Let’s take a look at the typical guitar based band. They usually have a vocalist, two guitars, a bass and a set of drums. The vocalist relies on the band to fill in the low sections or sections that don’t have vocals. Why not use a nice set of strings or perhaps horns to highlight certain musical sections of a song? It is easier than you might think when you have the power of modern sample based instruments. A sampler can come in hardware or software based versions. Both have advantages but for this article we will discuss the digital sampler version. This is not a synthesizer because it uses real live recordings of real world instruments.
There are a few top brands to choose from but the real value is in the sampler library. These libraries are usually quite large and some can contain 100 gigabytes or more of audio material. We aren’t talking about a dance style electronic keyboard here. What the modern instrument sampler or VSTI system can provide is a library of certain instruments. Let’s use a guitar as an example. A guitar might be used in a studio session to sample each and every note on the guitar neck. Each note is also performed several times to give each note distinction from other notes played and recorded at the same velocity. This process is repeated over and over, one note at a time with several alternative notes played for realism and each time they record a harder or louder version of the same note to give a higher amount of control over the loudness or attack of each note. Dizzy yet? The producers that record material for sampler systems record thousands of notes and velocities for one single instrument library. Then they add bonus material in some cases.
Now all of the short to long and low to high attack/velocity recordings are grouped and assigned a control from the sampler. Usually it will be a piano keyboard or a midi note and timeline configuration that displays the note, velocity and duration of each file contained in the library. At this point we have a way to access each file, with keyboard or midi interface for external hardware controllers, and play them with an attack, duration and velocity control such as a note strike on the piano. Picking styles like finger or pick can be selected and the result is a pristine guitar track with no mistakes, very low noise floor and precise timing. Stunning, almost impossible pieces of music can be performed perfectly or you may choose to play the simple chords of a song as an accompaniment. Either way it sounds as if a live performer was captured during an audio recording session.
Take a look at the features that each sampler manufacturer offers. Make sure you can start with a natural and realistic voicing of an instrument and then check the fine adjustments under the hood. Look for ambience, reverberation and several other effects as well as standard effects like chorus and distortion. These sampler systems are available for a wide scope of PC and MAC systems. The refreshing, pristine sound blends well with other instruments and with the added effects controls that usually come standard with samplers. You can also adjust tone and timbre and overall equalization in order to tailor make your desired sound.
In closing modern sampler systems are efficient and powerful. They are easy to use if you have some musical background and have used effect systems with other instruments. Sampler systems are also considerably more cost effective than hiring a full orchestra or studio musicians because you only purchase the software once and can use it indefinitely. Setup is easy and changing instruments doesn’t involve setting up a new recording session and room.