The Sampler’s Pangram

There’s a sentence that contains all of the letters of the alphabet – some refer to it as a “pangram” – that is used to display fonts.  “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”  If one has an instantiation of the sentence in a particular font, one can then create all of the words of the English language in that font.  Unlike the alphabet (which also has all the letters of the alphabet), it’s cognizable as a sentence that someone can read.  I’ve always wondered if sampler’s could create something similar.  Let me explain.

If you’ve got a good ear, you’ll have figured out that I’m a kind of hybrid sampler.  See, sampling is actually not one technique but a group of techniques that lie on a continuum.  On one end of the spectrum, you have the most obvious examples of sampling – where a musician takes an instrumental or vocal riff whole hog, and places it into a section of a song.  On the other hand, you have something like midi, where a certain number of notes are sampled individually, and those samples are linked to individual keys of a keyboard, upon which they can be sequenced and arranged to make melodies.

I use sampling techniques that sit all over this continuum.  Occasionally, I’ll find a riff that I’ll take as a whole.  Sometimes, I’ll create my own home-grown midi samples.  And sometimes, I’ll take samples and combine them with a special form of autotune to create new melodies from the old samples, where the new samples retain some of the phrasing nuance from the original recording.  I’d like to think I’m the inventor of that form of sampling, but I haven’t looked into that enough to know for sure.

In any case – back to the sampler’s pangram.  What if there was a simple melody (not even a minute long in length) that you could have any instrumentalist play, such that once you had that sample, you could generate a substantial range of melodies using hybrid sampling?  This would be the sampler’s pangram.  Like “The quick brown fox” – it’s a “playable” sentence (i.e., a melody) that anyone should be able to play.  It also would have all of the elements that a hybrid-sampler would need to generate all the melodies they need for that instrument.

The benefits of the sampler’s pangram are several.  Using hybrid sampling techniques, you could get a lot of melodies out of an instrument, where much of the phrasing is retained – making it a far superior format to midi, and in many ways superior to basic sampling.  Additionally, for musicians that a poor, they could generate more life-like instrumental tracks for a song, without much effort or software (the software costs not even $50 these days I think).  You’d just need a number of friends willing to play and record that basic pangram melody.

The Sampler’s Pangram.