Tri-Timbral Flocks

Arco double bass, picked mandolin, and plucked ukulele played in flocks (swarms) of C-notes….

The story

This multi-timbral, multi-sourced virtual instrument is an adventure in sampling and was built primarily as my submission to Pianobook’s Global Swarm Community Event.

It includes three groups of eight C-note swarms (C0, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7), that were played at different speeds: Slow (sporadic random note groupings), Medium (medium unmeasured tremolo, similar to Harmonic Flights), and Fast (fast unmeasured tremolo). These swarms were performed acoustically with the bow on my double bass (arco), with a pick on my mandolin, and with my fingers (pizzicato) on my ukulele (please see the video for my performances).

The challenge I put to myself was to create a unique and viable sample instrument only using C-notes. Because there is only one sample per-octave (or between one and three, if layered), the machine gun effect can happen on repeated short notes and sample start lag happens at the bottom of the octave (since the samples are stretched down), so a new performing/composing style needs to be developed in order to make this instrument work (in my case adding more long/sustained material…. see my demo called “Northward Bound”). The more I use Tri-Timbral Flocks the easier it gets to play, and I am happy to report that after a good amount of work, I have met this sample challenge with some success!

Within this sample pack I hear flocks of birds, swarms of insects, medieval tavern music, kanun, the avant-garde, and Spaghetti Westerns, amongst other sundry sonics. Here’s hoping that you discover some sounds of your own within these timbral clusters!

Note: The Sample Offset (Start) parameter in the Kontakt GUI (or in your DAW) can help you get tighter attacks at any given point in the octave, but this will mean that your samples are either ahead or behind elsewhere in the octave. Each sample is very different in character, so the breakpoint between octaves/samples is often quite pronounced.

Production: The stereo recordings were captured using a close mic (large diaphragm condenser) and a matched pair of stereo room mics (small diaphragm condenser), before being cleaned-up/de-noised, pitch shifted (for some of the high/low samples), and mixed. Future work on this sample instrument would include the addition of more notes per octave, velocity layers, release triggers, and possibly round-robins. Delay or other FX could be added, as well, or can be added now as a separate plugin.

Features (Kontakt):

– Slow, Medium (Med.), and Fast group selector buttons with individual volume sliders.

These groups can be played at the same time or muted using the buttons. The latter two groups can be gradually crossfaded/blended into the Slow group using the Mod Wheel (CC1). Make sure that the Mod Wheel (or CC1 controller) is all the way up/open for all groups to sound at full volume.

Note: Going above the initial volume levels on an individual group’s slider can cause clipping, especially at high velocity levels and with high voice counts. That being said, I mixed this instrument with all three groups active, so individual groups may be too quiet (turn it up!)

– Sample Offset (Start) control slider to start the samples up to 2 seconds in.

– ADSR control sliders.

– Low Pass Filter (LPF) cut-off control.

– High Pass Filter (HPF) cut-off control.

– Low-Cut EQ bypass button. Note: This EQ (“SGEQ”) can be adjusted under the hood, if needed.

– Plate Reverb and Room Reverb controls. Note: The reverb settings can be adjusted/mellowed under the hood, if desired.

– Volume mapped to CC11.

Features (Decent Sampler):

– Global VOLUME control (mapped to CC11).

– SLOW, MEDIUM, and FAST group volume controls (the MEDIUM and FAST group volumes are mapped to CC1 for blending/performance, but this can be adjusted by right-clicking any given controller).

– ATTACK control.

– RELEASE control.

– Low Pass Filter (LPF) cut-off control.

– REVERB control.

WARNING: Clipping/clicking/digital-distortion may occur when using full FX levels, especially at high velocity levels and with high voice counts.

Note for Kontakt users: The mapped midi CC assignments can be removed, if needed. The CC11 and CC1 modulators can be removed by pressing on the wrench icon (to go under the hood), going to the “Mod” tab for each group, selecting the desired modulator, then right clicking to open the “Delete” dialogue box. As stated above, any of the FX and the EQ (for the Low-Cut) can also be adjusted under the hood.

Sage’s #GlobalSwarm Submission Video


Reviews for Tri-Timbral Flocks

  • Sound
  • Character
  • Playability
  • Inspiration
  • GUI

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

  • Your best work

    Sage. This is so inspiring. The emotion of the instrument is easily controlled by the CC1 mod wheel. I am not a great performer, and when I randomly trigger chords, this instrument sends shivers down my spine. The global swarm event has brought out your best work. Everyone needs this instrument. It easily adds controlled emotion to your mix.

    obolig04 May 2022
  • just perfect thats what to be said

    it just perfect. nearly nothing to critisice about just AN AMAZING PIECE OF ART

    prod05 May 2022
  • Extraordinary, literally.

    This instrument is based around the combination of different instruments, different articulations and different dynamic layers. Everything is performed and programmed in a way that it produces something truly extraordinary. From a technical to a musical standpoint, this is a masterpiece.

    In addition, Sage has made it available for DecentSampler, which means that it can be accessed by pretty much everyone for free, and in a very compact size as well. Kudos to Sage for his brilliance and willpower to create and share such an inspiring instrument.

    Alex Raptakis07 May 2022
  • Beautiful Randomness!

    What a beautiful and inspiring sample pack this is! I love how the mod wheel smoothly increases the level of rhythmic activity from sparse to super fast tremelandi. Like all of Sage's work, the performances are musical, and expertly recorded. This is just fantastic!

    Sam Ecoff05 May 2022
  • Reviewing the dS version because new Kontakt version no longer supports my OS :'(

    Another great instrument from Sage. For me this one is much more 'in your face' than the arco marimba or cymbal atmos, and probably more suited to a solo than supportive role. The unpredictability of the samples, (especially the mid-register bowing which is very prominent in the mix), makes it less playable for me as a kind of ambient pad or background instrument, but that unpredictability could also be just what you're looking for in terms of character, inspiration or variation. I also found it lends itself quite nicely to more dissonant harmony, so definitely worth experimenting there.

    Eamon06 May 2022