Sunday 21 June 2015

When is a guitar not a guitar?

One answer could be: 'When it's a sample of a guitar!' Samples, or their 'here's one I prepared earlier' cousins: loops, can be rich sources of inspiration, new sounds, and more. Previously, I talked to the nice people at ModeAudio about mis-using a percussion pack. but since then, they offered me a chance to look at another of their packs.

The ModeAudio 'Float' pack contains 'Chillwave' guitar samples and loops, and so it isn't what you might immediately associate with a synthesist like me, but exploring something 'out of your comfort zone' is often very good at nudging you into making new discoveries.

As you might expect these days, this is an idea that is also available in a formalised form on the 'Interweb': (Olique Strategies: originally a set of cards by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, but now available via browsers and mobile apps too.)

In my case, taking some guitar loops and playing with them yielded some very interesting results - and in many of the cases, I worked with the samples as if they were raw material for synthesis, not specifically as 'guitar' loops. As a result, I didn't do much in the way of realistic guitar sounds, but instead I found a lot of very unusual and interesting sounds. One synth bass sound, made by reverse engineering a loop and then stacking the individual notes, is a sound that I'd pay good money for - just that one sound! 

I'm increasingly aware of the lowering of the barriers between synthesis and production in modern DAWs (sequencers, host applications, whatever your favourite term is!), and my whole experience with 'Float' reinforced this view. Back in the days of analogue tape, people experimented a lot (using tiled bathrooms or big suspended metal sheets as ways of creating reverb spaces is just one example), and whilst the technology may have changed, the scope for going 'outside the box' seems to be undiminished, and if anything, better than ever. 

You can see the first part of my 'guitar sample-based synthesis in ModeAudio's magazine.

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