Get all of BRIAN FUNK’S VHS-based Ableton Live Packs in one discounted bundle!
Give your music the vintage touch of the 1980’s with sounds recorded directly to VHS tapes and built into Ableton Live Instrument presets.
The bundle includes:
80’s VHS Synths Ableton Live Pack – 58 Ableton Live Instruments
VCR Wave Ableton Live Pack– 40 Ableton Live Instruments
VHS Drums Ableton Live Pack – 600 Drum Samples and 30 Drum Racks
BONUS: VCR Rack Ableton Live Audio Effect Rack – Make anything sound like it came from a VHS tape.
VHS BUNDLE CONTENTS
80’S VHS SYNTHS ABLETON LIVE PACK
There’s something about older recordings that just takes you back in time. Maybe it’s the production techniques that time-stamps certain songs. Or maybe it’s the recording medium and equipment itself that captures the feeling of the old days. Brian wanted to create a collection of instruments that sound like they came right out of a time machine. Brian grew up in the 80’s, watching MTV and VHS tapes; so the mission of this project is to bring back the sounds of my childhood.
The 80’s VHS Synths Ableton Live Pack is combination of all of these elements! It’s a collection of 80’s style synth presets, programmed on analog and digital synthesizers, recorded to VHS tape and then resampled into Ableton Live.
Creating this Pack was a pretty big undertaking. The first step was to program the synths with appropriately 80’s sounds. For this Brian turned to his collection of Analog, Digital, and Virtual synths. Let’s discuss the hardware involved….
The Sequential Circuits Prophet 6 is probably the largest contributor to this Pack. After all, it is basically an updated version of the classic Prophet 5, which was an 80’s mainstay. This synth is so fun to program, and the built in effects (especially the Chorus) were often a nice touch to recreate a vintage sheen. The Prophet 6 is truly a beast and every time it’s used it’s inspiring!
Korg Volca FM
FM synthesis was a defining part of the 80’s synth sound. The Korg Volca FM allows you to import actual Yamaha DX7 patches, and they are really spot on. Brian downloaded a few patch libraries and chose some of the more 80’s sounding presets. Some of the patches were edited right on the Volca, to get the sounds just right. The Volca FM is a homerun by Korg. The only downside is now you’ll want to get some of the other Volcas!
Moog Realistic Concertmate
Brian first played this synth at the Brooklyn Synth Expo held at Main Drag Music. Put the headphones on, and two minutes later twenty minutes had gone by. With that experience Brian had no choice but to buy it right then. This synth really transports you to another world. It’s super gritty and noisy. It has two oscillators, a bell tone (which is essential another oscillator), one of the most interesting sounding noise generators, and a polyphonic layer. This synth requires periodic tuning, but it sounds like nothing else.
Novation Bass Station II
We don’t really hear a lot of discussion about this synth, but it has really grown on us over the last two years or so. It excels at bass sounds, there’s a few different filters that each have a ton of character, and there’s an awesome arpeggiator and sequencer. It’s also USB powered! A lot of the bass sounds in the 80’s VHS Synth Pack came from this guy.
There are a ton of really cool synths for the iPad. Brian programmed a few sounds from some of the vintage recreations and we’re really pleased with how they came out. With the kiss of VHS tape, these synths really came to life!
Sampling the Synths to a VCR
After programming my synth patches, Brian recorded multiple samples of each patch into Clips in Ableton Live. The next step in the process was to record the samples of each patch to a VHS tape. It was surprisingly difficult to acquire a functioning VCR. The one Brian had been storing at home would not record audio. So he spent a weekend traveling to neighborhood garage sales with no luck. The next option was thrift stores. It wasn’t until the third stop that he found a couple of old VCRs. Only one of them had stereo audio inputs, and luckily he got it to work.
Brian then set up his clips in Live with some Follow Actions, so they would automatically play and move on to the next clip. There were over 50 Clips, so this was a real time saver. (More on Follow Actions here and here). Press record on the VCR and start the Clips. Here’s a short Instagram video he made of the process:
Once he’d recorded all of the Clips to the VCR, rewound the tape, pressed record in Live, pressed play on the VCR and recorded all of the samples back into Live. We were very pleased at how much the VHS tape had changed the samples. They still sounded like the originals, but there were now subtle imperfections and noise from the tape.
Then came the tedious process of cutting that new audio file into individual samples of each synth preset!
BUILDING THE INSTRUMENT RACKS
The Instrument Rack for the 80’s VHS Synths
You don’t want to be stuck with the sound of the presets as they had been programmed, so Brian created Instrument Racks to allow each sound to be fully customized. Therefore, each preset has a Low and High Pass Filter, with a shared Resonance control. There’s also a Filter Envelop with adjustable speed to add movement to the Filters. These controls allow you to sculpt away frequencies you don’t want and add some interesting movement to the sounds. The Attack and Release controls let you decide how quickly the sound fades in and out. Finally, the Tone Shifter control changes the way the samples are distributed across the keys, causing interesting stretching of the samples. This drastically changes the overall tonality of each preset.
So many of the patches Brian made sounded really cool with arpeggiators on them, so he thought he would build a super arpeggiator for each preset. The Low and High Arp. MIDI Effect Rack is another set of controls you can use to further alter each preset in the collection. It’s actually two arpeggiators in one rack and is capable of some cool effects. You have a Low Arp and a High Arp; the High Arp is one octave above the Low Arp. Turn them both on by using the corresponding Rate knobs, and you can create all kinds of intertwining rhythmic arpeggiations. If you leave the Low Arp off (turn the Low Arp Rate knob all the way to the left), you can hold sustained chords while the High Arp dances around on top. It’s a really powerful effect that we think you will love!
Some Fun Extras to Capture the VHS Experience!
As soon as the VCR was powered up the and put the tape in, I remembered that just the sound of the machine running, playing, rewinding, and ejecting tapes was a huge part of the experience (and probably why VCRs eventually went obsolete!). So I put a microphone in front of the VCR and recorded all the sounds it makes. I sliced this sample to a Drum Rack, and now you can use these sounds in your productions, either for percussion or special effects!
Finally, Brian recorded samples of the VHS tape playing back silence. It’s a very noisy silence! The tape creates a characteristic hiss which he had to capture. He did this with three different VCRs I collected, which all had slightly different noise character. These samples were then put into an Instrument Rack, and then another chain on the Instrument Rack was created, which were labeled “Add Inst. Here.” You can simply drop any Instrument or VST right on that chain, and it will sound as if it were recorded onto a VHS tape. The Macro Controls allow you to mix in the VHS Noise Volume, and to select between the three different VHS Noises (they are arranged from quietest to loudest).
VCR WAVE ABLETON LIVE PACK
Dripping with nostalgia and lo-fi charm, these 40 Instruments were made by recording Teenage Engineering’s OP-1’s Dr. Wave synth to a VHS tape. Those recordings were used to create this lush collection of sounds.
40 Ableton Live Instrument Racks
1 Ableton Live Audio Effect Rack
Lush and glorious sound of VHS in your music
The OP-1’s Dr. Wave Synth Engine
Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 has a number of great synth engines. Among my favorites is Dr. Wave, which uses “frequency domain synthesis.” As with most of the OP-1 engines, it is difficult to describe, but it operates by morphing through various waveforms while introducing interesting detuning and chorusing. There’s a deep explanation of it at OP-101. Regardless of what it is doing, Brian thinks of it as some kind of love affair between chip tunes sounds and supersaw waves.
Synthesizing and Sampling
Brian went on a deep dive synthesizing sounds using Dr. Wave and recording long single notes of the patches he came up with.
After that, I made the ultimate sacrifice and recorded those sounds over my VHS copy of Pump Up the Volume, starring Christian Slater. We’re sure this is a crime in certain parts of the world, so please don’t report us; it undoubtedly contributed to the personality of the resulting instruments.
Building Ableton Live Instrument Racks
Once Brian had recorded the samples from the VCR back into Ableton Live, he then began building the Instrument Racks. The first impression of the sounds was delight by what the VCR had done to them. Each sound had a new haze over it. Some of them must have crossed worn parts of the VHS tape, as they contained some extra noises and pitch fluctuation. It was exactly what we were looking for!
Brian then built a two-chained Instrument Rack to house the samples. You get control over the a Low Pass Filter, its Envelop, and the ADSR Envelop. The first chain contains the synth sample, the second chain has a sample of blank tape with characteristic VCR noise, hum, and hiss. You can adjust how much extra VCR Noise you want, and if you go into the VCR Noise Chain, you can filter out some of the low hums and even create a phasing filter using the LFO controls.
How Healthy is Your VCR?
If the natural degradation of the VCR transfer isn’t enough, Brian has built a separate Audio Effect Rack to help you emphasize the nostalgia or add it to any other sounds in your production. VHS HEALTH allows you to add pitch drifting, distortions, chorusing, and delays to the sounds. It’s great for adding just a little health VHS quality or emulating a nearly broken VCR sound.
VHS DRUMS ABLETON LIVE PACK
If it’s been a while since you watched a film on a VHS tape, then perhaps you forgot about what those tapes did to movie soundtracks. There’s a little bit of noise, some slight pitch wobble, and mostly, an overall lo-fi glow. Brian had great success recording synthesizers to VHS, so it seemed only natural to record drum samples with my VCR and build some retro-vibe drum kits. The result is the VHS DRUMS Ableton Live Pack.
The 600 drum samples come from a wide range of sources: vintage drum machines, synthesizers, and acoustic samples. They were chosen for their 1980’s vibe. Some are signature sounds of the decade, others were pre-processed with effects like gated reverbs that epitomize that 80’s sound.
After the drums were carefully edited and cropped, Brian used my VCR to record them over an old copy of Pump Up the Volume, starring Christian Slater (We’re pretty sure that movie added to the sonic power of this Pack!). From there, the drums were resampled into Ableton Live, where the slicing, chopping, and cropping process began again.
What’s On the Inside…
In the Project folder, you’ll find all 600 VHS-laced Drum hits organized by type (snare, kick, closed hat, open hat, tom, percussion, cymbal, clap) within the Samples folder. Even if you aren’t an Ableton Live user, you can make use of these samples in your DAW of choice.
You’ll find the 30 Ableton Live Drum Racks within the Presets folder, divided into a Kits folder and a Selector folder.
The Kits folder has 21 immediately playable Drum Racks. Each of the 16 drums are fully customizable with their own Macro Controls. The presets were loving named after 80’s movie characters.
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