Composer turned sample developer Wilbert Roget, II has just released a new ‘indie’ sample library called Impact:Steel. We spoke with him to find out more about how and why he created the library and how creating his own sample libraries plays into his composition.
CDM: First, can you tell us a bit about your background, and how you got into composing and music?
Wilbert Roget, II:Well to keep things short, I’m basically a lifer with music and composition, studying piano early on and doing improvisations almost immediately (if not before). I decided on film and video game composition as a career sometime in high school, and went on to study composition, orchestration, and conducting at Yale University. I’ve been scoring films, games, ads, and various other projects ever since.
CDM:What got you into sample library creation – specifically for Impact: Steel?
WR:I’ve been making my own samples ever since I’d been scoring video games, back in the DLS era. I created Impact: Steel specifically because I had lots of musical ideas for my soundtracks that would’ve used metallic percussion, but no commercially-available libraries had the kind of instruments I wanted. Several years ago, I’d recorded a few metal objects I found in my room into a useful (albeit low-quality) soundfont, which ended up being the inspiration for Impact: Steel as it is now.
As a side note, it wasn’t until about halfway through production that I decided to release it commercially instead of keeping it private.
CDM:What goes into making a sample library? Did you just collect a bunch of noisemakers and record them, or did you have some kind of a plan before recording?
WR:Actually, I’d been collecting most of these “instruments” for years – I have a weird habit of just tapping on things and taking note of what kind of sound it makes. Since I already had the instruments, I had a good idea right away of what kinds of articulations I’d use. Each instrument is heavily multisampled, with up to 9 velocity layers and 3 round robin variations per each of the 73 different articulations (on different parts of the instrument, with different beaters, rolls, scrapes, tremolos, etc.). So I really needed a detailed outline on paper that detailed what exactly to play, in what order, specifying mixer settings and even microphone distances.
CDM:Can you tell us a bit about the process of recording your samples?
WR:Sure! As I mentioned before, it’s almost impossible to do any kind of a large-scale project without a printed cue sheet. Mine even had specifics on the number of variations, “safety” takes, exact playing position on the instruments, and so on. I’d say once you’ve done that, it’s a good idea to do several prototype recordings, not only to check levels but also to get a sense of how it’ll sound in your sampler of choice.
As for the actual recording phase, I recommend trying to do as much as possible in one take, and splitting the files up later. This helps maintain a consistent sound throughout the instrument, which is crucial for getting an organic, convincingly realistic patch. If you made a cue sheet, it should be very easy to figure out exactly what’s playing when you’re editing the large recording files.
And again I really think it’s a great idea to have a good sense of what kind of a sound you’ll want in the end. In my case, I knew I wasn’t gonna get a huge “recorded in a giant hangar” sound, and I also didn’t want a pristine and surgically-dry tone either. So instead I adjusted my mixer, EQ settings, and mic positions to get a nice room sound, not too dry and with some air/ambience. EQing at the recording stage (ie. right on the mixer) also gave my samples a clearer and more powerful bass, with high end presence as well.
CDM:From the point of raw samples, what comes next?
WR:After the recording phase, there’s the editing phase and then the implementation and sampling phase. In editing, you’re basically splitting it up into samples and doing whatever post-processing you’ll need. Sampling is where you plug all the samples into your sampler of choice.
In my case, I threw the samples into Kontakt 2 and played around with them a lot before going back and post-processing them; this helped to get a sense of what kinds of edits and effects I’d need. The final product sounds remarkably different as a result, and I almost never needed to use real-time effects in Kontakt to compensate.
I’ll also point out that I wrote demo tracks not only to show off the library, but also to get firsthand experience with it myself. This helped me figure out what kinds of tweaks the end users were likely to implement, and it gave me a lot of ideas for making the library more ergonomic and playable.
CDM:Do you find that creating samplebanks is easier in one particular format vs. another?
WR:I’m not sure how diplomatic I should be here, but, far and away Kontakt 2 was the best editor I’ve ever worked with. I’ve used lots of other editors in the past, starting off with soundfonts and DLS, and Gigastudio; nothing really compares to how powerful and easy it was to build patches in Kontakt 2. In fact, I think I’ve built new Kontakt instruments for every one of my recent film soundtracks, either editing an existing patch to fit a certain musical context or even inventing something completely new. It’s highly addictive!
CDM:What makes Impact: Steel different from some of the other ‘junk percussion’ libraries available?
WR:I think the fundamental difference is that I never really considered Impact: Steel as being “junk percussion”, but rather a library built around the concept of metallic percussion instruments. One effect is that I:S is made of detailed, organic and ergonomically playable instruments, instead of being a collection of single hits and sound effects. Additionally, its basis on an abstract concept also meant that I could include a diverse range of patches that fit the idea of a metallic sound world, such as textures, swells, colossal hits and other FX patches.
CDM:From a business perspective, what’s next for Impact: Steel? Do you plan on marketing, licensing or selling the library to a larger company, what types of distribution, etc.
WR:At the moment, I’m handling all sales and marketing through my own sample development company, Impact Soundworks. I already have some other sample library ideas in mind for the months to come, so stay tuned!
CDM:Do you have any recommendations or advice for other composers or creators who might like to try their hand at creating a sample library?
WR:I think every composer should try and make some of their own samples, or at least tweak their existing commercial libraries so that they’re less recognizable. Ultimately I only made Impact: Steel just to give my own music a new and unique sound that hadn’t been done before. My advice to people trying to make a commercial library is to choose a subject that hasn’t been done a million times already, or at least take a different approach to it.
Our take: I’ve been playing with Impact:Steel for a little over a week now and it has already found a place in my regular sample library. As the demos on the site suggest, it works extremely well to add metallic flavor and impact to your compositions. I’ve found it really wants to be ‘played’ – that is, I find it hard to not want to smash my keys while I’m playing with the samples! Those with something like the M-Audio Trigger Finger or some Roland drum-pads will be greatly rewarded with the playability and musicality of this library. Here’s an excerpt from ambient demo I’m working on now, showcasing some of the ‘Clang Ensembles’ from Impact:Steel. Be sure to check out the official site for more. Enjoy!