From the Team / 22 June 2017

Inside our tech: Creating loops and sounds

Loops. Virtual instruments. Effects. They all form a core part of BandLab’s offering to music makers around the world. And there’s a whole lot of work that goes into creating each one, each done in house at BandLab HQ.

Looking at loops.

Our aim is to create loops that don’t just support the needs of our community, but enhance their experience. When creating new loops, we dive into genres that are popular with BandLab and push them to a new place. So, while we offer standard idiomatic sounds for song creation, it’s a goal of ours to push the sonic boundaries in order to offer content creators will only find on BandLab.

As for the creation process, we decide as a team which of our sound designers will create the new loops. This is based on a designer’s pre-existing skill within the genre and also an individual’s drive to learn new sounds. We enjoy the challenge of diving into unfamiliar musical terrain. We study the standard “rep” of each genre (or the “bread and butter” sounds) and then attempt to push that genre into new and interesting sonic pathways. It’s also our job to make sure that each loop within the pack mixes well with the others — making it easy to mix and match loops to create effective songs.

Once the loops are finished, we level them and upload them into our loops API. This allows us to test them within the platform and try them out with the other loop packs.  Once we’re happy with the results, we release them to the community.

All our loops are royalty-free because we’re driven by supporting creative musicians – like us – to make the best music they can without the restrictions of a paywall.

Effects and instruments.

Similar to loops, our effects and virtual instruments are created in line with our users’ needs. We also assess current musical trends, and try to push the boundaries of what sounds are offered within BandLab. While it’s essential for us to provide standard sounds like grand pianos and vintage amplifiers, we push it to the next level by creating interesting new timbres like our synth sounds and psychedelic guitar presets. Put simply, our goal is to offer our users what they already hear in their heads, and surprise them with new and interesting sounds to integrate into their creative flow.

Getting deep into guitars.

New audio effects require a significant amount of testing, listening, playing, and research. Take the phaser effect as an example. There are many quality phaser pedals on the market, so we needed to decide which one to model for BandLab. We read scholarly papers and reference schematics to create an accurate representation of physical hardware. We often rapid prototype within web audio to test the ‘playability’ of a new effect, and then the audio core team offers guidance and creates a cross-platform version for our mixdown service and mobile platforms.

Even a simple guitar preset represents a chain of effects combined to create sonically pleasing and accurate results. We’ve created simple equalisers that match the functionality of physical EQ channels, we utilise a series of waveshapers and filters to accurately model the subtle changes of timbre among amplitudes while playing through physical amps. We offer a combination of industry standard synthetic and convolution reverbs, and we use high-quality impulses of a number of ubiquitous guitar amp cabs in order to offer authentic, vintage guitar tones.

We do it in-house.

There’s no outsourcing here. All of our virtual instruments are designed in-house. The creation of new virtual instruments generally falls into two categories: recreating existing and familiar sounds, and designing unique sounds that are only available on BandLab. To recreate sounds we use a variety of tools such as spectral analysis, sampling, synthesis, and intricate effects processing. Or essentially, we’re able to reverse engineer any popular sounds. We can compartmentalise the basic timbral qualities, the fundamental partials, and the spatial aspects of any sound and accurately synthesise them for our users.

All in it together.

As a sound team, we’re in a unique position in that we are always working with each team here at BandLab. We collaborate with marketing to provide sounds for videos, we offer guidance to our product team, and we’re in constant conversation with our audio development specialists to create new and interesting features.

After all, sound is at the core of what we do every day.

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