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WPI Technical Theatre Handbook: Digital Samplers
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Digital Samplers

Digital samplers are standalone devices capable of recording and playing back small clips of audio on demand. Samplers are typically used by musicians to simulate musical instruments or produce interesting effects, but they have a lot of features that make them ideal for theatre audio.

Figure 6.3: An advanced digital audio sampler, manufactured by Akai. Samplers such as this can store many minutes of audio on an internal hard disk and play it back from a MIDI keyboard or by computer control.

Samplers are essentially computers with a chunk of RAM (Random Access Memory), and a mass storage device such as a floppy or hard disk drive. Additionally, they have the circuitry necessary to digitally sample and play back sound. Typically they are used in conjunction with a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keyboard or controller.

MIDI is a scheme that musical instruments (keyboards, synthesizers, drum machines, etc.) can use to communicate with each other. It allows for many different types of messages to be sent, the simplest of which are called note on/note off messages. These messages simply say to a musical instrument ``start or stop playing this note now.'' Samplers can be configured to assign individual sounds to notes, thus playing ``C'' on a keyboard could produce a gunshot, while playing ``A'' could produce a phone ring sound.

Samplers offer some advantages over more conventional types of media. Most samplers allow for polyphony, the playing of several notes at once. This makes it easy to layer sound effects on demand. Also, with samplers, the cue time for sounds is typically next to nothing, allowing for cueing that rivals even the fastest CD player.

next up previous contents index
Next: Computer Sound Cards Up: Input Previous: Mini-Disc (MD)   Contents   Index
Steve Richardson 2000-07-06

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