Sampling pureness: an interview with Bolder Sounds

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I remember the first time I heard of Bolder Sounds. A friend introduced me to one of their sample libraries, it was the Hammered Dulcimer Trilogy, and after a few minutes I knew I wanted to know more about this company.
Then I got some of their free libraries (like the Toy Piano or the Psaltery) and other products like the Bavarian Zither and the Handbells. Browsing Bolder’s catalogue (by the way, great value for money!) you don’t get the usual loops or “bombastic” sounds that you see too often elsewhere. Here the keywords are: traditional, cinematic, acoustic, and something else in between…
I always got a perception of quality and “pureness” using Bolder’s libraries, and in a way I feel the same about Dennis Burn’s answers (he’s the man behind Bolder Sounds) to my questions below.

Hi Dennis, you started producing sample libraries in ’92. In the past developers had to deal with limitations (memory, resolution, etc.), which also forced them being more creative. How do you feel things have changed throughout the years?

Well there is still plenty of room for creativity in the sampling world. To me the most interesting thing about sampling is being able to accomplish things that simply are not possible in the real world as opposed to trying to recreate things that are already in the real world by sampling them to death. But the reality of the business is you must offer emulative sample libraries or most likely you’ll be OUT of business very quickly.
All the sound sculpting tools we now have to work with these days, there is almost TOO MUCH to choose from, so I must be careful to not get too sidetracked. Applications like Keymap (Redmatica) are amazing, they make what used to be extremely tedious tasks quite easy. However it is a double edged sword.
Customers expect sample banks now to be huge, they want Kontakt scripting etc. All this stuff takes more time and resources. So the time you save using Keymap is taken up by these other tasks that were not necessary 15 years ago.

Also, the Internet has been both a blessing and a curse. I can reach people all over the world in a few seconds. I no longer ship discs anywhere (Bolder Sounds is now a download only website).
On the downside – piracy is pretty much out of control. Not only do some websites post some of my commercial libraries to be downloaded for free, there are pirate sites that even sell them, and that’s upsetting!

There is a general misconception that sound developers are making tons of money by taking advantage of poor musicians. Most sound developers I know work their asses off at it and they consider themselves fortunate if they can make a living doing it, but I don’t see any of them buying mansions. Most of us are simply musicians who have a love of sound and are willing to work hard at it.

One of the principles Bolder Sounds is founded upon is to be generous and kind to people. That is why I give away so many free libraries. I realize not everyone has money to spend on sound libraries.


Bolder has an interesting catalogue of traditional, rare and/or unusual instruments. Which are your favorites? Can you tell us something more about them, how you got them, etc.?

They pretty much reflect my musical interests. I’m a guitarist, I’ve also play a lot of early music on the lute. It’s rare that I sample something just because I think it will sell, typically there has to be something about the sound or instrument that I find to be beautiful. I love sounds that go Ka-Chinnnggg, bell-like sounds I’m a big fan of.
Boulder is a pretty musically diverse town (Boulder is the name of the city, while Bolder is the name of the company – author’s note). My ears are always wide open to world of sound as I go through my day. Sometimes I can’t get the dishes done without listening for a while to a certain pot or pan that has a cool sound.
Off the top of my head some of my favorites are – Crystal Glasses and Meditation Bowls, Tibetan Singing Bowls, Cimbalom and the Granular material. I feel the Granular stuff is my most creative work. I did that stuff back in 1996 when I think most folks had never heard of Granular Synthesis. I have fond memories of those days because I can remember how much it got my ‘creative juices’ flowing. And there’s nothing that even comes close to that, it is what I live for, it’s like God is dropping by to say hello.

What about your recording/sampling chain?

There are too many variables to list them all. Some general info: my main DAW is Logic Studio (I’ve used it since it was called C-Lab Notator on the Atari ST with a whopping 2 mb of RAM). I have Pro Tools but do not use it. I have it just to support Structure. I love Grace designs mic preamps (made here in Boulder, Colorado) and Neumann mics. I use a Metric Halo 2882 IO in my home studio. I adore the UAD plugins. Waves ZNoise is a must for sampling in situations that are less than ideal.
My 2 track editor is Peak and Redmatica’s Keymap is invaluable. I’m not really much of a “techie”. Everything I’ve learned about music and technology has come through blood, sweat and tears. My most used tool is very low tech – a legal pad for writing down notes on projects. I’m not the most organized person in the world, so it really helps to review those legal pads notes from time to time as I am working on a project.

Which is the instrument you’d like to capture and that it’s still a dream for you?

I don’t know … the answer will most likely come to me in a dream some night. I’m always searching for the perfect pad sound. Something very still, pure, warm and majestic. I came pretty close when I started sampling conch shells and applying Granular processing to them. I still would like to do much more exploration with Granular Synthesis, but it is very time consuming.

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