At the end of the night recently I found myself sitting cross-legged with something that looks like a metal UFO sitting on my lap. We had come back to a friend’s house after a night out and, during a lull in the conversation, he produced an unusual looking metal drum, similar in tone and character to a Caribbean steel drum. This beautiful musical toy was in fact a “hang drum” (pronounced “haang”) and despite it’s appearance and tone, is a very modern instrument, first designed and manufactured in Switzerland in the 1990s. Slapping or tapping the different divots around the outside of the metal drum produce different tones within a scale, rich with harmonics.
I decided I should sample the instrument, and brought a few mics, my laptop and interface round to my friend John’s house. I had John play each note around the drum at increasing velocities (quietest through moderate, to hardest), using the flat of his hand, his knuckle or a rubber mallet, so as to capture a variety of tonal characters. I recorded each strike using an AKG C414B and Beyerdynamic M160, using the mid/side micing technique which produces a recording with a wide stereo image, but which also sums perfectly to mono. Once these differing velocities were captured, I processed the recordings (EQ, compression, noise gate), mixed them and bounced the entire recording to one stereo file, which I then sliced up manually and loaded into Kontakt, scaling the incoming velocities to trigger the recordings of the drum being hit at the respective velocities. Importantly, I removed the velocity to volume modulation which is typically a default setting for most synths/samplers, as the recording of the lighter velocities are, naturally, lower in volume than the higher velocities.
The result is a great sounding virtual instrument which is very easy to play. All the notes are tuned and harmonically sympathetic with each other so you can pretty much mash the keyboard and something interesting will emerge. White notes from C3 upwards produce tones along the scale, black notes in between produce flams, and the octave below (C2 to C3) have some simple arpeggios, played by John. Pitching down or up, or reversing, or adding a LPF filter with a quick envelope to close it, or modulating the release time, all produces interesting results. Click the media file on the right to hear a little ditty I knocked up using this instrument, and a beat from Maschine.
I have of course made the instrument available for download. Please click here to download the instrument and samples. If you’re a Kontakt user, you’re ready to go. Otherwise, you’ll find the component samples within the folder. If you’re building the instrument yourself, please note, you will need to trim the sample start points as they all have a little pre-roll at the beginning. Also the notes themselves are not labelled in a musically correct fashion, rather the notes are labelled A01, 02 03 and so on for the “lowest” tone (the tonic of which is C) up to H01, 02 etc for the highest tone. The instrument itself is in the key of C.
I hope you have fun using this instrument!