Thanks again for your amazing contributions last month, which amounted to a grand total of £4,414... remember, all from £2 donations, crazy!

We also had a really lovely letter from Magic Breakfast that genuinely brought some of us to tears. To-date (well, as of last month) your donations to this charity have made 68,000 breakfasts for children whose families are struggling to send them to school with food in their tummies. Not only is this a nutrition and comfort issue, but it is widely known that children study better, learn better and absorb more if they’re well fed. So thanks again! We’re making a whole new raft of samples so that we can keep going!

This month Christian reminisces over his quite bizarre, but incredibly popular Trumpet Fields library, we introduce our new-to-labs “rare groove piano,” whilst our third charity profile looks at the amazing work of Unicef.

Introducing Rare Groove Piano

As a fan of the electrifying Eddie Harris, Christian has been trying to get his hands on one of these for years. A raw, ultra naive, ultra basic sounding electric piano that is also ultra cool; ideal for everything from rare groove to the kind of thing we think Thom Yorke would like.

It’s not the kind of thing you want a computer to synthesize for you. Which is why we’ve recorded it beautifully to maintain all those round edges and subtle idiosyncrasies. This 1960s Vox electric piano has been given a total Spitfire “once-over,” with us poring over sampling the unit to give you as close a replication of the sound of the original, via the finest Neve preamps and Cranesong AD converters.

As the Vox E.P. doesn’t sound the same every time you play it, we have painstakingly recorded it with numerous round robins.

We’ve also isolated each sound - first the piano, harpsichord and then bass, and scripted a mixer that behaves just as it does on the instrument itself. Mix and blend the harpsichord and piano, or switch in the bass to play in split keyboard mode, which you can then mix and blend. We have modelled the vibrato found on the instrument and have given you both intensity and speed controls for this.

For fans of this and other electric pianos, be sure to also check out our brand spanking new North 7 Vintage Keys library.

How We Made Trumpet Fields

I was recently asked to write the music for a new mini series Tutankhamen, about Howard Carter, Lord Canarthan et al. I always like to start a project with a bit of accelerant… and that for me is always to splurge out on some whacky sample ideas. On looking at the footage, I wanted to represent the isolation and heat of the desert with something that had an inherent motion, but something I could hold on single notes and drones. For me strings can sound cold, and what’s more, I knew it was going to be a string heavy score, so I decided to warm it up with a bit of brass. I don’t think I’ve ever heard trumpets creating atmospheric sounds before, so I approached two amazing players, commissioned orchestration ace and trumpeter, Ben Foskett, to create a dozen very long notes played with granular artefacts and elements. To play as soft as is comfortable with plenty of breath…. and “spit” (yes I did say that).

We recorded them on our dry stage at Spitfire HQ, with my preferred trumpet mics - a pair of Coles 4038s about a good 2-3 feet away from the end of the bell. We also used a pair of Neumann M49s as the second close mic, and a pair of Schoeps as a room pair… Usually on our dry stage I don’t use the rooms, but with trumpets I think you need to gather as much moving air as possible, so they don’t sound like mosquitos being squashed slowly, emitting their very last breath. These were then put through our Neve 4081 quads (we have two of these as our ‘B’ pre’s for when we’re going above 2 signals, awesome and very reasonably priced), and were sucked into Pro Tools via the AD converters on our Apogee Symphony system.

I recorded them dry so that I could really pile on loads of delay and a massively long reverb. I was really happy with having my own very unique granular atmospheres, but regrettably the producers didn’t feel the same way, so we went for Synergy vocals instead (Steve Reich’s favoured vocal group). It’s so nice that my unused sounds don’t stay long in my sound ‘orphanage,’ but instead live to fight another day, raising money for children’s charities!

But be warned, without lakes of splosh, they do sound a bit comical. The guys enjoyed playing the material, saying it was a “zen like lesson in breathing and air control”. They (like so many British musicians) were also great collaborators, and were very helpful in suggesting how to best use the instrument to get the best effects. They also really liked recording the samples to picture. But most of all, I have to thank them for not lamping me when (terribly guilty to admit) I said “but whatever you do…. don’t make them sound like trumpets”.

Unicef

It was the United Nations who first established Unicef after the second world war to provide food, clothing and healthcare to European children in need. Now operating in over 190 countries, it’s a globally recognised charity with a clear aim: to protect children in danger.

Focusing on 5 key areas: violence, exploitation and abuse, disease, hunger and malnutrition, war and conflict, and disaster, Unicef relies fully upon voluntary donations in order to do its work.

Unicef recently reported that over 50 million children are estimated to have been forced from their homes as a result of war and poverty - a figure that is expected to grow if governments do not intervene.

What’s the breakdown of your Labs purchase? Of the £2, one third goes to each of our charities - so 67p to Unicef. Of that, 48p goes directly towards their work with children, 17p to raising more, and less that 1p on governance.