The Best Laid Plans (and Effects)

So you’ve got your lovely samples that you’ve recorded, edited, and mapped into Kontakt. Yes! Time to have some fun – time to add some effects. This is certainly my favourite part of the whole process. It’s the time you can be especially creative and imaginative – experimenting with all the different sounds you can get out of your sample. You can feel pretty dang powerful. But with great power comes, well, you know. It’s good to do some playing around with all that Kontakt can do to shape those samples. It can reveal elements of your sounds you’d never realised, and it can elevate your work so far from somewhat amateurish to super sleek and professional. But the temptation to get carried away and re-shape your instrument into something entirely different is always there, even if you don’t realise you’re giving in to it. You probably won’t want to completely throw away all your careful planning and thought that you’ve given it just because it sounds really interesting with some heavy added distortion, say. If you’ve spent the time meticulously capturing a real instrument’s natural sound in an interesting way, with possibly hundreds of individual samples and notes, then covering that up with a heady concoction of effects isn’t going to sound or feel all that satisfying at the end of the day. This is also true with found sounds and other heavily “real-world” sample libraries. It may be very cliche, but more often than not, less will be more. It’s often not worth throwing that out the window for the sake of creating something truly bizarre and unique. That being said, we need to keep an open mind when trying on different plugins and effects. Unless you have an inordinate amount of time and money to dedicate to the planning stage, then chances are at some point you’ll need to slightly adjust your plans. You may even need to completely reimagine the overall “sound” and purpose of the instrument/library. Errors, quirks, and blemishes in the sound recording that can’t be easily altered or fixed will end up being highlighted when it comes to mapping and adding effects. Unless those unexpected things end up adding something interesting to the sound, then reimagining might well be in order. I recently recorded a plucked instrument with the intent of it being a simple sample library of those plucked notes – minimal effects, minimal editing. Just fairly naked, really. Unfortunately, the instrument was so delicate it couldn’t be tuned, and despite my best efforts to pitch-correct in post, it just couldn’t be done, and neither could Kontakt entirely correct this. As a result of the experimenting I did with the sample functions, looping, and effects, I was able to go back to the drawing board and come up with something that sounds much better than what I was initially trying to achieve. I suppose like so much in life, it’s good to lay out plans. But sticking to those plans when you can, adjusting them when necessary, and having a little fun along the way, is key.

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