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Have you ever created a cool sound out of a random object in your home and thought, “I wish I could turn this into a playable instrument?” Whether it’s the squeak of a chair, the sound of two plates clinking together, or velcro ripping on your jacket, we’re surrounded by fascinating sounds.
Although most of us don't think much of them, you'd be surprised by how many of these sounds can be used in the music you make every day. Those plates could be turned into a playable, pitched instrument. And that velcro sound could work so well as a percussive transition between song sections.
In this how-to guide, we'll look at how you can record an ordinary sound using Spire Studio and turn it into a unique, playable instrument for your next song.
Any good adventure needs to include a treasure hunt. So your first task will be to figure out what sound you'll want to record. Go through your home and listen with an open mind to each possible noise. Grab a metal bowl from the kitchen. How does it sound when you strike it with the palm of your hand? How about your fingernail? How about a wooden spoon? And a fork? What if you strike two metal bowls against each other?
You're an explorer. The only rule here is there are no rules or limits to what you can do to create a cool sound. The more noises you create, the more you'll realize how many possibilities lie ahead of you.
Once you've settled for the sound you want to work with, you'll need to record it. The recording should be as clean as possible, meaning minimal room noise, hum, outside sounds, etc.
Check out these 5 tips for limiting room noise in home recording.
As for the recording process itself, you have two options. You can go the long route: setup long XLR cables, a microphone, create a new session, configure inputs, outputs, set the correct levels...
Or you can make your life easy and use Spire Studio to achieve all of that in a matter of seconds. No cables. No crazy setup. The steps are as easy as turn it on, create a new session, perform a quick automatic soundcheck, and you're ready! A huge time-saver.
Once you're all set up, hit record and perform your sound. Sometimes you'll have to create the sound multiple times in order to catch the perfect performance. Make sure to leave a few seconds of silence between each attempt to guarantee that the natural tail of the sound has time to decay.
Once you've recorded the sound, you'll want to export the recording from the Spire app to your DAW of choice (Logic, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Studio One, etc.) for further editing.
First, listen to all the takes you recorded. Chose the one(s) you'll want to use in your sampled instrument. In my case, I recorded the sound of a glass pitcher being hit by a fork.
Next, trim the sample to start right when the sound begins. This is important because once we turn this into an instrument that you can play with your MIDI keyboard, you'll want the sound to start right away as you press a key, not after a second.
You'll also want to trim the end of the sampled recording to right after the natural tail of the sound finishes. Use a fast fade-in and longer fade-out to create clean cuts.
If you're working with a sound that will be used as a percussive instrument, you're all set. But in my case, I'll want to use this sound as a playable instrument with different pitches.
To make sure that the sound plays in tune with other instruments, I'll need to correct the pitch. If this original sample is out of tune, every single pitch I play with it will be out of tune as well. So you'll want to tune it up/down to pitch it to the closest note. Every DAW includes a pitch correction plug-in, so use it as needed to get the sound tuned (here’s how to correct pitch in Logic Pro).
In the case of my sound, it was a tiny bit below a D, so I pitched it up to get it as close as possible to a pure D.
The final step is to turn your single sample into a playable instrument. Export the newly edited sample to your drive, and then import it into the sampler of your choice (EXS24, Kontakt, Simpler, Structure, etc.).
EXS24 Sampler in Logic Pro X
Most samplers will allow you to chose the base pitch (in my case I chose D3), and then they'll chromatically pitch the sample and assign it to every key on your keyboard. Depending on what you're trying to achieve, you may assign certain sounds only to certain keys (or key ranges), or assign different sounds to different velocity ranges. This is useful if you recorded multiple samples and want a specific sample to be triggered only when you play louder or softer notes.
Once your instrument is configured, you're ready to play!
This is where you'll be able to get creative and apply any effects to your instrument to make it sound the way you want it to sound. In my case, I added some reverb and a small amount of delay. So without further ado, here's my finished sampled Glass Pitcher instrument.
There are millions of sounds waiting to be discovered around your home. So open your ears to the endless possibilities. Not only will you surprise your listeners with a new sound, you'll create an instrument that is 100% unique to you.
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