Ever watched the show Friends? While it was a pretty run of the mill sitcom, there were some pretty memorable moments. There’s an episode where one of the characters, Ross, is convinced that he is really good at playing on the keyboard. He starts out playing in his friend’s apartment and then in the local coffee shop. He’s horrible; like every joke about bad keyboardists, horrible. Animal noises, 80’s laser effects, glass breaking, mixed with bad synthesized vocals. And while the show intentionally played this up for comedic effect, just listening to it makes you cringe inside.
Exporting, whether music loops or full songs, can sometimes feel like taking a leap of faith. There is a ton of stories out there of people who, when exporting, have noticed the sound quality dropping drastically. While this can be caused by improper bitrate settings, at the end of the day, no matter what the reason is, there is a sense of frustration and horror at seeing hours, if not days of work coming out wrong.
Where everyone can hear it
More than most art forms, music is trying to reach the audience through a very restricted medium. Music has to be painstakingly assembled piece by piece. From inception to final production, it can take months to create a forty-five minute album of song. In the studio, all of the instruments and vocals have to be recorded, often over multiple takes, and then mixed and layered together in such a way as to complement each other, creating the mood and impression that was intended.
With the amount of effort that it takes to create a piece, most musicians rely on samplers and software instruments to get things right the first time. With a sampler, most of the human error factor can be removed and the composer can use exactly what he or she needs for the piece. It can be created in one program as a loop, saved and transferred to another program to be included in the final piece. But here is where technology can be fickle.
What can you do?
If the master is set too high on the sampler, or the bitrate is too low, the quality of the loop can be diminished and when it is exported, it can be unusable. In most cases, once a file is exported no more alterations can be made. One way to minimize this issue is by saving a back-up copy of the loop and exporting another, but this may not work in all samplers and other issues may crop up. Another alternative is ensure that everything is where it needs to be beforehand, which means some trial and error as different file sizes will need different bitrates. You need to commit yourself to a trial and error process in these cases to get the perfect final product.
A better way, instead of all this guesswork, is to invest in a high-quality software instrument or sampler that is user friendly and has good presets. While yes, there are some pretty good free or cheap plug-ins out there, it can be hit or miss. Some work excellent, others have a lot of bugs or fine print that makes a purchase necessary anyway. A high quality sampler will have been created by a musician for a musician. Like a guitar, piano, or microphone, a good sampler is something that you should be able to rely on when you need it most. It should be able to handle anything that a person can throw at it, and it shouldn’t feel like you are starting at square one simply because you downloaded different software.
Yes, buying a good quality software instrument will set you back a good chunk of change, but it is money well spent and well invested. There is nothing worse than spending hours on a music loop, exporting it and losing the quality you have worked hard to create. Having to go back and recreate that work is like rubbing salt into an open wound. Invest in the equipment used and it will pay back massively. It can make a real difference when it is needed most. You get what you pay for after all, and good quality is worth the extra cash when it produces a great product.
This article was written by Matthew Trekovsky, who is a musician and loves experimenting with music loops.