Archive for February, 2011

Make Real Sounding Tracks Using Samplers and Romplers

Posted in How To's with tags , , , on February 26, 2011 by The Buddha Rats

I’m a big fan of real bass, drums, piano, and guitar. I know how to play each of these and over the years I learned how to track things so that they sit pretty well together (the highest compliment paid to me is when people say that my songs don’t sound “tracked”).

Before I learned how to actually play all those instruments, I spent a lot of time trying to make realistic sounding tracks from samplers and romplers, and I was never really satisfied with the results I got. I quickly came to the conclusion that it’s (almost) impossible to create a realistic guitar track (particularly lead guitar tracks) using samples, but there are ways you can record songs using samples so that they have a good feel and sound. Here are some the things to consider:

  1. Start with good sample sets. Use a high quality vst with multiple velocity layers, and high quality samples. For bass and guitar make sure it’s got a few articulations such as finger slides, etc.. You might not be able to trigger these sounds quick enough to make a perfectly realistic track, but you’ll be able to overdub, and splice something cool together. For drums make sure it’s got an “anti machine gun” feature as well as “round robin”.
  2. Real musicians can’t keep perfect time. Some players play in front of the beat, some play slightly behind. Some players know when to speed up or rush things slightly as well. This all goes a long way to a realistic sound and feel- especially with a sequenced drum track.
  3. Real instruments are never perfectly in tune with each other. There are always some slight differences.  Some notes are a bit sharp, some flat. Not every sample set is recorded the same way, and if you only own one sample set, that’s OK,  but it’s always best to mix things up. Take a piano from one library, the bass and drums from another, etc.. You’ll  get some nice variety in texture, tuning and sound.
  4. When sequencing drum parts remember this:  A drummer only has two hands and two feet, so resist the temptation to trigger everything at once. When in doubt, just find a song that you like and try and copy the drum part. It’s good practice.
  5. Don’t approach your guitar parts like a keyboard player.
  6. Resist the urge to quantize everything until it’s “perfect”.  You want things to sound as if a human played them, not a robot,
  7. Make good use of compression, EQ’s, and reverb. Too much or too little of each can yield a lifeless mix.
  8. Watch your volume, and overall levels.
  9. Add an analog tape saturation plug to the master track. This will fatten up the sound, glue things together and make things less sterile sounding.

That’s about it.  I hope this post helps.