1. Master your sampler
Chances are the sampler you’re using is capable of more than you’re aware. To maximize power when using samples or resampling, get under the hood with your sampler and make sure you know how to get the most out of it.
For example, the Stretch function in NI Maschine’s sampler is capable of producing some great sounds, especially when you engage the Formant mode. Abusing the Tune and Speed is an effective technique for creating glitched drum hits.
2. Field recording
Another one for unique audio, or something to try when you’re lacking inspiration in the studio. Head outside with a decent handheld microphone (Zoom H5, Tascam DR-40) and capture any sounds you think are interesting or texturally different. Try to be slightly selective about what you record, otherwise you’ll end up with lots to sort through in post. And of course, avoid going out in extreme weather conditions, as you’ll end up with lots of noise on your recordings.
Name the audio files as you record, to give you some context when you import into your editing session. Once captured you can use some of the techniques discussed in this series to further the sounds you’ve captured.
3. FX Chains
Complex FX chains can be an effective way to spice up an otherwise dull or lifeless sound. When using heavy processing try starting with a ‘cleaner’ sound, this may lend itself better to extreme processing. Using creative effects such as distortion, delay/reverb or modulation, consider (or re-consider) the signal chain of your processors, the output of each affecting the input of the next. Applying a filter plugin after a distortion means you’re filtering the distorted signal, whilst vice versa you’re distorting the filtered signal. Both methods will produce a different sound.
Use the LFO on your autofilter to transform audio sources, adding a frequency modulated rhythmic texture. A great method working with loops or vocal chops that you want to modify or add your own flair to. Make sure the LFO is tempo synced and experiment with different LFO shapes, speeds, filter types (such as low pass, hi pass, band pass, notch). Tweak the LFO modulation depth to the desired amount or even dial in some of the Dry sound. Some autofilters feature in-built distortion controls, ideal for driving the sound they will also help to control dynamics when using high resonance values.
5. Learn to layer
Effective layering can make the difference when working with percussive material. Taking the transient from one sound and the body from another, creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its part. This works perfect for making your own bass drums, as long as you EQ each sample correctly, and is also effective for hi-hats, claps/snares. Don’t limit this technique to percussive material, however, layering synths can help produce a thicker and much more defined sound, especially when you consider you can process each layer individually. This technique can become even more effective when you start to think outside the box, take a vocal sample and use this layered with a lead sound (of course, you need to consider pitch implications here), or a percussive sound used with a synth pluck for a stronger transient.