So, what do I do with all these samples of different mallets on piano strings, and other areas of the instrument? How about putting them all into a drum machine? Better yet, a virtual drum machine, like Ableton’s Impulse. In this example I have selected some percussive sounds as well as some tonal samples and tuned everything to work together, then created a simple beat with the samples. Key parameters in setting up Impulse included, pitch, decay, filter, frequency, resonance and mode.
Here’s another example of using a mallet to get sounds out of my piano. In this case, instead of striking the main part of the string, I let the mallet bounce on the small piece of string after the bridge. This part of the piano is traditionally not used to create sound and the pitches are quite high and not tuned, similar to the area between the tuning pegs and the nut of a guitar.
The result is a microtonal collection of tones that just slightly vary in pitch as I drag the mallet across the strings. There is also a warm low frequency ambiance to the recording created by the natural resonance of the piano.
This dissonant phrase of piano was created by using a metal mallet to gently taps the stings on the piano in the upper register. I’ve been experimenting with getting some unique sounds out of my piano by not using the keyboard.
Not all of these recordings are dissonant or unsettling, but these kind of techniques lend themselves to creating nice suspenseful or disturbing passages. Eventually I’ll post some excerpts of some pieces I have created using these sounds.
I always liked the sound this old spring door stop makes when accidentally kicked, but never recorded it until now. I think the fact that its attached to a one hundred two year old wooden door gives is some nice resonance.
This is a basic mono recording originally at 48kHz and 24bit. I plugged my favorite large diaphragm condenser into my M-Audio Firewire 410 with the phantom power enabled. I’m not sure what I might use it for. Perhaps it will make up some percussion in a future track.
In my last post I explained how I rein in random processing behaviors to get the results I’m after. A good processor for randomizing audio is Ableton Live’s Beat Repeat. Beat Repeat effortlessly duplicates the once tedious process of repeating small chunks of a sample to get stuttering effects, but also has parameters to randomize the repetitions in a variety of ways.
For the Rhodes solo in “Six Weeks” I wanted to scramble my performance in some way to match the “broken” drum programming. Beat Repeat was the ticket, but I couldn’t get a complete take that fit well with the rest of the piece. If you look at the image you can see that the solo is made up of fifteen separate regions of audio. These are all abstracted from specific renders of the performance through Beat Repeat. After rendering the audio several times I selected specific phrases and organized them in a way that enhanced the dynamics of the piece, creating a hybrid. Listen to the solo by itself and then to hear it in context play the full track at 2:54.