Synthesizers and Samplers – Part One Sampling

As a relative newcomer to synthesizers and samplers it’s become a sideline fascination of mine to understand how they work.

This article is a newbie guide to understanding these instruments written by someone just grasping the information.

Hopefully because of my relative newness to the subject I can shed light on areas that those who have vast experience overlook or overcook.

This particular article will be my introduction to the subject, my thoughts and my directions.

If you will this is the prologue that will spider in different directions that will hopefully gather the correct information and explain how things work in easy to understand bitesize chunks.


Samplers are simple to understand, they sample a sound which can be controlled via midi data or midi comtroller. If needs be you can process them inside a sampler using filters and modulators as you would with anything else.

I’ve always been much more keener on samplers because of they’re more faithful reproduction of ‘real’ instruments.

Samplers though are only as good as the samples they’re given to work with.

Also a realistic instrument needs a lot of time and effort.

If you take a guitar as an example:

A guitar can be strummed and plucked. It can be plucked alterantively – that is up an down – as with strumming.The ‘attack’ can be soft or hard. The ‘release’ can be fast or slow – that is the fingers hold the note or release the notes.

These variations in playing would all need to be sampled to create a convincing instrument.

And they would all need to be created for every pitch/note of the guitar.

Let’s create a scenario in sampling:

You sample a plucked note ‘A’ and record the note for 5 seconds.

This is the only note you record for your ‘sampled’ guitar.

As you play this note higher the length of the note is reduced, this is because the note is speeded up.

If you play this note at the highest end of your keyboard/controller it will sound really odd and unlike a guitar.

Also you’ll find intonation becomes a problem as the note is speeded up.

To combat this you can sample several notes of the the guitar, it’s up to you as to how many notes you sample.

Space is often the enemy here.

I have three samplers, two ESI32s and a ESI4000.

The ESI32 is 32meg and the ESI4000 is 128meg.

This means that I have a limited amount of space to work with. 128 meg being the largest instrumemt I can make.

If you equate that with todays romplers they seem minute in comparison.

Romplers kits/instruments m can be huge well over a gigs worth of samples.

The PC/Laptop based sampler is only restricted by processing power and with the introduction of faster machines every few months it means the rompler can do extraordinary things.

Imagine the ESI4000 – it has a 128meg capacity. Which 10 years ago was huge.

But compared to the practically limitless romplers of today is left standing.

The reason is velocity layers, extreme sampling of notes, articulation etc.

The ESI can do a lot but my sample instruments tend to be split into articulations and have less velocity involved. I also tend to sample less across the range, this can give good results but ultimately a rompler knocks it into a cocked hat.

But I still persist with the ESIs – the reason being the sound of them. They’re hardware based, the sampled instruments get coloured by the connections and hardware that processes them.

The rompler on the other hand doesn’t colour in the same way. Yes you can process them but it’s usually via a VST with in the PC itself.

You can of course Re-Amp the instrument.

But I still persist.

Romplers are great, but they’re expensive.

And the greatest division for me is that the ESI begs to be tinkered with.

I’ve learnt a lot about sound and articulation and how instruments work simply by feeding samples into the sampler.

You get to grips with it’s tone and feel.

I like messing with samplers because eveything you do can lead onto experiments and creative processses.

Sampling something feels more real to me.

A plug and play rompler sound set feels lazy, not that I claim that it is lazy to do, it’s just my head state.

I love to tinker and as I get older and more infatuated with sound I’ve become more intersted in sampling and synthesis.

Anway if you’ve read so far hopefully I’ve shed some light on a few things.

As I said before, this preamble is going to be the top page for my views and ideas on Sampling and Synth creation.

This article will be updated with links to new articles as they are written.

Thanks for reading.

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