NN19 digital Sampler

In our series of Close-Ups it’s now time to look at the NN19 sampler.

Since the first digital samplers started to appear during the early 80’s, samplers have evolved from primarily being used to reproduce existing instruments to becoming instruments in their own rights. In fact, the sampler has been one of the main influences on modern music during the 90’s and producers have used them for such diverse tasks as spinning in vocals, create drum grooves, play music loops, emulate acoustic instruments, create unique sounds, remix and….. Well the list goes on and on.

For a detailed description of all the parts of NN19, please go here.

In reality the NN19 is a sampler, capable of loading and playing any wav or aiff audio file, so NN19 can be used for any of the processes described above. But because of NN19’s integration in to Reason, its possible to do stuff with this sampler, never done with any other sampler. But before we start lets point out that NN19 does in fact, not sample at all. As all Reason compatible Pc's and Mac's have a sound recording facility, adding a recording option to Reason, would make little sense.

Patches & Samples

There are two ways of getting sound out of NN19: Load a single wav/aiff sample or load a sampler patch.

Loading a single wav/aiff file will instantly transpose the audio across the keyboard by speeding up or slowing down the playback of the sample. The NN19 can import and play mono or stereo files.

This is of course a simple and quick way of creating interesting and artificial sounds. To create a more realistic emulation of, say, a piano, we need to multi sample the instrument with enough samples to ensure that each note is not transposed more than a few semi tones.

Now, there are also two ways of creating a multi sample patch:

loading all samples first and use the "automap" function located in the edit menu, to provide a starting point for the key mapping.

or

Create key zones first and loading samples into the desired locations afterwards.

Key Zones & Sample Control

Each sample/key zone has parameters for fine tuning, level and loop "forward, forward-backward and off". Zones are easily selected on the graphical keyboard or by using midi. Serious sound designers will need to use a dedicated editor such as Wavelab or Spark to set loop points as the NN19 is not intended to provide these options. NN19 loop, by default, from the end of the sample to the beginning and as already mentioned, in a forward or forward-backward movement. We will explore opportunities to create unique sounds using the set loop points provided, a bit later.

If a sample has not been edited correctly and start a bit late or has an attack which we would prefer to avoid, the "sample Start" selector will let us move the playback start point. This means that its possible to jump past an attack, effectively ignoring the start of the sample, but without altering the original. "Sample Start" can also be controlled by velocity which means that it could be possible to avoid the initial attack while playing a key soft and introduce more of the attack as its played harder.

Mono and Poly Options

Just like the Subtractor, NN19 has a polyphony selector from 1 to 99 notes and a triggering mode selectable between legato and retrigger. This, combined with portamento, means that NN19 is one of the few samplers that provide a useful monophonic mode.

The Sound Library

But what is a sampler without a decent library? There is of course already tons of material instantly compatible with NN19 but we thought that it would be a good idea to at least provide bread and butter sounds ranging from Grand Piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3, Clavinett and Synths to Strings, Brass & Woodwind, Guitars, Ethnic Percussion, Mallets and Choirs. In fact 294 different sampler patches are all included.

Audio example - Sampler patches
The grand piano patch requiring a total of 13Mb Ram (performance a bit ropy, but you’ll get the idea) download mp3 (760kb)

So how do I create more samples?

Well there are 2 ways:

1) Sample anything you like by recording it as a wav/aiff file on your hard drive. Most computers are supplied with a soundcard or operating system with software to do this.

2) Create interesting multi layered sound collages in Reason complete with effects and panning etc. Export the final result as an audio file. Providing all instruments used in the collage play the same root key the resulting sound can easily be used as an instrument. One sample transposed across the whole keyboard is usually enough to create a useful sound. It is also very likely that the sound will loop quite happily, particularly if you are using the “forward-backward” loop mode. This method really does give Reason infinite sound creation capabilities

Audio examples - Creating samples with Reason
Example1: Sound created using 3 Subtractors and one NN19 plus loads of Phaser as you can tell (performance in the style of Genesis. Sorry, we promise not to do it again) download mp3 (167kb)
Example2: Sound created using 4 Subtractors played in 3 octaves. Same sound used for all synth parts, bass and drums are other instruments download mp3 (117kb)

The Matrix, Modulation & Other interesting idea’s

Ok so now we’ve been through how to create source sounds using unconventional methods. But the NN19 of course has a great filter section, LFO and envelops. So yes, you can create countless variations on even basic samples and the NN19 to a large extend behaves like a synth, once we have gone past the initial sampling stage.

Another, not immediately obvious feature is to use the filter envelope to control oscillator pitch.

But there is more…… Turning the NN19 around there are some pretty interesting connection options. For instance, how about controlling the resonance with NN19’s own LFO or open the filter with a drum beat from Dr Rex.

Modulation inputs include Oscillator, Filter, Filter Resonance, Level or Modulation Wheel (giving even further options). Modulation out can be sent by the Filter Envelope or LFO and Gate Inputs are available for the Amp or Filter Envelope.

Audio examples - Modulation and other goodies
Brass patch played in monophonic legato mode with portamento, jump panning and Sample Start controlled by velocity. download mp3 (50kb)
Sampler playing the second collage sound with pitch envelope download mp3 (170kb)
Example: Here we control NN19’s resonance with the Matrix curve and bandwidth filter using Matrix notes. The actual chords are played from a sequencer track and a drum beat has been added to indicate the down beats. download mp3 (127kb)

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