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All of these examples are recorded straight out of the Fairlight with no processing applied (except as noted below). Keep in mind that equalization and processing could be used to alter the sounds. Most of the examples were recorded (with a SoundBlaster) in 16-bit mono at 11KHz in order to keep the file sizes down. Rather than simply playing the sample (usually one note), I have created short phrases in an attempt to present the sounds in context.

AAHH.WAV (90KB)   One of the classic Fairlight voice sounds. This one has been used in everything from New Age, to New Wave, to Pop, to car commercials.

OOHH.WAV (103KB)   Another classic sound, smoother than the previous. It's hard to make a mistake with this sound!

Where to Find Fairlight Samples and Sounds
Although I don't have samples on this site, you can look for them in several places:

ARTKD1.WAV (42KB)   This kick drum sound has gated reverb as part of the sample. It was probably used by The Art of Noise.

ORCH5.WAV (17KB)   This is one of the unavoidable orchestra hits that you have no doubt heard in many songs. Duran Duran's "A View To A Kill" is an example, although they may not have used this exact sound. I added a bit of brightness to this example by playing two notes, one an octave above the other.

TRIAD.WAV (24KB)   Another orchestra hit. This one is fairly clean and simple, and that feature makes it quite useable in a variety of places, without jumping out too much.

ORCHFZ1.WAV (29KB)   Yet another orchestra hit, this time one with more percussion. I played this lower in pitch than the original. Samples like this tend to have a range of about an octave above and below the original pitch. Beyond that they start sounding quite different, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

TIBET.WAV (133KB)   This is also played lower than "natural", a bit more than an octave. Notice how atmospheric this sounds. Lowering the pitch of samples is a great way to create mysterious ambient effects. You may be able to hear the aliasing noise, which is the high-pitched grainy noise that occurs when the low-pass output filter on the D/A converter is set too high. The Fairlight's 8-bit sounds are particularly vulnerable to aliasing. The filter is usually kept fairly low but that tends to make the sound a little muddy, so I like to open it up a bit.

AHHMARIM.WAV (79KB)   Hot tip: anything with the human voice mixed into it seems to be quite effective. This sound consists of a marimba mixed with the AAHH sound. The effect sounds almost like reverb, but this was recorded directly out of the Fairlight with no processing applied.

SNARE.WAV (73KB)   Here is one of the many snare drum samples. First, it is played in the normal range, then very low in pitch. I find this low sound interesting; it sounds like a distant explosion, but also like someone exhaling. I have used this low sound as a sort of cymbal crash, but studio engineers used to get confused when they heard it coming out of the same audio output as the regular snare sound. Their EQ and effects settings were set for the standard snare sound, not the low sound.

ELCHORUS.WAV (73KB)   I drew on my guitar playing experience to give this example an authentic touch. Although the Fairlight uses a keyboard, I had to consider the physical characteristics of the guitar when selecting the notes and the playing technique. In the early days of the Fairlight, we had to be careful to play instruments the "right" way, but these days, listeners accept just about anything.

SEQUENCE.WAV (113KB)   Here is another guitar sound, but using more of a keyboard technique rather than a guitar technique. This example consists of two guitar sounds played simultaneously. One sound is pretty normal, while the second one has deep vibrato and portamento that makes the notes "swoop" around. Playing this on a real guitar is a bit cumbersome, although not impossible.

GITFUZZ.WAV (57KB)   I don't even care if this one is playable on a real guitar, but the point is that it was composed only with a keyboard in mind. And yet, it still sounds like a guitar. Why does an instrument have to be played like the real thing?

TRAMBASS.WAV (50KB)   This bowed string bass sound was used by Keith Emerson in the Sylvester Stallone movie Nighthawks. Quite a rich sound -- which can be a problem! If the sound is too unique and recognizable, it is difficult to use in another song. In contrast, have you ever recognized the same piano sound (for example) in songs by two different artists?

CADENCE.WAV (103KB)   This example combines several brass instruments in an attempt to simulate a jazz horn section. This was recorded from an old demo cassette tape which had a bit of "room tone" added to give the horns an extra bit of realism.

WHOWANT.WAV (101KB)   Here is a sound that I synthesized by combining at least three separate samples. You can probably hear the piano, but can you also hear the bass guitar and analog synthesized bass? For some reason, the piano was originally sampled a whole-tone higher than normal, so while the bass note plays D and then B, the piano plays E and C# (a major 9th above). This worked out alright, though, because the sound is interesting and full. Perhaps too full! These two notes formed the basis for an entire song, but I had difficulty using the sound anywhere else. Plus, a composite sound like this presents a challenge when trying to determine loop points, which are used to sustain the sound.

DRIPS.WAV (90KB)   This is the kind of thing that the Fairlight excels at. Here you have a natural sound (a water droplet) used as a musical instrument. Note that every sound, from a hammer hitting an anvil to a dog bark, has a dominant musical pitch. The trick is to use sounds where the note is particularly prominent. However, even if the pitch is not that strong, the human ear will assign one. We are always looking for order in chaos.

DOG.WAV (59KB)   Speaking of dog barks, here is my "trained dog" singing a few notes for you.

THUNDER.WAV (147KB)   This sound effect was not played by hitting just one key! I used a cascade of notes to create the movement within the sound and to sustain it. Again, no processing was applied. Many sound effects are created while watching the film or video for time cues, which is why Foley artists are comfortable working with the Fairlight. (A Foley artist performs sound effects by physically manipulating things, such as coconuts to simulate a horse galloping, or slamming a car door, or crinkling paper to sound like a fire, or walking in a prepared bed of gravel to match the actor's onscreen movements.)

FIREBEAT.MP3 (184KB, 44KHz, 16-bit stereo, 15 sec)   This excerpt from one of my compositions illustrates tuned percussion. There is only one "traditional" pitched sound present, which is the breathy flute/voice sound (there's that human voice again!). The rest of the instruments are all percussive and needed to be micro-tuned in order to bring them to the same standard pitch reference. Many of the sounds are also played higher or lower than normal, but this is a common Fairlight technique to make the most of only eight monophonic sounds on the Series II.

Note   The preceding sound samples and musical phrases are all original works composed or arranged by the author of this page (Greg Holmes). Please contact me if you wish to use them elsewhere. The source samples utilized are believed to be in the public domain, or are samples from the standard Fairlight library which was purchased with the CMI. They are presented here for illustrative purposes only. If any copyrighted samples have been used, please contact me and the item will be either removed or properly credited (at the copyright owner's discretion).



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