Free Ableton Live Instruments for Tape Hiss and Vinyl Crackle for your tracks and synths!
Last week I received an email from Oliver Chesler, aka The Horrorist, who writes an extraordinarily useful and informative blog called “Wire to the Ear.” He is always amazingly on point and up to date, whether with production advice, great music, or the latest audio/ iOS gear. Oliver asked if I do request for Ableton Live Instruments (which of I try my best on); he was looking for samples of cassette tape hiss. While there’s an assortment of plugin emulators of the tape sound (including Ableton’s Vinyl distortion which I used on this freebie), as we all know, there’s nothing quite like the original. Funnily enough, just the day before I was looking for samples from vinyl records, and one of the samples I got the most use out of was just the vinyl crackle right before the music starts playing. So, naturally I thought Oliver’s suggestion was a good one.
After busting out my old Ka-Boom Box, and dusting off what remains of my cassette tape collection, I started sampling empty sections of the tapes. While I was at it, I took out some vinyl records of varying condition, sampled those, and grabbed a few minutes of tape noise from my Tascam Reel to Reel (the bad boy used on the Super Tape Drums Ableton Pack). I’ve used those samples to create a pretty excellent Ableton Live Pack for you all! Here’s what you get:
2. A drum rack with the different samples, complete with controls for hi pass filtering, attack, release, and sample start and looping properties. By messing with the sample properties, you can get some glitchy/ granular sounding effects on your ambient tape and vinyl noise. This is great for doing the same as above or creating something a bit more rhythmical.
The third deserves some explanation; I’m really digging on this one. It is an instrument rack with two chains. One chain has all the tape and vinyl sounds. There are macros that allow you to cycle through the different samples and adjust the volume. The second chain is for you to place any synth of your choice. The result is that your synth sounds as if it came from either tape or vinyl. To get this sounding just right I had to work a little Ableton magic…
The first thing I recommend, is to set the release time of your synth and the vinyl samples to the same value. This way they fade out exactly the same, just like a real sample would. Next, in order to prevent the vinyl sample from changing pitch as I play different notes, I set the scale control on Sampler to 0%. Ordinarily this is at 100%, spreading your samples pitch properly across the keys. By setting it to zero, the sample stays at the same pitch on every key. The next problem I encountered was that every time I hit a new note, the vinyl/tape sample would play from the beginning. This was not a problem on longer sustained notes, but on short fast ones, it sounded fake and machine gun like. To solve this problem, I modulate the sample offset with a slow random LFO (retrigger off). Now every time a note is played, the sample starts at a different location, for a more natural sound. Finally, I set the voices to 1, so that the noise doesn’t accumulate when holding down multiple keys.
I love this last rack, I will definitely be using it a lot to give my virtual instruments some character and life. I hope you do too, download below!
Please check out my performance from last Friday at Big Snow in Brooklyn, NY. I’m really happy with how it came out, it was an amazing night!