Sampling your synth in Audacity

Some people like using hardware synths some people like using software synths. With hardware synths you have great sounds, but they’re big and not always easy to deal with. With software synths, you almost have too many options, and some say the sound quality isn’t as good (though I don’t really believe this).

If you have a hardware synth and have some patches on there you wish you had in a plugin, it’s really not so hard to make one yourself by recording some samples, then putting them together in a soundfont or into a sampler plugin such as Tracktion’s Multisampler, or Rui Nuno Capela’s samplv1.

I love my synths, I have several. I also love old Casiotone and Concertmate keyboards. I’ve created sample sets and sound fonts from my synths, keyboards, as well as my actual drum set. If you look to the .sf2 lib page on this website, you’ll find many soundfonts I’ve made using this very technique. The easiest software for creating samples in my opinion is the outstanding Audacity.

First make sure you have Audacity installed with: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install audacity (if you’re on a debian based distro). Then you need to figure out how you’re going to plug your synth into the computer. The best idea is the have a clean sounding interface. A USB audio device is usually the best option for this. I usually use a Behringer UCA202. This is a very simple audio interface that has two stereo RCA ins and outs, as well as an optical output. It has great Linux support, is affordable, and is amazingly reliable and has superb sound quality.

Once you have your audio interface hooked up, plug in your synth and get a level in Audacity to make sure you’re not going over the limit. Now depending on what you’re going to use the samples in will determine what you need to actually record. If you’re using a very simple sampler like samplv1 (mentioned above) there are no zones and this makes it very easy. All you need to do is record a middle C on the keyboard, but if you’re recording a bass synth you might be better off recording a low C, and if you’re doing a lead that will be playing in a higher register, then it might be better to record a higher C.

If you plan on using zones (if you’re making a soundfont, or using Multisampler) then you’ll most likely want to record the full range of C notes on the keyboard. Or you can do this anyway even if you’re using samplv1 and simply load the C that is most appropriate to your part. You can just press record on Audacity and record them all into the same session. We’ll be editing and exporting them later on.

If it is a sound that sustains indefinitely until you let off the key, there’s no need to record it for more than a few seconds. As long as you record long enough to setup loop points later on. You’ll be doing that in whatever sampler you’re using, not here in Audacity.

Once you have all of the notes/sounds recorded in Audacity that you want to turn into samples, first save your file then highlight the first sample you want to export. Make sure you zoom in far enough to highlight exactly where the sample starts and you don’t accidentally highlight any silence before the sound.

Once you have the part of the wave you are going to make into a sample, it’s a good idea to normalize it. So go to the Effect menu and select normalize. Once you have the selection normalized, go ahead and export the sample by going to file/export/export selected (shown below)

It’s a good idea to export as a wav file and save these in a well thought out folder structure for ease of use later on.

That’s pretty much it! I’ll do a video tutorial of this technique later on and add it to this post.

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