In this article we are having Dieguis Productions give us a behind the scenes look at how they create a music sample library from start to finish. We’ll look at the process they use for coming up with the initial concept for the library, the recording challenges, formatting nightmares, mixing of the project and all of the additional things that go into creating Dieguis Productions unique hand-made music sample libraries.
Big Fish Audio – What are the first steps you take in coming up with the concept for a library?
Dieguis Productions – Each library is actually created a little bit differently depending of the outcome of what is needed for the library. Each library has its own unique challenges depending on the instrumentation, genre, availability of skilled players and so on but that’s the fun part and the challenge…Each library keeps us on our toes.
The first stage is typically figuring out what types of libraries are needed and then creating a concept for the library around that need. This might mean seeing what genres of music are currently doing well on tv, radio, film and commercials. It might mean seeing what has consistenly sold well for us and other sample library companies. Steven Bolar (Head of Product Development at Big Fish Audio) is also invaluable in the process of coming up with fantastic concepts. He and I are on ichat constantly discussing what’s working, what’s not, what’s selling, what’s not…on and on, back and forth, in a way to come up with solid concepts for libraries. My favorite way by far to start a concept for a library is when owners of Dieguis Productions products email us and let us know what they want. They’ll email us and request that we create products that they haven’t been able to find on the market or genres that might actually need more products than are currently on the market. This is starting to happen more and more and we love it when this happens because we get direct confirmation that this type of library is exactly what’s needed.
BFA – How do you go from concept to recording session? How do you choice the instrumentation, players and studio?
Dieguis – Well, after the initial concept has been somewhat firmed up, I test it ……We go over the concept and say what would the concept look like if there were no compromises, no budget restrictions, what are all of the various pieces and ideas that we’d like to include in the ultimate library with this concept? We go through a process of writing out everything we can think of related to making the library the ultimate “x” library. What might be included, what extras we could include, what things haven’t been tried…on and on. Its usually in this phase that challenges start coming up in the way of “How” questions. How would we do that, how will we pull this off, how can we afford that studio and engineer, how can we get those players, how can we add such and such feature. We’ll eventually end of seeing how many “how” questions we can achieve and fulfill. Then we create a budget for the project which is always way less than what we usually end up spending. There is always one more session or ooh it’d be great to include this feature, nobody’s ever done this….and on it goes. The great thing about this process is that overtime these questions and challenges begin to shape and mold the actual concept of the product, its like working a big puzzle, you just have to put down one piece at a time.
Once the concept is in place and its approved, then we go into creating a “Session List”. This list will include ideal studio to record at, most suitable players and engineer for the library, how many sessions the library will require, any recording needs for the project (for example – The ability to have DI and Amped sounds, the ability to have both “Dry” and “Ambient” samples), having additional gear on hand for certain situations and on and on the list grows. We then call the players we think are best suited for the library and cross our fingers that they’re available. Many times they’re out on tour with various artists, booked for various album and movie dates, so we have to get creative on our recording schedule. One of the things we always strive for is getting the perfect players for the specific library we’re creating. Nothing creates a more authentic sounding library then using the right players for the job. We then book the studio and engineer based on the dates and players availability. Many times the ability to not have the right players, engineer or studio has delayed a project from starting and moving forward. We feel that its much better to record with the ideal “player, engineer, studio” set-up vs. compromising, so sometimes a library doesn’t happen as quickly as we’d like for it to.
BFA – I know lots of our users love hearing about the specific details of how something is recorded, can you go into specific detail about the recording gear and such that is used?
Dieguis – Would love to but I don’t have the various library sessions, gear list and notes in front of me so we’ll have to do another recording and gear list article….Cool?
BFA – Ok, sounds good, can you give us a general overview on how you record the various instruments?
Dieguis – Sure, It really comes down to the specific project. We would never record a Cinematic type library in the same manner that we would for an Americana library but most of the time we strive to record the rhythm tracks (Drums, Bass, Guitars, Keys) together in the same session. This typically allows for the best player interaction and performances to happen, which after all is a lot of the magic that makes real music real! It also allows us to get great room sounds for the various instruments, especially drums. We’ll then typically overdub as a group. So for example, the drummer might do an overdub of percussion, the guitarists might record another pas of an acoustic instrument, someone will switch to another amp, the keyboard player might record piano or bells for example. Recording in this manner keeps everyones mind working and creating … Its very energizing!
There are some libraries that aren’t conducive to “tracking” (recording) all together like mentioned above, some styles of music just doesn’t make sense to record in that manner. Some music genres are based on programmed instruments or are based on sound design and that’s something that needs to be crafted over time and layered. In these cases we typically will program and create the foundation of what is needed and then overdub the various players on top of the existing material. We’ll also work in this single instrument overdub way if the library is about a featured instrument. Sometimes its a straight forward recording session with lots of players and sometimes its using paper bags as percussion instruments, it really all comes down to what is the best method to create the particular library that we’re trying to create.
BFA – What is next in the process or you?
Dieguis – After the concept and recording phase has been completed the “work” definitely starts. The next phase is the editing and formatting of the library. The original session files are imported into editing sessions which are then cleaned, organized…fixed if needed. The tracks are then consolidated and are meticulously edited so that each and every loop is perfect and play well together ….. this process alone is a huge task and a job unto itself and takes a loooong time. After these final wav files have been finalized and checked over multiple times, we then create the various formatted files from them…Rex, Apple Loops, Acidized Wav, Multi-Drums, Stylus RMX and so on. Its also at this stage that we take the final files and start mapping the Kontakt player for the KLI instruments.
BFA – Tell us about the mapping and what’s involved in the KLI instrument building and creation.
Dieguis – The creation of the KLI format is an extensive process as it corresponds to how various owners use and create with the product. We experiment with the mapping quite a lot to handle the way people like to create and the needs they might have. Some owners like to pull up the various kits for quick sketches, some like to overdub individual instruments, some want the flexibility to go into each file and manipulate and re-arrange it in whichever way they choose. So we strive to provide owners with the ability to create in which ever manner there comfortable with.
On some of the libraries like Illusion, Oxygen, Synthetic, and Piano Soundscapes we wanted the ability to have mulit-sample instruments included so the owners could perform and create their own melodies over the various grooves and kits. On many libraries we’ve also started including what we call “Drum Elements” which are the drum “groove” but instead of simply getting a stereo loop, we’ve also included the single drum elements broken out into individual pieces (kick, snare, hat, shaker etc) so that owners can stack and layer these “elements” on top of one another for various degrees of depth and complexity. This has been one of the new features that owners have really responded to enjoying and needing.
BFA – Can you take us through the mixing process for the various demos.
Dieguis – One of my favorite parts of the process! It usually works out that the concept and initial phases are very creative and ideas are all flowing. Then you get to the recording process, which is definitely creative but you also are super aware of all of the “wants and needs” of the library. You start thinking about how many this and that you have, how many more you want and need, how much over budget you are and on it goes. Your getting less sleep and having longer days so it starts wearing on you. You then come into the formatting stage and the days continue to get even longer, the formatting phase is really a make or break phase in creating a quality library. So much time and attention has to be devoted to making sure each and every file is perfect, then multiply that effort by thousands…it gets very consuming. Thankfully between the Dieguis Productions team and Big Fish Audio, we have an incredible amount of eyes and ears on the project, tweaking, perfecting and making in right.
Anyway, its at this phase in the process of the creation of the library that my eyes start to cross and I know I have to get back to the creative …which is the mixing phase. I love mixing! Its so much fun to take the files from the original recording sessions, bring them back up in front of you and remember the great experience the recording of the session was. It’s funny saying this now because that’s exactly what music tends to do to people….music has this power of reminding you of places, times in your life, friends, smells…its crazy what music does. So when I pull-up the tracks to mix its like going back in time to the session and reliving it, its so much fun. Then the thought process is, now that I have these great tracks in front of me, how can I make them smack even more, how can I further increase the mood and vibe? These are fun challenges. One of the many things that I’m always proud and take a lot of time to ensure is that we are creating libraries that are as authentic to the genre and style of music as they can possibly be.
This “authenticity” is mostly accomplished in the recording phase but greatly enhanced in the mixing process.
Another trick that I’ll do is to pull up some commercial tracks that are similar in style to the library being worked on. So for example, we’re working on the “Crossroads Blues” library, this is a library that is focusing on various styles of classic Delta, Chicago, Memphis, Mississippi Blues styles. I’ll pull up some Muddy Waters album and check out how they placed the various instruments in the mix. I’ll check out how they’ve created this amazing intimacy through panning, volume levels, verbs etc. I’ll listen for what kinds of effects are being used, many times there aren’t any effects in this particular genre. Is there a lot of room in the drums? Is the bass amp being pushed so that its distorting? Is that guitar really being doubled or are there two separate parts recorded? On and on it goes….Actually, this same process of deconstructing genres, production of records and such starts from the conception process and definitely all through the recording sessions. Tons of time is spent to figuring out what’s going on in the various styles and how we can best capture this vibe in our libraries. After the final mixes have been printed (these usually end up being re-printed many times and listened to, tweaked, re-printed and tweaked some more) then they are mastered by a good friend of mine in Nashville who’s been mastering for decades…He’s awesome and makes the demos sparkle that extra little bit.
BFA – What choices and concerns come into creating the graphics, copy and details for the libraries?
Dieguis – The final pieces of the library are creating the library graphics that will be used for the cover, banner and KLI Series skins. We typically go through many revisions of tweaking the graphics in order to get the cover to match perfectly with the sound and vibe of the library … after all, its what the potential owner sees even before they listen to the demos. Its during this final phase that we’re typically doing tons of testing with the various formats and library parts to ensure that they are spot on. We also then go through the library and create the various read-me pdf’s which contain valuable information on how to best use the library….but nobody ever reads manuals ;)
We also gather all of the various types of instrument details and numbers used in the recording, we count the library content sizes, format numbers and any library specific details.
BFA – The videos for the libraries have changed quite a bit, what was the thought behind the various changes?
Dieguis – Yeah, the videos have certainly changed overtime a bit.. We originally made them really long showing every detail of the library, every file, every feature, this and that and found that they were too long and people were bored. So now, were constantly experimenting with length of the video, maybe just showing one instrument type per video, maybe only demo’ing a few instruments versus every single instrument. We also started creating “Song Building” videos after owners had requested that we create videos that would show how to actual use the library to create a song…great suggestion from our owners! We’re working on coming out with new DAW specific videos as well this coming year and will certainly have many more additions and revisions to the videos. As always, we really want to create videos owners will get the most out of. So we constantly are asking for feedback and how we can do things better so anyone reading that has a suggestion, please comment below and let me know exactly what you want to have us focus on and include in the videos.
BFA– What have been the most enjoyable libraries to create?
Dieguis – Tough question because each library has its own personality and story to it. Hmmm, I’d say a few favorites off the top of my head would be “Funky Gumbo“, it was the first time we had recorded in New Orleans and the players, engineer and studio were fantastic! Each time I listen to the demos, I can hear that old studio sound, see the brass players, it just has a magical and authentic sound to me and reminds me of that great week in New Orleans.
The “Mariachi” library was a great one creating because it was a real challenge in every aspect. It is a style of music that has never had a commercial music sample library recorded before that we know of…..I believe it still might be the only one out there. We finally ended up being able to record with Mariachi los Toros which are world renowned and have tons of accolades, are great players and have become good friends, so it was amazing working with them creating something that had never been done before. “Modern Rock Guitars and Basses” was a fun library as well because at the last minute I was fortunate enough to be able to snag a couple of my friends that play in the group Paramore. It was one of those sessions that were high energy, lots of coffee and very late into the night with friends, it doesn’t get better than that!
BFA – Any final secrets on how your making these libraries happen?
Dieguis – The best decision that I ever made was to work with the best people in the world. This is truly the “secret”. Use the best players, engineers, studios, editors, formatters, coders, graphic artists etc….always use the best!
I definitely give praise to the Dieguis Productions team…. Milan, Johnny, Udara, Joe, Iglika, these guys work non-stop to make all the crazy ideas happen ….. they are the secret sauce…oh, and lots of coffee!
One more thing, I know I sound like a broken record but it is our number one goal at Dieguis Productions to create and produce libraries that are absolutely the most useful in every way possible to our owners. This does require that owners take the time to let us know what they need. So please, I’m making an official request, let us know what we can do to help make amazing libraries for you! Let us know what you need, what you don’t want, what functions we’re missing, what you like and what you don’t like…….anyone that has any suggestions on how we might create better and more user-friendly libraries please feel free to comment below.
We loving hearing from our owners and learning exactly what they want and need, so please do me the favor of letting us know!