Free Ghanaian Gyil Kontakt instrument – PMvst001

Since the last post about recording Stephen Hiscock’s Gyil (Yes I was spelling it incorrectly! O dear) I took some time to edit and put the resulting hits into Kontakt.

Here is a link to the Current Ghanaian Gyil V1.0,

Free Ghanaian Gyil download
Free Ghanaian Gyil download






Feel free to download and play with it if you’re looking for something authenically african and I’d love to hear any feedback.

I don’t want to dive too deep into a ‘How to create a velocity sensitive instrument in Kontakt’ post, but there’s few thoughts from the process I thought it’d be interesting to note.

My main DAW’s are Ableton Live and Logic, but I decided to try using Ableton for this process. The first step was to record the Gyil into Ableton through my SD 702 and soundcard. I only had two Preamps available at the time, so used an XY setup about a metre away from the top of the Gyil. The first note, having a few different mic positions would probably help with integrating the sound of the Gyil with other libraries, but starting with a fairly dry, close recording is great starting point.

The Gyil has 14 notes and I wanted to try 2 round robins of each and have 5/6 velocity layers for each note played with both ends of the beaters. So that’s 336 individual samples to edit.

Manually this takes a while and is fairly tedious. Both Logic and Ableton have a feature which slices a piece of audio from its transient markers and creates a new MIDI instrument. However, neither of these cut the audio up usefully for Kontakt. Logic does have a ‘Split Silence’ feature that does a better job at slicing the regions, with a bit of tweaking, by transient. Either way there is an amount of time spent finessing this, as the hits need to be very closely trimmed to the start of the transient.

Logic Strip silence
Logic Strip silence

Once each hit was edited and ready to slot into Kontakt, I set up a new instrument and using the mapping editor placed the 6 velocity layers  for the first note on it. Spreading them across the 127 potential velocities.

Again this could take a while, but you can quite easily copy and paste one set of 6 velocity samples onto another key on the mapping editor, then re-locate each of the copied samples to the next note in the sequence to save time (I didn’t find this out until I’d spent a good few hours on a fairly bumpy flight trying to be precise with my trackpad… Bad idea!)

Kontakt 5 Mapping editor
Kontakt 5 Mapping editor

A similar process applies to the second takes (Round Robin takes) this was fairly simple. The mapping editor works in groups, for each round robin you create a new group and set that group to be a certain either the first or second set of round robins. Again copying the already mapped first takes and pasting that into a new group meant I could re-locate the samples within this second group with the second takes.

I did the same thing with the hard wooden end of the beaters and placed those into two new groups. Had a play with photoshop and added the Attack and Release knobs through looking into the inner workings of other Kontakt instruments scripts.

A little messing with key switches and it was prett much there.

So please do have a play with the Gyil and enjoy!



African Gil – Recording session

For the past couple of months I’ve been working on a show called Lionboy with Complicité and we’re coming to the end of our run at the Tricycle Theatre. The show had a live percussionist on stage, so this week I’ve decided to record Steve’s (our percussionists) Gil.

The Gil is an African ‘tuned’ percussion instrument that steve plays in the show for a few of our ‘African’ scenes. It’s not the most common instrument I’ve ever come across!
The notes are pentatonic and so, as Steve usually suggests, you can play almost any notes and they will likely fit together! Steves instrument was made by his teacher in Africa and has gaudes underneath that amplify the sound. It has a bit of a weird unique buzzing sound on some of the notes and watching people play them on YouTube it’s really meant to be part of the overall sound of the Gil. To create the buzzing sound there is a spider egg membrane covering holes in the gaudes which vibrate, strange but true!
African Gil, last years version
So having decided to record the Gil properly Ive also thought it would be interesting to learn how to make a kontakt instrument using those recordings, so have taken a bunch of different takes at differing dynamics and will have a go soon. I managed to find a few hours without anyone else in the theatre and got recording. Wanted to get some use out of my sound devices 702 and a pretty neat pair of DPA 4011’s which we use in the show.
Here’s a dry clip of me messing around on the Gil, i’m no percusionist so forgive me!
Now on to editing the single hits and trying to make a virtual instrument from it!

Lionboy Tour: Bristol

LionboyComplicité have just began the tour of Lionboy a new show for kids based on the trilogy of books (with the same name) by Zizou Corder , which tells the story of Charlie Ashanti, a boy who can speak to cats, and his journey to free his parents from the “corporacy” which also leads him through a circus where he meets a pack of lions and sets out to liberate them…

I’ve been working as Associate Sound with Tom Gibbons as Sound Designer, and i’ll be operating the show for the rest of the tour. The show, so far, has been well received and we had a lot of fun finally getting it onto the stage in-front of an great audience.

From a sound perspective the the story is illustrated using sound effects and music that reacts to the particular form of storytelling that has been conceived for this show. One of the interesting parts for me is having a live percussionist (Stephen Hiscock) on stage, jumping from a full drum kit to traditional Ghanaian instruments, to provide underscore and musical accompaniment to the action on stage.

Lionboy will be touring around the UK, and the next stop is the Liverpool Playhouse for a week (week commencing 3rd June), followed by Oxford Playhouse, Warwick Arts Centre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Wales Millenium Centre and ending with a 2 week run at the Unicorn Theatre in London.


Catch up on 2013

As i’ve been pretty bad at updating lately I thought i’d pop an overview of the year so far for a bit of a reference and sharing, and will hopefully be a bit more detailed about each soon!  🙂
Ccomplicite open workshop 1omplicité Open Sound Workshop

To start the year off I was part of a Complicité open sound workshop with participants from all over the world taking part. We took a week to work with sound as a rehearsal tool, led by, Complicité associate, Catherine Alexander. It was a really interesting chance to see how sound can effect the way a rehearsal process can evolve, how it can be used to analyse characters and scenes and map out sections of stories, to reveal new stories. Some really interesting sound experiments with both recorded and live sound/music.

Inspector Sands, Rock Pool
Working as Associate Sound Designer to Elena Pena, on a show for 3 – 5 year olds, the show was created by the company and Directed by Lucinka Eisler. The age range for the show created a bit of an extra challenge for us, but an interesting one! The show is set in a tiny rock pool, where a crab and prawn have been washed up and find themselves stuck! We used a mixture of Sound effects and Music (composed by Tom Mills) to create the audio world of the rock pool and the outside human world too, using props on stage to help make the music come from the stage and turn into playback music.

RSC Hamlet
Hamlet fencing 2
Photo by Keith Pattison

At the start of the week Hamlet began its run at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon-Avon, Directed by David Farr the production will run until September 2013 in rep alongside As You Like it and Alls Well That Ends Well. It was great to work with the team at the RSC, some lovely people and just a nice a place to be. It was a learning experience I really enjoyed. The theatre itself is in a thrust configuration since its renovation a few years ago, which was an interesting space to work in.

Field recording

A few weeks ago i took a trip home to start sourcing exterior countryside ambience. Armed with a very simple set up I used the MKH 416 with pistol blimp, going into a Zoom H4n. If i had the resources i would have loved to take a stereo or even quadraphonic recording setup but I using what i had i jumped into the countryside getting as much as possible.

I planned for a sunny day but oddly enough it decided to snow during the night before and was very bright during the rest of the day. So i took advantage of that whilst i could!

Whilst it was great to be out in the countryside getting these sounds,  it was really still very difficult to get away from the background traffic sound in the distance. Luckily there were some small valley’s that acted as a barrier against it. I’d really like to try using a less sensitive mic in the same situation to see the difference, though the directivity of the 416 helped immensely in getting specifics and away from external noise that i simply did not want.

To editing the recordings I used Logic, with it’s Equal power crossfade it was really very simple to be able to cut out unwanted sounds (many of which were aeroplanes!) and very quick to create a loop-able ambience track out of each take. Though it certainly didn’t feel as dynamic as i was hoping it would. But again, having a stereo version would have made quite a difference.

It was really useful to actually get out there and try some location ambient recording and i realised how much i actually enjoy trying to get the best recordings I can, also happening upon places/people/animals etc that i hadn’t planned too was half the fun of it!

Also, though it obviously wasn’t on a similar scale, going through the list of Field recording tips posted by multiple readers and Tim Prebble on his blog was very useful to look over and think about, so thanks to Tim for starting it off!

Foley Session 2/SFX recording

In the next two sessions i had in the studio i decided to source as much of the props and items that i needed to record. I realised having a lot more to choose from would help me in creating some more interesting sounds for each foley action. I played again with streamers and logic, and how i could get the best sound quality in the studio.

Foley items

I started off by grabbing items from an all purpose store near the studio, my favourite item being some long cocktail sticks. I read about cellophane and bubble wrap working nicely for fire but decided to try a trick i saw on the ‘soundworks collection’ about foley at disney – strapping together a whole bunch of bamboo strips together and rubbing them – but with these cocktail sticks. That plus the cellophane worked really well.

Though its fantastic to have a studio to use, it is still not completely sound proof having issues with my macbook overheating (Due to outputting streamers to a second display) and causing fan noise, created a smaller booth which was protected from it. It really helped and meant in editing i had to do a lot less noise reduction 😀 it allowed a lot more fluid creativity and play that i lacked last time around. I could try out different combinations quickly and experiment as much as needed.


I started gathering some foley layers for later use. Using a large wooden stick to beat on top of a wooden wine rack, with the cocktail sticks left on top to move helped create of a strong rhythm but allowed the cocktail sticks move slightly. Without giving away any of the film, i wanted to gather some small rhythmic layers that could be added to specific shots. On it’s own it’s quite weedy, but it’s a start.

Foley - Wine rack cocktail sticks

Been as i’m not working with the final cut of the film, these sessions are more SFX recordings that anything. But its been really useful to gather some prop sounds ready to place and edit.

Foley Session 1 -TRP

So, I’m currently working on the Post-sound for a film put together by the BYFA for the Co-operative group. The Rochdale Pioneersis about a Co-operative movement that took place in 1844 by the people of Rochdale. Though it wasn’t the first Co-operative to take place, their rules and guidelines are that which the modern day Co-operative follow.

Working from a very rough cut of certain scenes, i’ve started to get a sense of some of the sound worlds that need to be built. Giving ‘everything’ a sound is what i need to get to grips with and in such I began my Foley research.

After reading a lot of i use pro tools in this way… Logic in this way… I decided to take some advice but also take a full day in the studio trying some techniques out.

For this first session i used Logic pro, tested out my M-audio profire 610, Figure 53’s ‘streamers’. Set up with a Sennhieser MKH416 and a Rode NT2.


Doing the session on my own, I can really see the huuuge benefit of having an engineer separate to the artist! If that were a viable option that is! anyway, the first thing i wasted a lot of time doing was, having to press stop, go back to previous location and record again, So grabbing an external keyboard helped hugely with this, but it still wasn’t great. Generally, I want to move onto creating shortcuts using Quickeys (very similar to automator, but much more user friendly and quicker, also integrates applescript) using this session to experiment, it showed me the sort of workflow i’m aiming for, especially when recording+performing. I’d really like to experiment with using midi commands from the performing position to locate, record, loop etc, simply on my phone or a little Nano kontrol

I really like the multi take features in Logic, it would be fantastic for comp-ing parts of takes that are in-line with the video, however having never performed as a foley artist before, i was quite off with some takes, and naively in the moment expected to be able to comp takes when i edit it. It may be fine for some certain comps, but it cant fix a whole footstep trrack out of time! I see how important it is to get rhythms and sync in the performance more than expecting to clean it up in the edit.

M-audio profire 610

I bought the m-audio more for small theatre shows, having the 8 unbalanced outs will be very handy but thought i’d test the studio use of it having just upgraded from an Alesis firewire , which has hardly and real controllable multi channel output capabilities.

The obvious issue with recording in the same room as the equipment is noise from the my mac. In quite a hot room, external monitor controlling streamers and the profire kicking out phantom power to both of the mics. This meant fan speed increases that were very very audible. Adding the power supply to the profire doesn’t help, and isn’t recommended by Maudio either, and figure 53 recommend using a second computer to contain streamers. In the end i just took out the NT2 which helped.

The recordings themselves i was happy with but this fan noise is unbearable, using the alesis is probably the better option in these situations, so will test that next time and try to grab a second mac to control streamers.

I was using a demo version of Streamers that i prepared prior to the session. It is a great cueing program that receives MIDI Time Code from Logic to help cue ADR and Foley performers. It’s quickly becoming part of my cueing tools.

streamers ui

Basically you create a cue, give it a SMPTE time and it will create a ‘streamer’ overlay on a preview video. I found this incredibly useful whilst performing, and also very easy to keep control of too a larger external monitor is a must, the one i used was awful and i had trouble seeing what i needed to. Streamers also allows you to use a text file to create the cues instantly, which was extremely useful . Definitely be using a licensed version in the next session.

As for performing the different parts of Foley, Footsteps proved to be the most difficult by far! But I believe that practice certainly does make perfect so i’m willing to keep at it! Having read through the Philip Rodrigues’ website on Foley, he suggests to get into the character that you’re providing foley for. In my case one character has a really laid back feel and is a bit cheeky, really distinct strides. Taking Rodrigues’ advice helped massively. Understanding the character helped me get the right rhythm and sync to the footsteps.

I have started to love the MKH416 after taking it out for a quick spin on location in Hebden Bridge, a beautiful place, but also chilly, and wet! a great place to try it out.

Hebden bridge landscape

However sad it sounds, the wind i captured here was great, sitting in a little alcove of a church, wind rushing by. A little off the topic of Foley but still, I really like the mic and it worked well in the studio, but the experiment was less about the quality and more about the workflow, so i’ll be going over it again.

The session was really useful and will really let me increase the efficiency of upcoming recordings. Now, onto working out an efficient editing workflow!