How I create my sampled instruments

This post is for all of you who are wondering what a sampled instrument is and how it works.

Today you don't need "real" instruments to create music. There is a whole world of virtual instruments which you get access to with only a laptop and a keyboard.

I love my authentic instruments but sampled libraries give you an even greater universe of sounds instantly.

First, of course, I need inspiration and decide what instrument to create. This can be one instrument straight away or a complete sample library with a concept.

My very first sampled instrument was Fingerpicked Guitars. This instrument consists of the sounds from two very different guitars: a steel-stringed Guild guitar, that you can see on the photo, plus my mother's old Levin nylon school guitar. The vision here was to create a fingerpicked guitar sound that is production ready. Recording two guitars that play the same notes is a common recording method as it creates a rich guitar sound, and I wanted to recreate that. There are many sampled guitars out there but Fingerpicked Guitars is different as it consists of two guitars that sound at the same time.

The next step is to check the physical instruments themselves. Maybe change the strings, do some cleaning and tuning. After that it's time to find a good microphone position. I could use one or more microphones, record in mono or in stereo.

Marcos Ciscar playing fingerpicked guitar in his studio

The recording process consists of recording all the notes I need for the project and also additional fret noises. For a good guitar sound you need to record every single note many times and with variations in strength. Often times I record everything repeatedly so that when the user plays a key on the keyboard more than once it helps to avoid the infamous "sampling" effect of repetition.

When the recording is done I analyze it and make edits in my DAW (digital audio workstation) Reaper. I then create all the different note files needed for my instruments to work in Kontakt.

Marcos Ciscar DAW Reaper sampled instrument

What is Kontakt? Well, it is the leading software sampler by Native Instruments and it's used by a large number of musicians around the world. It is what the old Akai S-1000 hardware sampler was back in the 80s. I had five Akai samplers in that era and I remember the film music composer Hans Zimmer having a wall of Akai samplers! In that time you needed so much equipment to create music but as you can see that's not the case today.

Now, all the individual note files are ready and they have to be put in place within Kontakt. Every note on the keyboard that has a corresponding note on the physical guitar needs to be there. I then do lots and lots of test-playing, demos for promotion etc.

Marcos Ciscar Sampled instrument Loot Audio

Finally, the instrument is promoted and sold through Loot Audio in the UK. You can then purchase it and use it for any of your musical projects. I get a lot of feedback from users that let me know how they use it. Sometimes it's for demos of guitar parts later being recorded by a real guitarist but many times my instruments end up in the final production of a song. It makes me very happy to hear that my instruments inspire composition and production!

In this video I improvise a bit on Fingerpicked Guitars 2. If you close your eyes while listening and imagine two guitar players sitting side by side, I think you can come pretty close to the real deal.