8/10/16 by Artist Relations Manager - Aaron Tosti

In the online stock music world, people expect loads of ‘fake’, lifeless music to have to sift through. It’s easy to pull up a sample bank, lay down an idea, tap out some drums, quantize, bounce and upload. However, our members can smell stale samples from a mile away, and they’ll pass on a track when they get a whiff of them even if the underlying arrangement is incredible. 

It’s impossible to beat the efficiency and affordability of virtual instruments. In a world where production speed is key, VI’s can play a vital role in any studio. However, we've seen that even a small splash of good ole human analog will go a LONG way in a production made up of primarily VI’s. A shaker, an acoustic, an old upright, some humming… Just one or two of these kinds of elements will liven up a production in amazing ways. Robotic can quickly become authentic. Dull can quickly become vibrant. It’s simple, but incredibly effective. In fact, every single tune in the top 20 most licensed tracks in the Soundstripe library have at least 1 (more commonly 3-4) of these 'human elements'. 

We collected some ideas, suggestions and things to look out for in regard to VI’s and samples from our awesome community. Big thanks to all of you that contributed to this pool of information on “the human element”.
 

While tracking / mixing your next production, periodically ask...

Does this track / take / sound:

have character?
feel alive? 
have warmth? 
have human dynamics (velocity)?
sound played by a person?

 

Top 3 danger zones with VI’s and samples to keep a close ear on…

 

1) Piano - Especially when it’s a focal instrument, mind velocities and reverbs! Close your eyes. Can you visualize a person actually playing an acoustic piano naturally in front of you? If you can’t, keep tweaking. 

2) Strings - When possible, layer fake strings with the real deal. If that’s not possible, either tuck them back in the mix or commit to a more obviously fake “synth string” patch. The worst is to fall into the sonic equivalent to the “uncanny valley” (Google it. It’s creepy).

3) Drums - Especially cymbals. Cymbals are very difficult to fake well. Drums are incredibly dynamic by nature. Repetitious velocities, missing ghost notes and room noise are easily recognizable. Tape saturators, side chain compression, multiple reverbs and layered samples can really help here.
 

Highly recommended sample libraries:
 

Alicia Keys by Native Instruments

LA Scoring Strings by Audiobro

Damage by Native Instruments

Abbey Road Keyboards by - Propellerhead

Symphobia by Project Sam

The Giant by Native Instruments