VS4: A Handful of Snares

Hi. I’m back with another tutorial. I’ve been making quite atmospheric sounds for the first three episodes so I wanted to mix things up a little in this 4th part.

So let’s get down to it. This time we’ll be using a snare drum sample. Nice and simple:

One of my all time favourite sound creation technique has to be making lengthy random sounds and picking the good moments by chopping them up. The great thing about this approach is, using long-term random movements can yield a lot of happy accident moments that you can’t usually produce otherwise. For me, it’s been an endless source material for a huge variety of sounds. (Basses, atmospherics, hits, fx etc.)

My approach is simple: Make a long sound. Keep it random and evolving. Chop it up and reuse as necessary. And to start it off for this snare drum sample, I’m using the awesome “freeze” process under “extend” category. It’s like a granular timestretch algorithm that’s quite easy to use and usually generates a very usable output. My settings are like this.

One of the most important parameters here is “delay”. It’s kind of like a grain size setting. High values aren’t always interesting for me as they can end up being too disjointed but keeping it close to 0 can produce nice metallic sounds. Somewhere close to the minimum values however, it can make a smooth and natural granular texture, and that’s how I usually set it up. “Rand” setting is also normally helpful (which I believe scatters the grain position), but I haven’t enabled it here as I’m getting all the randomness I want out of the “ampcut” parameter, which seems to randomize the grain volume. The snare sample ended up like this:

At this point, we have a 5 second long random texture. It’s quite harsh and lacks any tonal character so it’s a good idea to try to impose some.

And I’m doing that by “blur-scatter” which not only does introduce some tonality, but also thins out the spectrum and adds more randomness. It’s setup is here. The “points” setting here is quite crucial to keep the sound a bit more organic. If you can’t find a good balance between the “keep” parameter and that, the sound can get very digital and weird pretty quickly. Here’s how that sounds:

The sound is quite usuable at this point too but it’s a bit harsh and I wanted something more so I ended up using “focus-focus step”. It isn’t a process I use often and to be honest I’m not sure what it precisely does, but in this case it adds a cool sample-and-hold effect that softens it and spices things up a little. My settings. And the final sound:

The sounds made by using the chop-up-long-random-samples technique I’ve described earlier can sound a bit silly on their own but when chopped up and sequenced properly in the right context, they can be quite fun. So I made a little demo to demonstrate that just by using the final sample. It’s cut up, processed a little and sequenced in a rough manner.

And that’s all for this post, I hope you find it useful. As always, all samples are free to download, comments & feedback welcome.