Hey everyone,

Just for fun, I started thinking about what would be possible (and functional) in a sample based rack - for composing orchestral based film music.

This would allow for custom “sample libraries” loaded straight into the rack, and could be recorded from professional DAW based libraries e.g. spitfire, east west, etc. You would then need to be able to sequence all the instruments individually.

What would a theoretical rack look like? What would be the pros/cons to working in eurorack format, versus the normal daw approach? What sequencers are complex enough to create a non-loop based orchestral score? What sample modules have large sampling capabilities - and on a “one sample per note” basis?

Again this is completely theoretical, and I thought would be a fun discussion about the uses of modular - would love to hear your thoughts!


I run a sample-based rack for music. But for what you mentioned there are far better ways to it, than modular.

Akai, Elektron, Native Instruments, and Pioneer all have great sample-based hardware.


I definitely agree that using samples within a daw is the easiest way - I am a film composer and that is how I work daily.

I am wondering what possibilities there are for running a sample based modular rack that incorporates some element of orchestral samples.

Surely there would be greater opportunity for sound design that incorporates the samples, as well as having a new way of approaching writing.


I was referring to hardware, ergo: MPC X, Octatrack MKII, so on - as I know full well the desire to get away from the DAW - my day job.

And modular excels as being a happy accident, song starter, concept, idea-generating machine. As I've run everything from classical to jazz through mine while trying to incorporate them into Techno, House, or Ambient.

Anyways, I can wholeheartedly recommend these samplers.

https://www.modulargrid.net/e/rossum-electro-music-assimil8or
https://www.modulargrid.net/e/1010-music-bitbox-2-0
https://www.modulargrid.net/e/squarp-instruments-rample


Thanks for the suggestions! Haha sorry, I totally missed where you said hardware.

Of your non-modular samplers, is there one that would be able to successfully use orchestral samples? Have you tried something similar/had any success with it?

I’ll check out the module suggestions as well, actually haven’t heard of Rample! Looks like it could helpful in terms of sample grouping…


This isn't the right approach. For one thing, modular samplers tend to be rather limited (by space, storage, and current draw) when compared to a 15-20 year old Akai. Those work differently; you have multisample capability because the RAM isn't as limited, plus some (the late E-Mu ones) offer some interesting resampling capabilities. Contrast that with something like the 1010 Bitbox, where you basically have sixteen monophonic samplers under a global control set and the sample triggers.

What I would suggest would actually be one of the late E-Mu units (E5000, ESI4K) or later Akai (5000 or, if you can find one with the panel, 6000), then stacking this with as much RAM as it'll handle. Then just leave the sampler's OS on its internal drive, and for all of the sample data, get a Gotek or Nalbantov FD replacer so that you can use large SD cards or thumb drives for your sample files as well as any patch save data. Once you've got, say, 256 GB or more for those with rapid media access speeding up the sample load/save process, you've got a seriously hot-rodded hardware sampler.

Now, here's how you factor the modular back into this...

Instead of creating a build that does ALL of the sampling work, create one that ONLY works as a controller system for the sampler. This would have a sequencer, the usual array of modulation sources and cohort modules...but NO sound generation capabilities. Instead, this build needs to use Silent Way (if on PC), Volta (Mac only) or Ableton Live's CV Tools (either) to translate and/or process the outgoing CV/gate/trig signals from the modular, converts this to the appropriate sysex calls, and sends them back out to the sampler WITH the potential for also adding further complexities via the computer's capabilities. Beefier, more robust, and more open-ended.


Thanks for the suggestions! Haha sorry, I totally missed where you said hardware.

Of your non-modular samplers, is there one that would be able to successfully use orchestral samples? Have you tried something similar/had any success with it?

I’ll check out the module suggestions as well, actually haven’t heard of Rample! Looks like it could helpful in terms of sample grouping…
-- ethanlawrence

I haven't, but Biggi Veira uses an Akai MPC2500 to run his whole show including using midi to control the Doepfer modular.


Also, what Lugia said...


Thanks guys!

That sounds awesome Lugia - a few questions:
- Pros/Cons to this approach when compared to a daw?
- What main sequencer could I pair with the sampler? Would have to be complex enough to run a large amount of voices, and not be entirely loop based (continue to move to the next sections of the song), jump to certain sections?
- I’m sure the modulation sources would be helpful in making it feel alive - is there some way to play parts in non quantized? A “humanizer” function (could be done within the rack)?
- Is there a possibility for cv controlled sample switching (e.g. different velocities)? Crossfading between sample velocities?


Modular gear allows for very detailed levels of control by reducing inputs and outputs to absolutely basic levels of performance.

The use of samples or digitally recorded audio in modular is more of an adjunct than a method for sample playback. You'd have less expense and more success using something like an Akai MPC Live MkII. It will allow for you to load libraries of sounds as well as interface with the modular synthesis world.

I would work from that angle.


The use of samples or digitally recorded audio in modular is more of an adjunct than a method for sample playback. You'd have less expense and more success using something like an Akai MPC Live MkII. It will allow for you to load libraries of sounds as well as interface with the modular synthesis world.

That looks like an awesome machine, but seems to be more beat oriented? Doesn’t look like it has the exact tools I’m looking for, although would probably be great for sequencing modular etc.


  • Pros/Cons to this approach when compared to a daw?

Well, it sort of requires a DAW or some other VST host so that you can run the translation from the control skiff's CV/gate/trig outputs to what the outboard sampler wants to see. There are modules that could do this directly, but the ability to precisely calibrate and route the outgoing MIDI calls is something that really belongs in "the box".

  • What main sequencer could I pair with the sampler? Would have to be complex enough to run a large amount of voices, and not be entirely loop based (continue to move to the next sections of the song), jump to certain sections?

There are several that could work here...have a look in the "Sequencer" section and see which of the more complex devices offer the feature set your music requires. Some suggestions: Five12's Vector, Winter Modular's Eloquencer, 1010's Toolbox, Orthagonal's ER-101/102 pair, Zetaohm's FLXS1, Squarp's Hermod, or Malekko's Voltage Block/Varigate 8+ pair. ACL's Sinfonion also works as something of a "sequencing harmonic quantizer", makes a great pairing with any of these.

  • I’m sure the modulation sources would be helpful in making it feel alive - is there some way to play parts in non quantized? A “humanizer” function (could be done within the rack)?

Plenty of those...dig around in the "clock modifiers", "controllers" and/or "utility" sections. There are even stochastic "skip" modules that drop a pulse or two depending on what level of potential change you've dialed in.

  • Is there a possibility for cv controlled sample switching (e.g. different velocities)? Crossfading between sample velocities?

-- ethanlawrence

There should be. In modular, you've got piles and piles of different modules that can be linked together to build just about anything needed. It's just a matter of rooting around on MG until the exact bits pop up. I should note, though, that what you're describing needs a sequencer that's also got storable patches...and yep, there's possibilities all over the place. But since we're really talking about a controller here, what I prefer might not be what works in your situation...that's why I'm keeping things kind of open-ended here.

Although...one other thing that might be of use with a rig of this sort would be Soundmachine's Arches controller. Since everything on that is user-definable, you basically can rewrite what it does on the fly, store values and setups, etc etc etc. That could easily be rigged to send suitable sysex messages to the sampler itself as well.

One other point: the outboard sampler itself is perfect for dealing with multisampled sets, but when you rig that up with a FD replacement that uses SD or thumb drive memory, you can store MASSIVE amounts of sample sets on those when compared with the typical onboard HD found on those. If you'd thought that those old rack samplers were over and done, you really NEED to see what results when you update with one of those FD replacements!


The use of samples or digitally recorded audio in modular is more of an adjunct than a method for sample playback. You'd have less expense and more success using something like an Akai MPC Live MkII. It will allow for you to load libraries of sounds as well as interface with the modular synthesis world.

That looks like an awesome machine, but seems to be more beat oriented? Doesn’t look like it has the exact tools I’m looking for, although would probably be great for sequencing modular etc.
-- ethanlawrence

It's used by a lot of beat makers but it's not limited in that way. When you speak of loading libraries of sounds, especially orchestral, some simple Eurorack sample playback module isn't going to cut it. I'm still chuckling. There would be so much manual set-up to get anything decent. The Eurorack sample playback/recorder hardware is usually very barebones. They aren't going to playback anything close to standardized multi-sampled kits like Kontakt etc. The polyphony is going to lack as well as any tools for management.

Using a standalone hardware sampler that lends itself to modular is going to work a lot better than sampler purpose built for modular.


Using a standalone hardware sampler that lends itself to modular is going to work a lot better than sampler purpose built for modular.

-- Ronin1973

+1


Using a standalone hardware sampler that lends itself to modular is going to work a lot better than sampler purpose built for modular.

-- Ronin1973

+1

-- farkas

+1 here as well. This situation is very much one of those things that modular DOESN'T solve, as we have no real equivalents to something like a Yamaha A3000, Akai 5/6000, et al as a synth module. And given that you can snag a full-blown hardware sampler these days for dimes on the dollar, the cost efficiency definitely tilts this playing field.

...which has a lot to do with why I also own an Akai 6000 and a Triton Rack.


Thanks so much for the input guys!

Agreed that sample based modules don’t have the power/capabilities for what I’m envisioning. Do you think that the hardware sampler approach could match or have any benefits over what orchestral sample libraries already offer?

Rethinking a bit, controlling the rig with modular might be fairly tedious for what I need it to do… What I really want is to get away for the daw format a little bit and play most of the parts in on a keyboard, but use a sequencer to have a hardware interface. Then my Eurorack is just for sound design, and maybe some audio processing after recording. Does this make sense? Or should I just stick with the standard DAW approach?