Updated: Sep 2, 2022
How I use ‘Arcade’ to sample South Asian Classical sounds
by Krithi Rao, BBG NYC
Krithi is a music-tech educator and artist based in NYC. She works at Beats By Girlz global, leads the BBG NYC chapter, and works at Building Beats, a music-tech education organization based in NYC and LA. Outside of being a music-tech educator, Krithi creates music that combines and samples sounds from South Asian classical and folk music with electronic, hip hop and dance subgenres.
Sampling Made Easy
As a musician, I’ve always gravitated toward sampling. Since I’m not an instrumentalist, sampling plays a huge role in my music because it allows me to manipulate previously recorded audio files and create something new with it.
My journey with Arcade began in January 2020. In January 2020, oOne of my new year's resolutions was to make a beat blending South Indian music and hip hop by the end of the month. I grew up singing Carnatic (South Indian Classical Music) vocals, but always had a desire to play instruments like the mridangam, kanjira and ghatam. I was even more impressed by the ability to vocalize and play phrases at the same time. Being a vocalist, I figured that I could easily pick up “Konnakol”—percussion syllables that are performed vocally by Carnatic music percussionists and vocalists. Here’s a brief video to give you a sense. (I aspire to be half as talented as V Shivapriya, the young vocalist in this video).'
Konnakol Duet | MadRasana Unplugged
Clearly, konnakol requires a lot of dedication, practice and conviction. There was no way I was going to pick up the instrument, record myself performing AND sample my own vocals all in one month’s time.
So, I decided to sample someone else instead. I had already downloaded Arcade in December 2019, and wanted to give it a try. I typed “Konnakol” in the search box and came across 5-6 kits under the “Rhythm Culture” series, and I was impressed. There were a variety of vocal phrases I could mess around with, and I also really loved the performer’s tone and emotion. The mridangam and kanjira samples were great too!
Diagrams of Mridangam, Ghatam, and Kanjira percussion instruments
Three hours later, I had a finalized version of “Saturday Konnakol,”—the first ever full length instrumental I produced, mixed and mastered by myself, and felt comfortable sharing with the world.
Over the next few months, I worked on what would become my first instrumental LP, Padapadappu (Palpitations). The album includes some of my other fave series: Obsidian, Drum Machinery, Instead of Hi Hats, and Nightmares, to name a few.
Cult Awakening kit from the Obsidian series In Darkness by Krithi features sounds from the Obsidian Series
More on Arcade
Output calls Arcade a synthesizer, but I think of it more as a super easy-to-use sampler. You play it like a piano— each white key has its own sample, then the black keys manipulate samples with features like the resequencer, repeater and playhead. Each kit has 15 samples (white keys) and 10 different ways to manipulate each sample (black keys), so that’s 150 different sounds within one kit.
Output keeps growing their library, so there’s more and more access to different sounds. Currently, they have over 4000 kits, so that’s 60,000 samples. And since each sample can be played 10 different ways, you’ve got 600,000 different sounds.
I like that I can adjust the sample length, attack, release, velocity sensitivity and other features for each sample.
The interface is easy to use and visually appealing, with help text that gives you a brief description of how to use the different functions. This was especially helpful when I first started using it.
Although it’s a subscription-based app ($10/month), I think it’s worth it because I release music quite often, and heavily use Arcade kits. I also prefer Arcade because it makes it easy to type sounds I’m looking for rather than scouring the internet (Youtube) for genre-specific samples. They have a 30-day free trial, which is a great option to experiment with the app. For more info on my music, and to hear how I’ve used Arcade in my tracks, you can check out the links below!
Edited by Cassie Plunket & Nan Macmillan, BBG Global