Can you indentify this sample/sound?
June 1, 2005 7:56 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are fans of Cirque du Soleil, and I'm a keyboardist who's inspired by the unique and compelling soundtracks of each show. One such show, La Nouba, has a more gritty, urban feel to its music. There's something, however, that I can't identify, and I've been trying for years.

Throughout much of the soundtrack, there is this one sample -- metallic screeching, maybe a highly effected waterphone, I don't know -- and I really want to find out what it is so that I can utilize it in my own music.

I've uploaded a brief MP3 sample of the file here.

Can you help me identify this sound/sample? Can you find a download link (extra goody points for this one)?
posted by Merdryn to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
That sounds to me like a synth version of a harmonica. That's the sound I'd start with to re-create it.
posted by frykitty at 8:45 AM on June 1, 2005

You could get a similar effect by sampling a cymbol, chopping out the initial "hit", reversing it, and then filtering the shit out of it. I made a quick audio example here.

They obviously spent more time on it than I just did, though.
posted by cmonkey at 8:50 AM on June 1, 2005

Yes, it sounds like a highly processed harmonica sample.
posted by wsg at 9:51 AM on June 1, 2005

Sounds like we're getting close. A processed harmonica sample, now I never thought of that. Maybe a little ring modulation, notch filters, and a bit of compression will get to that metallic screeching sound. (back after a try) I can't seem to process it to make that shreaking sound, but I'm not used to building atonal sounds. If anyone has any tips on what filters I might want to try, that'd be great.

The reverse cymbal came awful close, too. If anyone else has any grand ideas, or happens to have a real or soft synth with that patch and can name it, I'm all a'tingle with anticipation.
posted by Merdryn at 11:31 AM on June 1, 2005

I doubt it's a pre-existing patch, it doesn't sound like anything a synth manufacturer would bundle.

I came fairly close re-creating it just now using a JP-8000. No MP3, I'm afraid, but I got there by using a saw wave as oscillator 1, sine wave as oscillator 2, passing it through a high-pass filter, ring modulator and the obvious envelope settings. I'm pretty sure that it could be re-created flawlessly with a K5000 and SoundDiver.
posted by cmonkey at 12:03 PM on June 1, 2005

I have a flanger (the great and discontinued BOSS HF-2) that can make some pretty weird and metallic sounds on certain settings. I use for guitar and bass but you might give a flanger a try if you have one. Maybe put it on a harmonica sample.
posted by 6550 at 12:39 PM on June 1, 2005

this sounds similar in concept to some rock guitar presets on synthesizers ... one holds a note for longer than a second or so and gets "feedback"

it's quite possible that there's several oscillators involved ... oscils 1 and 2 would be combined for the main, smoother sound, with a slow decay envelope, while oscil 3 would have the bright metallic sound with a slow attack envelope, so the "feedback" starts coming in as the first notes fade ... another way to get a sound like that would be from putting a sound (any sound) through a very fast delay with 100% feedback ... within a second what you'll hear sounds a lot like that, building quickly ...

the more i hear it, i'm certain they used the delay feedback method ... they recorded it onto a seperate track and faded it, adding some reverb to make it sound smoother at the end ... they may or may not have used something like native instrument's spectral delay to select for higher frequency on the delay

one could easily use that program to get that effect

be careful with delay feedback ... it can blow speakers and ears ...
posted by pyramid termite at 2:17 PM on June 1, 2005

sounds like it could be a real harmonica to me:

get a nice recording of someone blowing that note, hard vibration on the reeds, etc.

bus the track to a fader on your mixer, hand fade it up while cranking an aux knob to feed it to a delay/reverb patch.

fade out the harmonica fader while tweaking the foldback of the delay/reverb patch to sustain the note for a bit.

the "flanginess" of your sample sound seems like just the harmonica, and the delay/reverb is taking care of the blurring & distance effects.

i've gotten sounds very much like this while running dub mixes of a reggae band with harmonica.
posted by Aquaman at 9:30 PM on June 1, 2005

p.s. I don't hear any backwards artifacts, just a bunch of fx on a straight harmonica blow.
posted by Aquaman at 9:31 PM on June 1, 2005

Sorry for marking so many as "best answer", but these three posts, combined, got me 95% of the way there.

Thanks, all; I came awful close by taking a synth harmonica patch (not wavetable, happens to be a saw/sine combination) and using a ring modulator->multitap delay->feedback->bandpass->reverb effects path. I mean REAL close. Close enough that I might just use it, but I'm going to work on it some more. I'm modeling it now on a Korg Triton, but I'll probably take my ideas and bring them into a soft synth for easier use in my production work.

You MeFites rock. I love this place.
posted by Merdryn at 4:35 AM on June 2, 2005

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