Persona Digital

Music Studio Technology

Persona Studio


Audio Samples & Audio Clips

EMU Proteus

Sound Samples are waveforms converted to digital files, often using the wav format. Digital files can be stored easily in libraries for easy access. Given the right software, digital sound samples can be edited, analyzed, combined and turned into programs playable on electronic keyboards. Most voice production in current synthesizers are based on banks of sound samples. Sound Samples are audio waveforms converted to digital files, often using the wav format (44.1 KHz sample rate at a 16 bit depth). Digital files can be stored easily in libraries for easy access. Given the right software, digital sound samples can be edited, analyzed, combined and turned into programs (presets) playable on electronic keyboards. Most current synthesizers are based on banks of sound samples. Sound samples can also be used as clips in an audio editor or turned into acid loops that have pitch and timing information included. A subculture of loop "music" now dominates Pop and Dance music. There remains a healthy skepticism that all of this loop activity had little or no relationship to music as an art form, despite the loopers' claims that they were "artists". However, there is no doubt that some loopers are commercial successes and their influence on the music business has been overwhelming, at least for the teenage and young adult market. Some of us hope this will be a temporary aberration, soon to be remedied by more knowledgeable and skilled musicians.

EMU and Proteus

EMU produced a library of samples that were popular in studios. In 1971, Dave Rossum and friends from Cal Tech built an analog synthesizer they called E µ . Later with Scott Wedge, Dave formed a company and the name became E-mu They advertised their products in Popular Electronics and in Electronotes, a newsletter for engineers. In 1973, E-mu introduced a digitally-scanned polyphonic keyboard, which featured a built-in digital sequencer, the protype of the EMU modules I continue to use. In 1979 they were inspired by the high end Fairlight CMI and began designing a sampling keyboard - the E-mulator was first released in 1981.

They also created sample libraries that were incorporated into their sample-based synthesizers. I rushed to the music store in 1989 when the sound module, EMU Proteus, first appeared. This was a truly polyphonic sound module, based on digital samples. The sounds were crisp and clear. Mixes with the Proteus were better that I could achieve with other synths. I have been an EMU Proteus fan ever since.

In this EMU Emulator X3 editor window, a rhythm sound sample has been analyzed and deployed with beat notation. The sample can be modified in a variety of ways. The amplitude, tempo and pitch can be altered. The waveform can be passed through a number of filters that alter the sound. To create an instrument, the sample has to be the equivalent of one note that has an attack, sustain, decay envelope. The sample is then assigned to one or more keys on the keyboard.

EMU X2 sample edit window.

Samples are assigned to different keys.
The keyboard becomes a multi-instrument controller.

A sample or mix of samples can be used to create musical instruments that can be played on a keyboard or with another midi controller. Assigning samples to notes on the keyboard is the beginning, followed by molding the sounds with a variety of functions. The next step is to create amplitude envelops that determine the attack, sustain and decays characteristics of the sound.

Audio Clips for Sale

For several years, sound samples have been offered as building blocks in instant music programs. No musical knowledge or instrumental skills are required. Sound clips are inserted into a song sequence and repeated. A groove sample may be a recording of drums, base and rhythm guitar in a specific style. A pop or dance piece would require an intro, grooves for verse, chorus and bridge and an ending.

Many programs have been created for assembling audio clips into compositions. Pre-recorded audio clips can be pasted together even by beginners with no musical knowledge or performance skills to simulate a composition. Loops are audio clips that are repeated with little or no modification. Sonic Foundry (1998) created the first loop-based, music-sequencing software, Acid, that was marketed by Sony as the Acid Pro and a lite version, Acid Music Studio. Acidized audio samples contain tempo and key information so that the program could time stretch and pitch shift the audio recording. Other programs were developed to use audio clips (loops) such as Ableton Live and Apple's Garage Band. In Cakewalk programs, acid loops are referred to as groove clips. In a Sonar audio track display, loops can be moved, copied, pasted and extended for the desired number of repetitions. Libraries of loops became the source material for commercial Music?

An entire subculture of loop "music" developed. Some commercially successful recordings in dance genres, hip hop and rap were constructed entirely from acid loops. There remains a healthy skepticism that all of this loop activity had little or no relationship to music as an art form, despite the loopers' claims that they were "artists". However, there is no doubt that some loopers are commercial successes and their influence on the music business has been overwhelming, at least for the teenage and young adult market. Some of us hope this will be a temporary aberration, soon to be remedied by more knowledgeable and skilled musicians.

Ableton Live

Ableton live is software from a clever group of musician-programmers in Berlin. They describe their DAW: ”Live is software for creating musical ideas, turning them into finished songs, and even taking them onto the stage. With two views - the classic Arrangement View, where musical ideas are laid out along a timeline, and the unique Session View, where you can improvise and quickly experiment with musical ideas. Live is a fast, fun, intuitive way to make music. No matter how you start your music, Live offers a workflow that will help you get going. Record audio or MIDI from any source. Mix and match loops and samples from any tempo. Work with a huge range of included sounds, instruments, and effects. You can even move seamlessly from audio to MIDI; using Live’s unique audio-to-MIDI conversion tools, turn drum breaks, guitar lines, or even harmony parts into MIDI patterns that you can edit and reuse with your own sounds.”

The session view is an Ableton creation that invites you to combine audio clips with midi segments and sound effects.  I have devoted hours to learning Live in 2017, but have not used the program to create new pieces. The program becomes powerful using looping audio samples and an array of sound processing effects. MIDI can control plug in software synthesizers so that an entire studio can be housed in one computer. There are many video tutorials and performances on YouTube. Many video tutorials  are free and some courses are low cost.


  • Topics presented at Persona Digital Studio are from the book,
    The Sound of Music
    by Stephen Gislason.
    Click the Download button to order the eBook 

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    Persona Digital Studio is located on the Sunshine Coast, Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada.

    Persona Music Recordings: Our Music Catalogue includes recorded performances under the names P2500 Band, Em4U, and the Persona Classical Consort. Some music online is offered to illustrate music history, advance music education and appreciation. The recordings presented online demonstrate Persona Studio's composing, arranging, recording and mastering techniques. All the recordings are completed in house by Stephen Gislason.

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