Atmosphere and Pads for Dummies
Well here we go, going to attempt to write a little tutorial for how to get a nice ambient pad with just a few simple steps. I use this technique a lot when I'm feeling uninspired or just want to get a simple atmosphere down on a track I'm working on. I have had people in the past ask me how I make some of my songs sound really spacey so this sort of covers that as well.
Anyways, we are going to start with a sample. Any sample will do, but for the best results I like something with a clear pitch in it so we can later use for chords or melody. For this tutorial I'll be using this string sample. Feel free to do any sort of time stretching or repitching you like. For now I'm going to leave it as is.
Next step is to open up either a Sampler instrument, or a Simpler. I'm going to be using Sampler. Drag and drop your sample into the Sampler. Now, isolating a section of the sample like so. It can be as long or short as you like, but mine is a fraction of a section long. (You may notice your sample is fairly quiet once put into sampler. To fix this adjust the volume slider, next to where it says Sample Start)
We're going to want to loop this sample, but clicking one of the buttons under Sustain Mode. Either regular Loop or Back and Forth should do fine, but back and forth can create some cool sounding rhythms depending on the sample. Also click on one of the release modes as well. Try and capture as much of the sample as you want within the sustain modes brackets. Mine looks like this
Try holding down a C3 or whatever key you like and see how it sounds. If it is click-y and you don't want that sound, fiddle around with the crossfade setting until you get it smooth. I added a little under 4000 crossfade for both the sustain and release. Here is a sample
Next up we want to change the amp envelope. Click on Filter/Global on the top tabs on the sampler. The envelope to the far right is our volume envelope. Adjust the attack and release to your liking. Here is what mine looks like
Fiddle around with your midi keyboard (or computer keyboard) and see how it sounds. Here is a little chord, pretty interesting sounding, especially the little bloops.
The next few steps are completely optional. Feel free to add a filter and mess with the filter envelope. Clicking off the R on the bottom right of the sampler in the Filter/Global panel will stop the re-triggering of notes, which is helpful for when you're repeating chords in a midi sequence.
Finally, we are going to add effects. On the actual sampler track, all I'm adding is a simple delay, but feel free to add whatever you like. We are going to save the reverb for a return track. Next up drop whatever reverb device/vst you like onto a return track followed by an Autofilter. Change the EQ curve to the third one and position it where you like.
Now set the LFO amount up a small bit and adjust the rate small bit. Afterwards, make sure you turn the send around halfway on your Sampler track. (Turning it all the way up may cause some clipping as you are doubling the track)
Here is what my Return track looks like.
Comparison: Without Return Track - With Return Track
There you go, a nice little ambient atmosphere made with nothing but a tiny sliver of a sample. Obviously this is very basic so experiment with different effects sends and even with Sampler. There is so much more you can do with Sampler than what was in this tutorial.