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What Sampling The Acoustic Guitar Taught Us

Recording A Sample Library
Published May 2018
By Samuel Dalferth

Strum Along

Recording a library of acoustic guitar samples highlighted the importance of repeatability, blind testing, small lasers and double-sided sticky tape.

My colleague Daniel Scholz and I started developing sample libraries about eight years ago. In the beginning, Daniel wanted to have a drum sample library that could be triggered using MIDI and deliver each microphone on an individual track to allow maximum flexibility when mixing, and this work ultimately led to the release of our Drumasonic drum sample library series (www.drumasonic.com). Since then, our philosophy has been to create sample libraries which are as true to the acoustic instrument as they can be, and which use as little post-processing as possible to achieve very ‘honest’ recordings.

Looking for a marketing and sales partner, we approached Native Instruments, but as they already had their own drum sample library series, we switched to guitar sample libraries instead. Looking back on three co-operations (Strummed Acoustic, Strummed Acoustic 2 and Electric Sunburst), it can be said that joining forces probably raised the quality of the end result, bringing together NI’s expertise in creating user-friendly products and GUIs and our dedication to details regarding sound quality and the authenticity of the emulation. Another key factor was the very committed and persistent guitarists who lent patterns, in-depth knowledge of their instruments and their musical gut feeling in extensive listening tests.

The Extra Mile

There are really no shortcuts to signal quality, so for every project we combine an artistic approach with science: we record as many options as possible and carry out extensive double-blind test sessions to determine all the factors that contribute to the best sound possible. This includes the selection of instrument, room, cables, preamps, converters and mics, and microphone placement. Now that we’ve specialised in guitars, we also compare different sets of strings and plectrums, and even factors such as temperature and humidity. The goal is to have a setup that is completely controlled and can be fully recalled whenever we record new content, in order to achieve the best consistency possible. Under those conditions, it is remarkable how obviously even the slightest change anywhere in the system affects the sound, be it for better or worse.

After extensive shoot-outs, SPL Gain Station preamps and SPL Madison converters, running through an RME Madiface XT, were chosen for the final recordings. Using high-end recording equipment makes a difference — but attention to detail makes a bigger difference!After extensive shoot-outs, SPL Gain Station preamps and SPL Madison converters, running through an RME Madiface XT, were chosen for the final recordings. Using high-end recording equipment makes a difference — but attention to detail makes a bigger difference!This meticulous approach leads us to interesting discoveries which wouldn’t occur during a conventional recording session. A band are rarely patient enough to wait for a guitarist to do test recordings in 15 different positions in the room, or to try seven instrument cables through 15 different DI boxes and/or...

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Published May 2018