Sample and Hold: Arpeggiators and Big Brass

Welcome to Sample and Hold, the series on the LANDR Blog where we highlight one unique crate-digging session and the digger’s gold we came back with using Selector—the world’s first AI sample recommendation tool.

Starter loop: Arpeggiated Synth

I’ll start this Sample and Hold session with an arpeggiated synth sample from LANDR’s sample pack Songstarter Arps.

There were lots of great arpeggiator samples in the pack, but this somewhat extended sample stood out to me for its gritty synth texture, slower pace, rhythmic quality, and longer sweep.

Arpeggiation is a very popular synth effect that takes held notes and sequences them in a pattern.

This creates the sound of an arpeggio– a sequence of notes that are based on a chord.

Arpeggios have been part of music for centuries, they’re usually one of the first things you’ll learn when starting piano or guitar.

Arpeggios have been part of music for centuries, they’re usually one of the first things you’ll learn when starting piano or guitar.

When synths went digital and started using microchips in the 1970s, it was finally possible to sequence a held note to an arpeggio pattern.

This enabled producers to create robotic-sounding arpeggios that could be modulated and sped up to impossibly fast speeds.

Today’s arpeggiators offer a ton of interesting options. You can customize your rhythmic pattern sequence and the number of octaves your arpeggio will move through.

Not to mention the number of complex synth sounds you can easily put into an arpeggiator.

You can see much of this in the sample I chose from LANDR’s Arp pack.

Selection 1: Polyphonic Synth Pad

After I picked that arpeggiator sample I hit the selector button and found this sample on the second page.

It’s a huge airy pad that sounds like it’s got a few different layers playing at the same time.

Synths that can play more than one patch together at the same time are called multitimbral.

I hear some airy noise and a choir style synth sound in this complex texture, but there could be even more layers.

I hear some airy noise and a choir style synth sound in this complex texture, but there could be even more layers.

My colleague Michael Hahn did a great job of writing about FM synthesis in a previous Sample and Hold article, so instead let’s talk about multitimbral synths.

I’ve had synth soundscapes on my mind since Korg released the new Wavestate synth a few days ago.



It’s a really, really cool wavetable synthesizer that among many things features for independent layers that can be sequenced to create extremely expressive atmospheres.

I love it when you can add percussive elements or some airy ambience like you hear in this Selector result.

It’s truly mind-bending how many opportunities open up when using a multitimbral synth.

Selection 2: Brass Melody

Once I hit the Selector button on the polysynth track, I found this heavy-hitting brass melody on the second page of AI-generated results.

Epic brass synth tone made a huge comeback ever since trap music exploded in popularity.

I think trap and electronic producers like the in your face and somewhat sporty nature of the brass sound. The NBA 2K20 soundtrack comes to mind on this one.

This and many other brass samples emulate the big tone that football stadium marching brass line bands are known for– B-E-Aggressive, overblown, loud, and punchy!

Listen to how loud Carolina Crown’s brass section can get in this video.



From a music production angle, synthesizing brass isn’t all that easy.

There’s a lot going when a horn note is played–  Vibrating lips, harmonic qualities in the horn itself, air passing through the instrument, and the many ways horn players modulate the pitch and tone with their mouth all have an effect on the sound that comes out of the other end.

Vibrating lips, harmonic qualities in the horn itself, air passing through the instrument, and the many ways horn players modulate the pitch and tone with their mouth all have an effect on the sound that comes out of the other end.

So when you’re playing with a brass sample or synthesizer you need to think about a few things.

Most importantly the attack, decay, and sustain will have a major effect on your brass tones.

To craft the perfect horn sound for your track you really need to understand how ADSR envelopes work.

Horn players have to attack a note and then sustain a standing wave within the instrument with just the air passing through their lips. Attacking is harder at low pitches and higher pitches are more difficult to sustain too.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the air passing through the horn will give an airy noise quality to the sound of the horn.

To get a convincing you synthesized brass sound, you’ll have to apply noise within your synth tone.

Perhaps the airiness in the polyphonic synth sound I found earlier is why Selector returned this brass sample.

You also might be wondering how to get that growling sound that is present in this sample which so electronic producers seem to gravitate towards with their horn samples.

One way to get an extra bit of growl in your synth brass is to modulate the filter’s cutoff frequency with a fast LFO.

To get an even more convincing synth tone, the last step is to apply some vibrato.

Since horn players use vibrato only after a note is sustained, make sure your vibrato LFO is delayed so as to only apply it to the sustain part of your ADSR envelope.

Brass tones are difficult to get right, luckily a lot of the hard work has been for you with dedicated soft synth presents, and of course pre-made samples.

But, knowing a little bit about how brass tones are synthesized can help you know how to craft the perfect custom sound.

Knowing a little bit about how brass tones are synthesized can help you know how to craft the perfect custom sound.

For inspiration here’s a great example of a banging track that makes use of a huge horn synth tone.



Selection 3: Buzzing Triangle Synth Pad

The first result on page two of my Selector query for the horn sample caught my attention.

It’s just a simple tone but I could immediately see why Selector’s AI matching system might have paired the two samples.

To my ear, the similarities lie in the sustained brass tone and buzzing synth tone.

Both sounds have that gritty and growling quality that can only come from a triangle or saw waveform.

That gritty and growling quality can only come from a triangle or saw waveform.

It’s hard to say exactly which oscillator wave shape this sample makes use of, but I’m certain there’s some element of a saw or triangle in the synth patch.

Another thing that stood out to me is that like the sample from my first Selector session, this sample came from a polyphonic synth– you can clearly hear a high and low pitch in the sample.

The sample reminded me of a synth tone Justice used on their track Let Their Be Light from their incredible self-titled album.



 

 

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