new Remix! II CD is available from both Time & Space and AMG, and will shortly be making appearances in the CD Jukeboxes at your local hi-tec music store.
Contact: Time & Space, (Contact Details).
AMG, (Contact Details).
Poking around for the first time in the PC Multimedia market, is Software Technology. Most notable for their Atari and Amiga software support, the company have now decided that the PC is too big a thing to miss out on. With this is mind, they have opened a new demonstration suite in Manchester, providing not only a place to see and try the latest Software Technology music applications (for all formats), but also to provide a complete buying and technical advice service for PC Multimedia software and hardware.
The technical support offered is from the actual designers of the software, and incorporates everything from choosing the right applications for your needs to showing you how it all works afterwards.
Contact: Software Technology on (Contact Details).
On The Re:Mix CD:
04 Hallelujah! sample 1 05 Hallelujah! sample 2 06 Hallelujah! sample 3 07 Hallelujah! sample 4 08 Hallelujah! sample 5 09 Hallelujah! sample 6 10 Hallelujah! sample 7 11 Hallelujah! sample 8 12 Hallelujah! sample 9 13 Hallelujah! sample 10 14 Hallelujah! sample 11 15 Hallelujah! sample 12 16 Hallelujah! sample 13 19 Music Producer samples 1 20 Music Producer samples 2 21 Music Producer samples 3 22 Music Producer samples 4 23 Music Producer samples 5 24 Music Producer samples 6 25 Music Producer samples 7 26 Music Producer samples 8 27 Music Producer samples 9 28 Music Producer samples 10 29 Music Producer samples 11 30 Music Producer samples 12 31 Music Producer samples 13 36 Supersection brass samples 1 37 Supersection brass samples 2 38 Supersection brass samples 3 39 Supersection brass samples 4 40 Supersection brass samples 5 41 Supersection brass samples 6 42 Supersection brass samples 7 43 Supersection brass samples 8 44 Supersection brass samples 9 45 Supersection brass samples 10 46 Supersection brass samples 11 47 Supersection brass samples 12 48 Supersection brass samples 13
This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at Archive.org - Re:Mix #3.
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