[linux-audio-user] Beginner sampler questions

Pete Bessman ninjadroid at ml1.net
Thu Mar 25 23:09:26 EST 2004

At Wed, 24 Mar 2004 16:23:35 -0800,
davidrclark at earthlink.net wrote:
> Chris wrote:
> >              a sampler accomplishes basically the same
> > thing as a wavetable synth -- it uses sound samples to generate
> > tones, doing frequency shifting and interpolation as necessary.
> I would recommend considering a wavetable synth to be a type of 
> sampler synth.

Methinks this is a perfect defitition.

> > Am I missing some obvious things here?  How do people use
> > samplers, for the most part?

I think Samplers can be used in two ways:

1) To emulate "real" instruments

2) To noodle around

Instrument emulation is traditionally the domain of SoundFonts, which
is just a collection of samples and some data on how they should be
used. Using SoundFonts is pretty swell.  Grab a soundfont player like
fluidsynth and keep trying soundfonts until you find one you like.  If
all you ever want to do is have the best spitting image of a violin
modern synthesis can provide, this is the way to go.

For point number 2, I think SoundFonts suck arse.  This is
where "traditional" samplers are cool.  The creative process
goes something like this, for me:

1) Load a sample your familiar with, and put together a melody.

2) Walk through your massive library of samples and try different

3) Experiment with effects, modulation, and regurgitation until
you've got what can be objectively deemed a Cool Sound.

> > Of course, there are tons and tons of samples available; but then,
> > in order to express the music you're hearing in your head, you're
> > gonna be spending hours and hours trying to find samples that
> > work.

This depends on whether you're trying to achieve goal number 1 or 2.
For number 1, just get a good SoundFont of whatever instrument you're
trying to model (this is really easy if you're willing to pay).  For
number 2, there's generally no escaping the time drain.  Since you
have so much sound sculpting power at your disposal, you'll inevitably
end up spending as much time creating sounds as you will orchestrating
your song.

The rule of thumb is that Using is time-cheap, whereas Creating is

> Build a font and play something.  (Specimen by Pete Bessman can be
> used to do this sort of thing without having to build fonts.)

This is actually something I had never considered when creating
Specimen; that is, providing an alternative to soundfonts.  However,
it seems to be working out rather well (thanks for the plug, Dave).
One word of caution: don't try to "stretch" a sample beyond one octave
if you're aiming for realism.  That is, don't up-pitch it or
down-pitch it by more than one octave (and purists will tell you that
you shouldn't up-pitch it at all).  Dave doesn't have to worry about
this because he has written software to generate, say, 127 different
samples of a physically-modeled instrument.  He also has scripts to
automate the creation of Specimen bank files from these samples (I'm
looking into making this easier to do with Specimen proper).


(...specimen's author...)

(...which, by the by, is available at www.gazuga.net...)

(...you might also consider checking out my competition:



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