Zoë Blade\'s notebook

Akai S1000 guide

Akai S1000
Akai S1000

Making samples

Although the S1000 can do lots of things, you don't have to learn them all at once. I'd suggest starting by learning to make, save, and reload samples. Once you're comfortable with that, you can move on to the more advanced options provided by programs.

Sampling

Turn on the machine, without a disk in the drive (otherwise it'll automatically load everything on the disk). Press EDIT SAMPLE on the bottom row of keys to go to that section.

By default, you can edit some simple waveforms stored in ROM: sine, square, sawtooth, and pulse. But we want to record a new one, which you do by copying one of these.

One of the few things about the S1000 I find counterintuitive is naming things, whether renaming them or copying them. You have to type in the new name first, then say what you're going to use it for. (I believe this is because in Japanese, the sentence is less like "rename A to B", and more like "Aの名前をBに変更", literally "A's name B change to".) So press the NAME button to start entering a new name. Each button doubles up as a letter of the alphabet, so you can now use them to enter a name. Then press ENT/PLAY to finish entering the new name, then COPY (F6) to copy the existing sample to this new name. (The function keys serve page-specific purposes shown at the bottom of the screen.) Now you have a newly named sample you can record to.

Next, press REC1 (F2) and use the CURSOR and DATA wheels to ensure the settings are to your liking. Finally, press REC2 (F3) to go to the recording page within the sample editing section, and press ARM (F8) to arm the sampler for recording. Make some noise, adjust the record level (note the switch as well as the knob), and take as many attempts as you need to record a clean, loud sample. It should be loud enough to start recording when the sound starts, and to have a high signal-to-noise ratio, yet not so loud that it clips. Digital distortion is pretty harsh.

You can play the sample back by pressing ENT/PLAY, or playing an external keyboard. Once you're happy with it, it's time to save it.

Saving

Pop in a floppy disk, press DISK to go to that section, then press SAVE (F2) to go to the saving page.

Another thing that can easily trip you up is that by default the S1000 is set to load and save everything, not just what you've selected. Set the TYPE OF SAVE to just CURSOR ITEM ONLY. Select your sample, and press GO (F8) to go ahead and save it.

There are lots of ways you can modify the sample, but there's no undo feature, so it's always best to save early and often. If you want to be on the paranoid side, now's the time to turn the sampler off and on again to make sure it really does load OK. If it doesn't, at least you still have everything to hand to rerecord the sample.

While this is barely scratching the surface of the S1000's abilities, I find it's good to get to the point that you're doing something fun as early as possible, so take your time sampling things and playing melodies and rhythms on those samples.

Trimming

To save resources (disk space, memory space, polyphony), it's good practrice to trim the silence off the end of your samples. This is reasonably straightforward:

Press EDIT SAMPLE to go to that section, and select the sample to trim with the DATA wheel. Press ED 1 (F4) to go to the first sample editing page.

Use the CURSOR wheel to select the end of the sample, and enter a new value for it. You can select any digit of the value and use the DATA wheel to increase or decrease it, or you can use the numbered buttons to simply overwrite that digit onwards. As you'd expect, this applies to changing any other number too.

You can press ENT/PLAY or play your keyboard to hear the changes as you're going. You generally want to preserve as much of the sample as you can reasonably hear, then trim off the silence.

If you need a closer look at the waveform, you can use F7 to toggle between the start and end of the sample, then ZIN (F5) and ZOUT (F6) to zoom in and out.

Once you're happy with the new length, press CUT (F8) to go ahead and trim the sample in memory. Then save it to disk as before, to free up some space.

Making programs

As long as you stay in the EDIT SAMPLE section, the S1000 works as a polyphonic but monotimbral instrument (capable of playing several notes at once, but only one patch). If you only want to play one sound at a time, that might be all you need. But if you want it to, the S1000 can do a lot more, as the centrepiece of your studio.

If you plan on using the S1000 to play several different samples at once, you need to use programs. This allows you to, for instance, have a classic home studio consisting of an Atari ST (presumably running Creator or Cubase), an Akai S1000, and a mixer.

What makes the S1000 a bit odd (in my opinion, at least) is this: I'd expect to be able to tell each MIDI channel which single program I want it to play. That is, I believe, how most multitimbral equipment works. "Whatever's on channel 1, please play program 24. Whatever's on channel 2, please play program 36." And so on.

Instead, with the S1000, each program has a MIDI channel number saved as part of the program itself. So when you change the program, it changes which channel it's receiving notes on. This allows each channel to play multiple programs at once, to layer up multiple sounds.

To further complicate things, multiple programs can share the same program number, so when you tell the S1000 to "please play program 24", this will load all the programs numbered 24.

I think it's designed so you don't group your samples together by type ("here's all my distorted drums, here's all my biscuit tin clangs"), but rather by song ("here's all the programs and samples this particular song uses"). So you could use a program number per song, and by switching to another program number over MIDI, load up all the programs and samples it needs, on all the appropriate channels, in one fell swoop.

If you have your heart set on grouping your samples by type, you should probably do that as well as grouping them by song, preferably on a separate partition.

Advanced options

SCSI

You can install a SCSI board into the S1000, allowing you to access an internal drive, and up to four external ones.

Every device on the SCSI bus has a number, 0 through to 7. The S1000 itself is 6; its internal drive, if it has one, is 5. Each external drive should therefore be numbered 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 7.

I recommend the SCSI2SD drive, which writes to an SD card. It simultaneously emulates four external SCSI drives, numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4.

When you turn on your S1000 with a SCSI card installed, but no internal drive, it will wait a while for the missing hard disk to get ready. Go ahead and press SKIP (F7) if you don't want to wait.

Press DISK to go to that section, then HDSK (F5).

There are a few options on this screen, most of which you can leave alone. It's the second option we want to change. Set SCSI drive ID to the ID of whichever SCSI device you want to access. Then press LOAD (F1) to commit to the change and go back to the loading screen.

Finally, to actually load data from the SCSI drive, use the DATA wheel to change the LOAD FROM DISK target from the default FLOPPYL to HARD-:A.

If it worked, you'll see a list of the files on the disk's first partition, partition A. If it didn't, you'll get another warning that the disk drive's not ready.

Alas, because the S1000 has no non-volatile memory, it will forget which drive ID you want to access when you next turn it off and on again. You'll probably get pretty quick at entering F7, DISK, F5, selecting ID 1, F1, selecting the hard disk.

(If you prefer, you can complete these steps in a different order, selecting HARD-:A as the drive to load from before selecting the SCSI ID to access. It makes no real difference which error message you get along the way, out of a missing floppy disk or a missing hard disk.)

While it may be a little tedious to select the drive upon bootup, you get 512MB to play with per SCSI drive. It's a perfect speed for sampling: slow enough to assure you it actually saved your data, but fast enough to not bother you. If you're saving to an SD card, it's also silent.

Reference

Sampling technique

The general consensus seems to suggest the following: you should sample loud things, then tweak the programs and samples so that you can fake quieter versions by skipping over the start of the sample, having a longer (softer) attack on the volume envelope, and dulling the sound with the filter, all based on the note velocity.

Similarly, when it comes to long, sustained sounds, you can loop a short snippet, maybe vary the pitch slightly with the LFO, and use the volume envelope (and perhaps filter envelope) to achieve the requested note lengths.

Note that the S1000's filters are digital and have no resonance, which makes them fine for making duller versions of bright sounds. If you want screaming acidlines, you'll have to sample a resonant analogue filter on the way in, or run the sample through a resonant analogue filter on the way out.

Layout

Like the S900 before it, the S1000 thinks in terms of programs, keygroups, and samples. Each program can have 1-99 keygroups, which in turn each have 1-4 samples.

I find it easist to visualise like this: samples can be stacked vertically (based on which velocities they respond to) into a keygroup; and in turn, those keygroups can be combined horizontally (based on which pitches they respond to) into a program.

Each of these items has its own attributes:

Programs

* This affects each sample independently, but is still stored with the rest of the program data, not with the individual samples. If a given sample is used in multiple programs, these settings can be different in each one.

Multiple programs can have the same MIDI program number, allowing you to select several at once.

Keygroups

Samples

Samples can also be timestretched, but this isn't an attribute, so much as a process that changes the sample's data.

Hard disk and CD-ROM format

SCSI-based data consists of disks, partitions, volumes, and files. Each disk can have several partitions, which in turn each have 1-128 volumes, which in turn each have 1-64 files. The two kinds of files are samples and programs. (Keygroups are stored as part of the program they belong to.)

Disks

Partitions

Volumes

Files

Files are measured in blocks. 1 block = 8 KB.

Tips

Guides: Akai S1000 guide | C-LAB Creator guide | IRC guide | Regular expressions guide