22 March 2009

Bongo drum, handmade

While attempting to create a whole drum kit by hand using Photoshop a few months ago I created this bongo drum, which sound I find quite satisfactory. It was accomplished by loading a few bongo drum samples in Photosounder to see how a bongo drum typically looks like, and then recreating what I saw in Photoshop.

A handmade bongo drum

There are 3 main features, as shown on the picture to the right : a few carefully spaced horizontal lines that give the bongo drum its characteristic metallic ringing sort of sound, two short bright blobs placed at the beginning of the sound under the two lowest lines which give the sound its initial punch, and finally a darker snare-like haze which give the initial slappy-almost-clicky start and evolves in vertical span and intensity to sound like the ringing from kicking into a barrel. Of course on top of it all we find a black rectangle which overlays the first half of what we drew as to give our sound its sharp attack. The 3 separate features as show on the image sound like this (played at 205 pixels/second) :

Full original multi-layered Photoshop file

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21 March 2009

Instrument Isolation (Funky Worm)

This is how I isolated the main instrument from Ohio Players' Funky Worm using Photosounder and Photoshop, as show in this video. I first loaded the original sound's image into Photoshop and using the clone tool I erased the lines matching to the instrument I wanted to isolate. That new image, once loaded in Photosounder in lossless mode using the original sound, gave me this drums and vocals-only version :

Back in Photoshop, I pasted the new image on top of the original one, switched to 16-bit mode for precision, corrected the gamma for both of them so they match to 1:1. However beware, Photoshop's Levels makes dark pixels darker than they should be when you increase the gamma, which has disastrous effects on pictures as dark as what we have here. Which is why it's best to invert the pictures so that their background turns to white before doing such corrections. Once inverted, you need a value of 2.0 in Levels' gamma, on both layers, then choose the Difference blending mode, flatten the image, invert again, apply a gamma of 0.5.

We now only have the bits we previously erased, and we can see what has to be done. With the example I chose I had entire missing areas matching to where the snare drums used to be, burying the overtones of the instrument of interest into noise, making them disappear. The fact that I used an MP3 as a basis only made matters worse. I also had things that didn't belong, mainly pieces of voice I mistook as belonging to my instrument. The rest of the work consisted in cleaning and fixing the image, using my best Photoshopping skills.

Note that when you're done, you might want to double-pass the processing to obtain a result more faithful to the actual image you obtained. To do that, normally load the image in lossless mode in Photosounder with the original sound as a basis, save the resulting sound, then open the very same sound file again, reopen the image, and save the sound.

Isolated main instrument

Edit : In this file you will find the original sample used as well as the two images needed to recreate the results shown above, along with detailed instructions on how to do that using the Photosounder Demo or the full version of Photosounder.

Also you can find a tutorial on how to reproduce this here

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©2008-2009 Michel Rouzic