MUSIC, AMBIENCE AND SOUND ART > Music Gearheads Tech Talk

The creation of Ambient music (for musicians and artists)

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Immersion:
I have been a musician for many years, but it is not until now in the latest years I have got a deep interest in ambient music, especially Steve Roach & Robert Rich but also a lot of dark ambient such as Asianova etc.

I have been creating mostly extreme metal in the past, I have been adding synth pads etc, but now I have come to a point where I want to make ambient music professionally. Since I am a metal guy I am not so sure about the basics about the process of the creation of ambient music. Of course I know a lot already, as that Reverbs are very important, but I really not sure how to create such deep and warm/cold drones as Roach or R.Rich, so really all information tips and advices are very welcome.

I was for many years kind of anti digital technology in ambient, since I thought both Steve Roach, Robert Rich and more artists where far superior in terms of sound quality, but I have since then changes my opinion, we are definitely going in the the digital age, and the digital technology is here to stay.

I have tried many many virtual instruments for computer, recently I did also discover that an control unit for my virtual instruments would open up whole new possibilities to "morph" sounds in real-time, feel free to recommend me control units as well. I have seen Steve Roach use some kind of control unit on stage to form and shape the sounds, would be interesting to know what he use to make such swirling/floating sounds/drones.

I have had a lot of free time this summer, so I have been trying out many different instruments, you can read my impression of these below. Feel free to recommend me other instruments/sample libraries that is worth to try.

Spectrasonics -Atmosphere,

Has good sounds, but it sounds kind of obsolete compared with many products on the market today, but while they might sound good on their own, I do not found many of the sounds useful, this seem to be a problem with many VST instruments, that samples are often very multilayered, and often the sounds are played in more the one note, which is bad if you want to play your own chords, however, I find this instrument mostly useful Psychedelic Trance etc, not so much for deep space/dark ambient  (waiting eagerly  for omnisphere)

Native Instruments - Massive

This is simply the best virtual synth I have tried, compared to everything else I have tried this is by far the most impressive one, the multilayer effects are very impressive. I have yet not gone through all samples yet, but the most relevant samples sections such as pads and atmosphere etc..."Massive" seem to have the same problem as many other Virtual instruments, the samples is way too multilayered, sure it sounds cool alone, but it gets damn hard to use the samples in a the right context, so I really wish it was more "boring" samples such as a lot of pads, not many "normal" or "static" synth pads, which would suit for mor meditative ambient such as Matthias Grassow etc, it seems harder then I thought to get the sound of Grassow, I have yet not succeed.

Native Instruments - Absynth 4

This instrument have a lot of cool sounding samples and sounds, they all sounds hypermordern, so it would be most suitable for electronic music in general I think, less suitable for the ambient music I want to create. About the Samples they got the same problems as "Massive", they sound very good alone, but hard to use them in music.

Native Instruments - FM8

This synth did not give much impression on me, the sound quality is simply not in phase with either Massive or Absynth 4, also the sounds in FM8 does not fit the ambient music I want to create, once again more mordern electronic music.

East West - Colussus

I was in general very disappointed with Colussus, when I read the description that it was selected for the best virtual instrument of the year, I really thought it would be something remarkable, the reality is the quality of the samples does vary, the Drone section have some impressing sounds I must admit, but once again, East west does the mistake to make sounds very very multi-layered, which makes it hard to use the sounds in music. The piano samples sounds fantastic, a lot of the ethnic instruments as well. The "Pads" section needs to be bigger, it was actually very mediocre, it seems very hard to find good usable "pads".

Zero G - Altered States

Hard to believe that this instrument was released 2008, it actually sounds like it is from 1998 or something, these samples are in general very poor sounding.  However, their is still a lot of cool sounding sounds though, but they are not top quality... And the samples are not multi-samples, so each sound is "pitched" unlike for instance NI "Massive" which sounds way more smooth.


Zero G - Outer Limits

This instrument was crafted by Ian Boddy and released in June 2008, so I had high expectations, for ambient music I think this instrument is one of the most useful ones, however you certainly will need more instruments to complement this, but for effects and general strange sounds this is very impressive. Outer limits does include a lot of the sounds I seek, but yet this instrument I will use secondary, to add cool atmospheric and effects in the sounds, however I am not able to create deep/warm/meditative drones ála steve roach/Oophoi/Robert Rich, with this instrument, at least not yet.

Zero-G - Morphology

Also crafted by Ian Boddy, it is very similar to "Outer limits" but not as impressive..
It still have some very impressive sounds and effects, but as all other instruments above, I miss more simple sounds which can actually be used in music, instead of multi-layered samples I prefer to combine own combination of layers on my own..

Native Instruments - Kontakt 3

This instrument is not so recommend for ambient music, but more recommended for other types of music where you need "real instruments" etc, but for ambient music and soundscapes their is better instruments.

----------------------------

What I am thinking of trying during the coming months is "Convolution Space" by best service.
http://www.bestservice.de/detail.asp/en/plug_ins_vi_synthesizer/convolution_space/202083a193p173p209p52
I am very eager to try this instrument, this seem to cover a lot of my kneeds, especially when creating more dark and esoteric space/cosmic ambient.

also "the black box" seems interesting, but I am still skeptical of the sound quality of these samples, since they are kind of old.
http://www.bestservice.de/search.asp/en/202083a193p173p209p52



mgriffin:
Hello Ekstasis, and welcome to the Hypnos Forum.

That's quite a big, long post to read.  My quick response to what you've written is that you might be best served by learning a few synthesizers very well, and using them to create sounds of your own rather than using presets. You might find that a given synth, for example Absynth, has a completely different character once you move past the presets and get into programming it yourself, from scratch.

The same idea goes for sample libraries... if you use them as a significant part of your own work then you're unlikely to come up with a sound that is your own.

ffcal:
Hello Ekstasis.  Have you worked with analog synths before?  If not, I think you might find analog synths or software analog synth emulators like the Arturia Moog more transparent in showing you how electronic sound is created.  From there, I would add in effects such as echo and reverb, but too many effects at the outset may make difficult to troubleshoot what you are hearing in case you want to modify it.  Those presets you are describing probably have quite a few effects attached to them.

Forrest

Immersion:

--- Quote from: mgriffin on July 31, 2008, 01:05:45 PM ---Hello Ekstasis, and welcome to the Hypnos Forum.

That's quite a big, long post to read.  My quick response to what you've written is that you might be best served by learning a few synthesizers very well, and using them to create sounds of your own rather than using presets. You might find that a given synth, for example Absynth, has a completely different character once you move past the presets and get into programming it yourself, from scratch.

The same idea goes for sample libraries... if you use them as a significant part of your own work then you're unlikely to come up with a sound that is your own.

--- End quote ---

Hello M. Griffin, it is really nice to see you here on the forum, since I know your music, and like it really much.
I would really like to know how you create such deep sounds.

When you say "synthesizers" I assume virtual synthesizers are included, cause from what I know viritual synthesizers are now days better then hardware synthesizers for many reasons.

And yes you are right, the key in creating ambient sounds must be the knowledge to morph and shape sounds. I have not experimented much with that,more about going through thousands and thousands of samples. Using the mod wheel on my Korg K61 keyboard can sometimes give positive results, however, I have come to the conclusion I need some kind of control unit, which I can control the virtual synthesizers on the computer, and maybe some kind of footpedals ?
And a control unit to control the mixer in Cakewalk Sonar I guess would be very useful also.
What DAW controllers are recommended ?

I am really interested to know how ambient musicians do work when creating the music.
I have a lot of knowledge when it comes to recording already, but when it comes to ambient music I am not as experienced. But I find it important to have the right software/hardware setup, to get a good work flow to begin with..since this is very fundamental especially in this type of music which is all about the "flow". I want to create myself conditions where the technology do not limit my inner creativity/ideas, the music should be an reflecting mirror of the music in your mind,  to process of creating music is about transform this abstract inner essence into what we call  "music. As it is now, I feel I do not create music from the inside, but from the outside.


mgriffin:
I would say you're focusing too much on "which tool do I need?" and not enough on doing interesting things with whatever tools you have.

I'd like to think that I could make an interesting album using just about any kind of sound source, using the right kinds of effects, and putting the sounds together in the right way.  Many beginners aspiring to make ambient music make the mistake of worrying too much about the huge number of choices for sound sources, keyboard controllers, effects units, audio interfaces, software, computer hardware, and so on.

To me, that's like an aspiring architect spending years worrying about what brand of paper and pencils to buy, instead of just sketching buildings and thinking about design, about space and surface and texture and light. 

Seriously, who cares what DAW control surface you have?  I don't even have a DAW control surface, and most people use DAW software just fine without one.

Just get a couple of synths or a synth and a sampler, throw out the presets and create sounds from scratch that sound interesting to you, get a good reverb and maybe an EQ and some kind of a mixer (or a multi-channel audio interface and you can do the mixing in your computer).  After a lot of work and experimentation and trial and error, if you can't make decent ambient music using those tools, then the problem isn't the tools.

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