Composing and Producing with Samples

Part One, August 5th, 2016

Welcome to part one of my new series where I share personal tips on using samples in composing and producing music. I'll be posting up here from time to time, whenever I have something relevant and helpful to say. I'd love feedback on this blog. Please ping me if you have ideas on subject matter. I'm learning too!! Comments welcome!

Composing and recording with samples opens up a world of instruments that you might normally not have access to. Finding a native American flute player can be very challenging depending on where you live in the world! Working with samples has been very enriching for me. I've learned a lot about cultural instruments, instrument ranges, how to "play keyboards like a guitarist" and much more. 

Over the years, as I've been producing sample collections through my company, Q Up Arts, I've composed and produced music for a variety of clients across the globe.   This has been great for my musical growth and the products as they all get "test driven" before going to market. I'd like to offer some tips on using samples in your music in this blog.



In our product authoring, we ensure that our samples are in tune. This is a big deal. Like anything else, there are well produced sample collections and well, not so well produced ones. The subject of tuning also applies to the "real" instruments you're blending with the samples.   This becomes very evident when using perfectly in-tune sampled instruments along side real instruments. The out-of-tune guitar will become very apparent when sitting next to perfectly in-tune samples.  The out of tune guitar will become very apparent when sitting next to perfectly in tune samples. Most DAWs have a tuning meter built into the master instance, it's always a good idea to take a look at the tuning situation. Speaking of tuning, since it's so easy to change the key and tempo of your projects, I think it's a great idea to experiment with the key as it relates to tempo. Certain keys resonate differently in certain tempi. I encourage you to listen!! The correlation between tempo and key should be considered and listened to.

The Sweet Spot

Every instrument has a "sweet spot," a range of play where the instrument sounds its best. It's also desirable to play the sampled instruments in the true range of the actual instrument. I'll reiterate, Use Your Ears!! I've found that the quieter you play certain instruments, the nicer their resonance.  In the early days of sampling, we had limited memory footprints to fit the samples into. In most instances, we were allowed one layer of samples mapped in tri tones. These days of unlimited memory and sample streaming, there's lots of "deep sampled" instruments available with as many velocity layers as the designer desires. On our more recent releases, we try to offer as many velocity layers as the instrument will yield. This allows you to access the beauty and warmth of a delicately played instrument. Really accomplished pianists can play extremely softly. We can't all practice enough keyboards to attain this level of sensitivity. Luckily, with midi, you can easily record a performance and scale the midi data down to much lower velocities. The results can be amazing when lowering the velocity of your performance down into the midi range of pianissimo after you've hammered it out in double forte!!

All for now. Thanks for reading. All the Best, Douglas