Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bassmeister

I assembled a Kontakt bass instrument crudely nick-named Bassmeister, which is now available on Sampleism... The samples were created with rare, vintage bass piano.

I bought the piano sometime in early 90s (took me a while to get to sample it), the guy who was selling it, advertised it as "The Doors bass". He was referring to Rhodes bass piano used by Ray Manzarek, but this box was no Rhodes. The piano is "Basset II" made by East German accordion manufacturer Weltmeister. Not to be confused with Hohner's Basset, which is electronic keyboard. Weltmeister's Bassset I, is somewhat noticeable on the Internet, as it's a keytar, it has been produced from early to late 60s. Version II has lost the handle along with proud name of keytar and has different casing, but from what I can tell of version I pictures, the interior is very similar. Unlike Rhodes, this critter is using a set of metal stripes (in place of metal rods) built into a comb shaped pickup. The mechanism of making the stripes vibrate is rather unique. There is a lever mechanism which lifts the stipe up, until it slips off its edge, which is similar to the way you play a kalimba with fingers. Lever mechanism is simple, yet quite fragile. It would explain, why there is not many of these still in working condition. My unit has five broken or missing levers, however, as the lever design is the same for all keys, I could use one of working levers, for sampling separate keys. Which was just a lot of screwdriver work. At the side there is a kind of volume modulation pedal, which doesn't work very well, probably because of aged parts. The bad thing about this piano is resonance, it's enough to tap the case harder and all the stripes start to resonate, interfering with playing keys. It might be partly because of aged (and cheaply made) sponge dumpers. For sampling I used two small towels to quiet unused stripes, the amount of work it would take to secure them all, would rather indicate a design flaw.

For Kontakt instrument I used two velocity layers and five polyphonic round robin samples per key. By polyphonic round robin I mean, there is separate round robin counter for every key. Key velocity doesn't really matter in instrument's design, but hitting a key really hard make a distinctive initial distortion sound, so I made a separate high velocity layer. The instrument has selectable filters, distortion, LFO and envelope modulators for some creative sound shaping. It requires full version of Kontakt 5.5.1 or newer to work.

Finally, here's a video overview of the Kontakt instrument.

 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Beat Assembler XT

Beat Assembler XT is drum computer instrument based on experimental design, extended version of previously posted Beat Assembler 48. It is using randomly or manually generated pattern model, which is then being used as basis for creating a drum sequence. The machine is using series of quantizers and sound mappers to re-shape model pattern, fitting it into a time-frame of choice, allowing user to observe the results on the fly.

New and expanded features in  XT version:
  • bigger master sequence size (128 notes) and more optimized calculations, which it would require,
  • 99999 automatic pattern generator presets,
  • up to 16 voice groups,
  • drag'n'drop MIDI export, drop final pattern directly to DAW, or to a file manager to create a midi file,
  • preset system, 10 memory slots and support for saving sequences to a file (so they can be loaded into another Beat Assembler patch),
  • displacer mechanism, introduce 'little changes' to a pattern with single knob,
  • expanded manual editor with handful of new tweaks (including copy/paste mechanism, so you can drop a portion of one pattern into another easily),
  • filter bank access, filter type can be set quickly from drop-down menu, for each voice group individually,
  • resizeable drum kit, makes it easy to create custom drum kits, use the machine as sample shell,
  • 12 patches, including a re-creation of obscure polish analog drum machine from the 80's (which I took apart and soldered voice on/off switches, so I could capture each sound separately and then hand programmed re-constructed rhythm patterns in Beat Assembler),
  • 36 hand programmed patterns (as opposed to automatically generated ones) to experiment with (can be loaded from file in nka format),
  • five background variations, change the machine looks in setup panel,
  • and, as usual, a fairly confusing manual in strange English.
Here's a video overview, jamming with three instances of Beat Assembler in standalone Kontakt:


Beat Assembler XT is available via Sampleism:
http://www.sampleism.com/szcz/beat-assembler
It requires full version of Kontakt 5.5.1 or newer to run (Free version will run on Kontakt 4, but XT is actually using Kontakt's new features, like changing filter type from script).

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Beat Assembler update

I made a small, but rather important update to Beat Assembler drum computer. Playback timing calculations have been improved, so the machine should not drift off set tempo. At least not quickly (in previous version it would be apparent after couple of measures). If you're using it, please re-download.
Extended version is just around the corner...

Friday, January 1, 2016

On reversing instruments in Kontakt

I wonder how would that piano sound backwards... That probably crossed every sampler user mind, at least once. Well, Kontakt has 'reverse' button, press it and Kontakt will play the samples backwards. However, the problem is, samples often have very long tails, so it takes a while until you can hear the sound and it's useless for dynamic playing. You would want to play the sample, but not from the beginning (or the end, depending on how we look at it). For this 'offset' parameter can be used, it tells the sampler from which point in the sample it should start playback. Now, another problem is, that samples have different lengths. To have more or less consistent volume envelope, when playing chords, you would want all played samples to reach the end of sample (reversed beginning) at the same time. Since offset is calculated from the beginning of the sample, and for reversed playback, from it's end, it's problematic. You would need to know the sample length for each note to calculate the proper offset. Considering velocity layers, it can be a lot of coding.
I wanted it, to be done automatically for any instrument, so I could play around with sound reversing. I came with somewhat crude solution, I wrote a script which will retrieve sample length for every note and every velocity in a group, remember it and apply offset accordingly when playing. To fetch the data for any sample set, I needed the script to actually play each note, so it could retrieve zone id and then sample length. Scanning takes a while, but in the end it's way faster, than doing it by hand. Here's a little presentation of reversing Kontakt's factory sitar.


You can get the script here. Both a preset file (which need to be copied to your Kontakt/presets/scripts folder) and as plain text that can be copied into Kontakt. It will work in Kontakt 4 or newer.

The shortcomings of this solutions are:
  • You can only use one group for reverse playing, so no round robin backwards.
  • It will work best on instruments build on sample per note basis. If samples are re-tuned, playback speed will vary and since offset is provided in microseconds, it will get misaligned. The more tune change, the more misalignment. To compensate for this, script would need to learn root key for each sample, which I don't know how to automatically retrieve in KSP.

About using the script:
  • First locate the group you want to reverse and set 'targ.group' accordingly. First group has index of zero.
  • Change sampler mode to 'sampler'. Disadvantage here is, that it will load all samples to memory, but offset parameter doesn't work in DFD mode. If you need to use DFD, you would have to edit 's.mod' value in wave editor to match sample length. And do that for every sample. No fun.
  • Switch reverse button!
  • You can adjust 'interval' setting, it's time to take to scan single note/velocity combination in microseconds. Lower the setting to scan faster. However I found that at low settings, the script failed to retrieve data correctly, 500 didn't work for me, 1000 did, but this may depend on settings/setup. I would consider 3000 a safe setting.
  • Now press scan button and wait for it to complete. If you need to break the process press it again.
  • Scanned data will be remembered in DAW project / patch, so if instrument/project is saved, you don't need to scan again.
  • Note that, the scanner will skip any note that hasn't a sample mapped at velocity of 1, to speed up scanning process.
  • Position knob sets the offset value, that is how far from the beginning should playback start. You can adjust this value while playing. Try not to exceed shortest sample length, or shorter samples will get misaligned.
  • When duration knob is set to zero, samples will play as long as the key is held (or until they reach the beginning of a sample). Any other setting will generate notes of fixed duration, defined in percentage of offset setting. You can use it, to prevent playback to reach the beginning of the sample and for smoother sound tail, if combined with volume envelope.
  • This script can interfere with other scripts, particularly those which also do ignore_event, play_note sequence, like factory portamento script, so you may need to disable other scripts, if it doesn't work.
  • Have fun reversing!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year

Just one sample for today. I recorded firing up fireworks battery, grimly named "Dracula". Here's 40 seconds of colorful mayhem (I assume it was colorful, as I was watching level meters...), captured with Sony PCM-D50, 96kHz, 24 bit, stereo, 18MB in rar file. Free to grab and use as you please. Happy New Year!

mp3 preview here

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Beat Assembler 48

This experiment took me a while to complete and it made me scratch my head pretty hard a couple of times. I wanted a drum machine in Kontakt, that wouldn't be bound to 4/4 signature and standard time grid. Also I wanted to break with table based patterns and have visual presentation more like in a DAW.
Beat Assembler does that and more. It's a drum machine with sequencer, which can generate automatic program according to preset scheme and set of parameters. It creates a master pattern which then is being fit into a time-frame, matching current tempo and time signature. The pattern can be quantized to defined grid, which can use a range of unusual note fractions, like 1/5 or 6/11, everything being visualized on the fly. The machine also lets you define time signature manually, so you're not limited to 4/4 in standalone mode, furthermore allowing some irrational settings like 4/3 or 5/7. So, if you like to experiment with strange percussion patterns, you may enjoy this one.

Additional features include:
  • four voice groups with automated distribution, where you can set effects and modulation parameters for each group;
  • manual sequence editor, so you can move notes around the grid; 
  • note recorder, so you can play a pattern by keyboard and then quantize it inside out.
Here's a video, where I'm trying out the machine:


Beat Assembler is free to get and play with. It requires full version of Native Instruments Kontakt 4 or newer. Download it HERE. 6 MB, RAR archive. Have fun!

If you like the idea, I have made paid, expanded version of the machine, named Beat Assembler XT, you can read about it here.

Concerning the midi export as requested in the comment, Kontakt 4 can't write midi files. But it does output midi! All you need to do is to go to 'options > engine > send midi to outside world' and make sure 'script generated notes' option is selected. Now, if your DAW supports it, you can patch Kontakt's midi output to a midi track and start recording right away. Beat Assembler XT does export midi clips via drag'n'drop mechanism in Kontakt 5.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Rekombinator

Rekombinator is new instrument/sample shell for Kontakt, I've been working on. It takes a sample, splits it to fragments and re-sequences them to create new sounds. It can restructure drum loops, create evolving drone pads, glitch effects or turn a voice into robotic madness. In short, it's lot of fun. At least it has been for me.

This instrument requires full version of NI Kontakt 4.24 or newer and is available at Kontakt Hub.
www.kontakthub.com/product/rekombinator

If you'd like to examine detailed description, here's fairly confusing operator's manual in funny English.

And here you can see it in action: