Super Mandolin

An SNES instrument made out of a 1920s mandolin from my grandpa...

The story

THE STORY + how I made it

I decided to make a SNES instrument out of a 1920s mandolin that belonged to my Grandfather because why not? It was passed down to me by my Dad. It’s in surprisingly good condition and sounds great since my grandfather hardly played it after starting a family and no one else in the family ever played it. I know very little about the instrument besides what I’ve already mentioned

I recorded the same note 4 times in different ways (guitar pick, palm muted w/ guitar pick, my thumb, and my thumb while palm muted) with a Shure KSM32 and ran them through Chipsynth SFC which emulates the SNES sound chip, but you can load your own samples into it. You can look up how that chip worked on your own if you are interested, but the important thing to know is that due to hardware limitations (such as only 64kb of RAM) the SNES would use single short samples for each instrument (up to 8) and change the pitch for each note. While this may seem like a huge limitation, after playing with Chipsynth SFC for a little over a year for a game soundtrack (currently unannounced, check my social media links if you are interested), I have found you can create a lot of interesting and charming sounds if you know what you are doing. I’ll get into more detail about that in the next section though

THE SOUND

So why did I take a nice sounding Mandolin and turn it into a SNES instrument? Well honestly I’m new to sampling (this is my first Kontakt instrument I’ve made) so making a realistic instrument would be a big project, you can find a realistic mandolin elsewhere, and this is more interesting to me. More importantly, the sound of the SNES is something many people are nostalgic for, has a lot of charm, and things that were meant to save space on SNES cartridges caused a lot of interesting timbres and creativity. The high end is smoothed out in a somewhat “analog” way, the further you get from the note of the original sample (in this case a D3) the less realistic the sound gets, lower notes are darker and time stretched making great bass sounds, and higher notes get brighter, kinda fizzy, and shorter (sometimes neat sounding, sometimes harsh). Most SNES games didn’t use samples of real instruments though so this essentially gives you a sound that SNES games wouldn’t normally have while having an interesting character that is sorta synthetic, sorta not

Unfortunately half the charm in the SNES sound is from the echo which I couldn’t figure out a good way of including in this instrument. There are a few plugins that emulate that delay (I use chipcrusher 2), but you may be able to recreate something similar with a bright short (try 80ms) digital delay. I feel I should also mention that when comparing this to the Chipsynth SFC version, they don’t quite sound the same. Not sure if that’s my fault being new to making Kontakt instruments or a limitation of sampling, but I included the unprocessed samples if you want to try them out with Chipsynth yourself (or do whatever else you want with them)

THE INSTRUMENTS

Super Mandolin_Pick – Picked with a guitar pick
Super Mandolin_Pick_PalmMute – Palm muted while picked with a guitar pick
Super Mandolin_Fingers – Picked with my thumb
Super Mandolin_Fingers_PalmMute – Palm muted while picked with my thumb

THE CONTROLS

Clean volume: Highest quality samples I could get from Chipsynth SFC (Brighter, cleaner, “hifi”)

Decimate volume: Lower quality samples (Darker, grittier, “lofi”)

Reverb volume: PS1’s hall reverb from Shiroban
https://shirobon.bandcamp.com/album/ps1-reverb-impulse-responses

Attack: Turn it up for a cool swelling effect or to tame the transients a little

ALSO INCLUDED

– The original samples before going through Chipsynth SFC. This is to allow you to make your own sounds with them or even run them through Chipsynth SFC yourself for more control

My website: https://www.somaaudio.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/somaaudio1176/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/soma.audio/
Bandcamp: https://soma-audio.bandcamp.com/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCthaBTTGovlJsr6w6Z7pDdQ

Have fun!
-Spencer

Super Mandolin Demonstration

Interface

Reviews for Super Mandolin

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Leave a review to let others know what you thought of the instrument!

  • Seems to be what it says it is.

    I may be dating myself, but I had to look up SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System). I never really understood the nostalgia for old computer games, and especially old computer game music. But then it doesn't represent my childhood. Not realizing what SNES stood for, I was looking for a high quality mandolin sample pack, ha ha. This is not that. So if you are looking for the sound of old computer games, this seems to fit the bill.

    Sid21 February 2022
  • Good low end

    Very simple instrument. Straight to the point. It works very well as an arpeggiated instrument with a surprisingly good low end. The notes on the lower keys is where this instrument shines.

    obolig22 February 2022
  • Simple and nice

    This is a fairly simple and straightforward instrument that also shares a few extra choices to the player. The four different patches are all good, they play nicely and they offer a huge range as well. I personally find the two Palm Mute patches more interesting than the "normal" ones, and though they seem to have a tiny short noisy release, it's not noticable at all, especially if you apply a little reverb.

    The Decimate knob is also interesting, and the reverb matches the sound signature of the instrument very well. The attack knob is always good to have, though I'd place it on the top among the others, since now it's not clearly visible.

    Alex Raptakis14 March 2022