Audio Sampling: A Practical Guide (Book Review) 
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Written by Scott Selter   
Monday, 22 October 2007

Audio sampling is a music production technique that is tremendously prevalent in the recording process.  At the same time, it is often misunderstood or neglected all together.  Sampling has an interesting background, both in terms of its development and its impact on music culture.  The authors of "Audio Sampling: A Practical Guide" take on the challenge of covering the aspects and complexity of audio sampling.  It must be said upfront, that they were successful.

This Focal Press release covers a range of audio sampling topic.  While it is not the definitive book on audio sampling, it does give the reader a deep insight into the world of virtual instruments.  It was not the intent of the authors to cover every aspect of sampling in enormous technical detail.  They simply wanted to cover the extended basic of sampling and provide the reader with the tools necessary to create their own instrument samples and or effectively use their sample libraries.

The book is structured in a logical order, providing an easy to follow system for audio sampling techniques. 

The first chapter provides an overview of what audio sampling is and lays out a plan for how the rest of the book unfolds.  After a brief overview of types of samplers, the authors delve into the basic editing functions of a software audio sampler.  This section does an excellent job of covering the aspects of a typical sampler and what you should expect in terms of sampler features.  The chapter concludes with a discussion on how to use samplers given a specific situation as well as some benefits to using samplers.

Chapters two and three begin to prepare you for the audio sampling process.  These chapters are introductory to audio connections and hardware preparations while at the same time providing a fair amount of detail.  There is something new in these chapters no matter your level of experience.  Novices will find it easy to follow the discussion, while higher level recording engineers can pick up tips on recording samples from a couple of highly experienced audio engineers.

Perhaps one of the most interesting chapters in the book is chapter four.  This section reveals information about proper miking techniques given certain circumstances.  It even gives you information on how to properly listen to the sounds and how to judge basic acoustics.  Experienced professionals will take away a great deal from this section.  It does a wonderful job of summarizing the aspects of the acoustics and recording techniques, while appropriately going into further details when necessary.  Beginners may struggle with this chapter due to its wealth of information, but by no means is it impossible to comprehend given a little extra effort.  You may want to pay special attention to the section on the possibilities of surround sound sampling.  Certainly, surround sound will be part of the future of audio sampling.

Equally impressive as chapter four are chapters five and six.  Once you've recorded your audio samples, logically, the next steps are to edit the samples and create your instrument.  These two chapters cover nearly every aspect of these processes.  There is more than enough coverage here to successfully complete the tasks at hand.  As there is very complex information in these sections, visual learners will find the illustrations present to be extraordinarily helpful.  To tie it all together, chapter seven handles how to use the audio samples properly.  It covers the connections and interfaces used.  This chapter focuses mainly on MIDI.  After all, the best part about creating your virtual instrument is using a MIDI controller to trigger the samples.

The book finishes with a couple chapters on the history of the audio sampling and the possibilities of where sampling could go in the future.  Whether or not you find yourself initially interested in the history of this audio process, I highly recommend giving it a read.  Understanding the development of audio sampling will give you a greater appreciation for the sampling techniques of today.  Who knows, it might even give you ideas on how to improve the world of audio sampling for the future.

This book is great for everyone, no matter your level of experience.  As an audio engineer myself, I took away a great deal of information from reading this book.  Audio sampling was not a large part of my recording world, as I preferred the natural sound of live instruments.  But after reading this book (which really was an easy, one-sit read) I have gathered insight into creating better sounding audio samples.  Audio sampling is now my go to technique for creating a quick demo track and adding production value to my recording projects.  If my high recommendation of this book is not enough for you, then the authors of the book should do the trick.

The main author of the book is Sam McGuire, a current professor at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center in the Recording Arts program.  Once a graduate student of UCDHSC's Master of Recording Arts program, Sam graduated and went to Appalachian State as an assistant professor and director of the Robert F. Gilley Recording Studio.  Prior to his graduate degree training, Sam attended BYU as an undergraduate in their recording program.  His experience is extensive and this book should mark only the beginning of his publishing career.

For those in the recording industry, the second author, Roy Pritts is probably a recognizable name.  Pritts did it all in his career.  He was a teacher, engineer, musician, composer and most notably a former president of the AES (Audio Engineering Society).  One achievement that he was most proud of was the creation of UC Denver's Music Technology and Recording Arts program.  It is Pritts and the program he created that has attracted many talented individuals to Denver.  Sam McGuire was one of the lucky individuals that were able to learn from and collaborate with Roy.  Sadly, Roy Pritts passed away this passed June and this book is the last writing project that he took part in.  His engineering and creative talents were astounding, and it is easy to see the hand that he lent in the creation of "Audio Sampling: A Practical Guide."  Roy had a profound influence on my career and it is largely because of him that I hope to take part in his legacy, the Master of Recording Arts program at UCDHSC in the fall of 2008.  Thank you Roy for all your hard work and creativeness.  You will be missed.

And on that note, I leave you with one last thought.  There is no one better to learn the intricacies of audio sampling from than a legend in the industry and his colleague.  There is a great deal to learn from this book and that is why I give it one of my highest recommendations.

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