Figuring out sounds

October 14th, 2018
contra, jammer, music
One of the most frustrating aspects of playing an electronic instrument is figuring out sounds. You're not constrained to what a physical instrument can make, so the range of possibilities is enormous, but it's hard to figure out what sort of sound I'd like to make, let alone what sound (virtual instrument) would do a good job at that

The instruments I'm using right now are piano, kick drum, hi-hat, accordion, jawharp, sax, and bass. While at some point I might use different sounds on different sets, for now I'm just trying to find one sound I like for each instrument. That's currently:

  • Piano: Alexander Holm's Salamander Grand Piano, which is based on samples from a Yamaha C5. It's pretty good, but not ideal. I thought I wasn't that picky about piano sounds, and I like the built-in sound on my Yamaha P85, but after listening to a bunch of sounds I don't like most of them. I like it better than any of the ones listed on bigcat's list, and it's Creative Commons. I'd be open to buying something, but (a) it's really hard to tell if I'd like the way I'd sound on one before trying it, (b) it's really hard to tell if it would sound good in a hall, and (c) maybe my current one is fine. (example)

  • Kick Drum: the standard kick from Frank Wen's FluidR3. Another open source sound font. This is very basic, and a little electronic sounding, but I think it's good enough. (example)

  • Hi-hat: FluidR3 as well. (example)

  • Accordion: FluidR3 again, attack pinned to 100%, and breath pressure mapped to volume. (example)

  • Jawharp: Rhodes EP from FluidR3, attack pinned to 100%, breath pressure mapped to volume, and note triggering on breath pressure passing a threshold, which limits the audible attack. (example)

  • Sax: SWAM tenor sax. I like this one a lot: several people have commented on how realistic it sounds when played live. (example)

  • Bass: I don't have something I like here. I play this with my feet, and can mostly just do downbeats and upbeats, so my goal is to have something that fills out the low end without being in your face. FluidR3's Acoustic Bass is what I've been using, but eh. Part of my problem here is I don't know what sound I want. Acoustic bass? Electric bass? Something synthy? Not really sure. (example)

Do other people have virtual pianos they like? Or ideas for what sort of sound to go for with the footbass?

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