What does it take to make a custom Kontakt instrument for a top-tier composer? Read on to get some insight on the functionality, recording and editing process and everything else behind it all.
The composer had already began working on the project, starting out with your typical, commercially-available world music Kontakt libraries. Of course, these libraries had limitations, and he wanted more unique sounds and loops in the form of a custom library.
What the composer was looking for:
The main type of sounds he was looking for were percussion and tuned percussion with more wood-like tones and hand drums. Given the nature of the film, metallic or electronic-sounding percussion was a no-go for him. His musical vision pointed him towards ethnic, smaller percussion instruments, such as the slit drum.
What we did:
As we started our work, we first had to determine what instruments we wanted to sample, where we would sample them, and what functionality his Kontakt instrument would have. Our only direction was that he wanted a very simple interface with a couple of effects. To build our instrument list, we consulted a number of percussion players for their insight. Eventually, we settled on using the following 13: cajonga, chenda, dholak, ghatam, gourdaphone, kanjira, khol, log drums, mridangam, pakhawaj, shakers, slit drums and slit log drums.
When it came to recording the instruments we selected, some of them were recorded in Los Angeles. But to really get that South Asian touch, we went to the epicenter of these percussion instruments - Bangalore, India - where we recorded with local musicians. The recording process in Bangalore was interesting, in that the session players had to imagine how their loops would end up sounding when being used in a score. Generally, Indian session percussionists are more accustomed to performing for a song that has a backing track, while in this case, the goal was to allow them to come up with improvisations based on how they could picture their rhythmic patterns being used in a “jungle” setting. These improvisations were later edited to pick the best selection of loops and phrases.
Geek Section - Kontakt Functionality and Audio Editing:
After gathering all the recordings, it was on to sample chopping, mixing, editing and mapping within the Kontakt instrument. He was looking for simple and complex patterns that range from minimal to very busy, and he wanted these mapped accordingly on his keyboard.
As for the audio itself, the sounds were straightforward multi-mic recordings, which we polished off with some simple noise reduction, mixing, and cleanup. We also made some timing adjustments in order to fit his need for flexibility in the rhythm section. We used multi-sampled versions of the one shots where applicable, and captured as many hits as seemed appropriate for the project’s requirements. A big shout out to the production team and players for delivering top-notch sounds and recordings!
The Kontakt instrument was comprised of banks of loops and either one shots or multi-sampled versions of the 13 percussion instruments. Key switches and drop-down menus were also incorporated for selecting each instrument, which then pulled up a collection of loops, phrases, and one shots mapped across the keyboard. This ensured that he could easily recombine and audition various elements per instrument. We also added a step sequencer along with key switches for half/normal/double tempo and FX (which included filter, lo-fi, distortion, flanger, phaser, delay, reverb and a limiter). The bottom center of the GUI was designed to display the sample name, time signature and BPM the audio loops were recorded in. Each instrument had separated octaves dedicated to loops, phrases and one shots with velocity sensitivity.
The instrument was mainly used for mock-ups and augmented with an amazing percussion section. After the cues got approved, the composer enlisted musicians to replace these mock-ups for final recordings.
Our work on this instrument inspired our new JUNGLE LOOPS sample library, now available for only $49
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