Essentials – Chris Hein Violin and Shreddage Bass 2
A beautiful expressive violin playing passionate phrases followed by a highly skilled bass player – then comes a shock: there is only a computer in the room.
by A. Arsov July 2016
In a last issue we covered EZ Drummer 2 and EZ Keys from Toontrack. They are both very impressive tools that can help you put life into your arrangements. With EZ Drummer 2 you can finish the whole drum track for your song in a less than five minutes, with all breaks, chorus changes and verse variations. EZ Keys could be your virtual piano player that will follow your harmony changes like a professional player. So, it looks like we need more instruments to add to our virtual band. The age of cheesy MIDI melodies has gone forever. With a few cosmetic changes like New York compression on drums, a touch of EQ, and a bit of delay and reverb on the keyboard part, no one can tell that this is not a recording of real person playing the instrument.
I’m quite a solid bass player, but being out of town for a last month, I decided to take only a small keyboard, my Telecaster and YouRock MIDI Guitar with me, trying to determine if Shreddage Bass 2 is able to sound like a real bass. After all, changing a note in a MIDI editor is a bit easier than re-recoding a whole audio part. For a better live impression I also took the new Chris Hein Violin instrument to add some real live feel to my compositions. One thing is certain, you can never go wrong with Chris Hein instruments, and it looks like his new Violin literally pushes the boundaries, blurring the line between a real performance and a recreated one. So ladies and gentleman, meet the new members of our live “Fake Orchestra”. Chris Hein Solo Violin by Bestservice and Shreddage Bass 2 by Impact Soundworks.
Chris Hein Solo Violin
Chris has put me in a difficult position here. This instrument is simply so good that I’m not sure what to even write. Carefully listen to a demo on Bestservice site with quality headphones, comparing a real player with a recreated take with Chris Hein Solo Violin instrument through MIDI controller. If you are really picky, you will notice few tiny spots where the virtual instrument hits its limitations. But in general, if you asked me if this is a real performance, I would tell you without any doubt that it is just that. After all, the demo is quite a complex Valse, and it shows how astonishingly far virtual sample-based instruments can go these days. At first I thought it would be complicated to play such an advanced instrument, but apart from a quite big RAM footprint, almost one gigabyte, I didn’t encounter any difficulties in using this instrument. Compared to the competition Chris Hein Solo Violin offers a very dynamic, emotional, rich and very full, rounded sound that never disappears in the mix. If you ever tried to record live violin, then you probably know how hard is to achieve such a sound. So, if your intention is not to recreate a full complicated violin performance (although Chris proved that in this case, that is even possible), you could make ultra-realistic violin lines in a few minutes just by changing a few articulations on the fly, and for better results, maybe adding an additional controller or two with the mod-wheel (like Note Head, but we will talk about this a bit later).
What Do We Get?
10,000 samples are included in this library, so with four gigabytes less space on your hard disk later, you get an instrument with 38 articulations and up to eight dynamic layers inside any articulation, and four different dynamic modes. Actually the main secret of this library lies in the excellent source material and ultimately the clever programming. Level and overall dynamics between articulations is very well positioned. Also there are six different short note articulations and the same number of spiccato ones, along with fourteen different sustain articulations, giving us far more options for really nailing our performance with minimal effort.
This is quite different than some other violin libraries, in which we get one or just two versions of basic articulations, instead of filling the space with endless numbers of more exotic ones. It is nice to have all those but more or less, most of the work is almost always done with legato, staccato and spiccato articulations. And all those articulations are just a starting point where Chris begins with his programming, adding some very clever solutions for slide notes, portamento settings, and all other things for which “what to implement” is far more important than “how”. A good example for such programming is the aforementioned four dynamic modes. The last two allow us to control dynamics after the key is pressed. In the very last one, auto cross-fade, we can even draw the dynamic amplitude over the tone length. In most cases this might sound like something that we would never use, but it is a real life saver for some phrase endings or a final note for the song, where one long note can ruin the whole performance.
We also get three different legato modes with many additional controllers, no matter that even the basic setup of every mode would do the job quite adequately (as you might have noticed, I’m not a big fan of programming – we did a much of that back in a 90s, so I’m really not keen to do the same more than twenty years later). Legato short provides plenty of options for fine tuning transitions. Legato long is a portamento with adjustable speed and goes up and down for a full octave. Both modes work well also with trills. The last one, Glide mode, is ideal for playing very naturally sounding runs in which you can set the speed, number of steps and even scale and key. Note Heads is also a very interesting function that is unique to this library. It is actually an option with all additional settings that allow us to play up to twelve different short articulations with just one slider, one controller. This can give very dramatic results if you apply it to some very fast arpeggio phrases. Another nice feature is a Blending, where we find a set of three controllers for applying tremolo and minor or major trills in real-time by triggering a slider that comes in very handy for applying trill or tremolo with a delay at the end of a note. All articulations can be defined as a key-switch or as a hot key, applying the articulation only when a key is pressed and switching back to previous articulation as soon as the key is released.
There is also a wealth of additional details in the settings page, where you can specify many things from micro-tuning to a velocity curve. Then there is a big window where you can draw various vibrato curves. There is also an effect window offering various effects, not that you are likely to ever need all of them. Regarding effects, it is interesting that all samples are recorded dry and mono, allowing you to shape a final sound with an internal pair of convolution reverbs, one with short impulses for body of the sound and other one for adding wider space. Of course both reverbs come with a generous number of impulses.
As a last curiosity, we should also mention the Ensemble mode which can turn our solo violin into a five-instrument ensemble. Since I already have a nice collection of various orchestra libraries, I didn’t play much with this option, but it is nice to have it.
For more information visit the Bestservice site and watch some of the video clips to get a feeling of how far virtual simulations can go these days. As they say in Hollywood: everything that you see and hear is based on actual events. It can be yours for €179EUR – quite a small price for such a huge sound.
ESSENTIAL for: This is a true, real violin player playing through your fingers on your keyboard. I know you haven’t thought to use any virtual violin parts in your composition, but this is not a virtual violin anymore. Definitively a new standard in the field of sampled instruments.
Shreddage Bass 2
This instrument sounds like a real bass, it comes with all needed articulations and variations, and it can be aggressive or gentle. But there is one thing that you should know: if you know how to play bass lines, then Shreddage Bass 2 can sound totally like the real thing; however, if you don’t know much about bass lines, then there is no plug-in that will do that for you. I know that this goes for all sampled instruments, but I’m writing this because most of musicians think that they know how to play bass – thinking that this is something that anyone can do.
Do you know that most bass players in all up-beat songs stop the note just a second before snare comes in, building a strong beat in interaction with a drum player? This is only one of many things that bass players do. The second most common mistake that non-bass players do is by playing legato notes during most bass figures. It works for guitar and keyboard, but not that much for a bass guitar. Most bass players constantly
control the note lenght by lifting up slightly the finger on a left hand to mute a note that was just being fretted, still resting the finger on the string preventing it from vibrating. This is the only way to achieve tight rhythm and absolute silence at the end of the note on a bass guitar. Having all that in mind is quite essential. So if the end result is not what you expected, don’t blame Shreddage Bass 2. I used it in a few of my recent songs and it proved to be just the perfect tool for the job. It offers a prominent tone with a stable and strong mid-range and a nice, really deep low end. As with every bass guitar, you will need few effects to make it sit perfectly in the mix. It is your choice whether to use just internal effects and the internal preamp, or your go-to set of DAW effects that you prefer for such things.
This is a library/instrument that brings us sampled material from a custom-made six-string bass guitar that can go extremely low, making it ideal for metal and rock genres. But this is just one side of the story since there are a nice number of different presets that will take you from distorted to a gentle, warm and clean sound, making it appropriate for just about any genre and almost any playing style. The instrument contains 11,000 samples recorded in 24-bit quality captured through a quality preamp and without any further processing. I couldn’t find the exact number of dynamic layers – according to the number of samples used in library, it is quite an impressive number of layers. And for greater playability there is also up to eight round-robin variations for every note.
While presets share different settings (such as using a virtual amp or just being clean, or with/without EQ), using the same set of samples, we actually get nice number of articulations that are the same for all presets. Default articulation is a single note sustain played with fingers. Than we have Staccato, Harmonics, Hammer On and Pull Off This is the articulation that is triggered automatically when two notes are overlapped (but you can switch off any articulation in the articulation window).
We also have Portamento Slides and effects. All those articulations can be applied through key-switches or invoked automatically at a specific key velocity. Then we have some additional ones that can be applied via buttons on the main Perform window or on the Engine window, like Release Noise, Extra Pop Bends and Unison Bends. This last one causes the lower note of two simultaneously played notes where higher note is bended up while lower stay unchanged. Actually, everything is already programmed for a natural sounding performance, but you can still change some settings on Articulation window if you find any detail that does not suit your playing style, or is not working well with your keyboard setup (the YouRock MIDI Guitar in my case).
As soon as we load the instrument (there’s only one) in our Kontakt Player, we will see the neck of the sampled six-string guitar along with a few basic controllers. Of course, there are also additional windows that we can open through the menu at the top of the graphical interface, bringing enough additional controllers to keep us busy for a whole week.
On this main page we can add string noise and set an amount of a pitch bend for “Unison Bend” function and amount of vibrato. We can also select “mono” mode (monophonic and not mono at the output) or even taping mode where all notes are played as hammer-ons without any pick attacks. Then we can even set the neck range, forcing the notes to be played on that part of the range which changes the overall sound in the same way it would happen on a real bass guitar (any bass guitar, not just the one sampled here). There are also a few other essential knobs there for setting the gain, transposition, and even an option to double the output using a different set of samples for each side of the stereo output.
Next is an articulation page where we can set how articulations will be triggered or even totally disabled. We also have options to set those articulations to be invoked through key-switches or to be applied through a selectable velocity range.
On the Engine window we can set controllers for Release Noise and Extra Pop, applying volume and delay for Extra Pop. At least for me, the most interesting option on this page is the one allowing you to unload all articulations that are not applied or selected in any window, potentially saving you a fair amount of RAM. Then we have Legato Realism, which will insure that all slides will be performed on the same string, since otherwise the slides could sound quite unrealistic. A similar thing goes for Legato Hammer and Volume Realism options, taking care that played notes react in a way logical to the instrument and not allowing you to go nuts playing your keyboard while forgetting the limitations of a real instrument. There are a number of other general things to set; maybe the most important for you would be a velocity curve, as we all know that different makes of keyboards are rarely consistent when it comes to velocity curves.
Finally there is the Effect window where we can apply and control various parts of Equalizer, Distortion, Virtual Bass Amp and Compressor.
The main difference between all of your typical sampled bass collections and this one is that you get all those details that come with a real bass, and not just a collection of static authentic notes. Playing a bass is far more than just banging A and D notes, and this library allow you to build quite complex bass lines while still sounding authentic. For me, being a bass player, this library makes a difference even when using it for simplified lines. It sounds like a real bass with all those slight noises, good definitions of mid and low range, and all the additional articulations that are triggered automatically via note velocity. It works for me, and I believe it can work for you.
More info could be found on Impact Soundworks home page
$119 USD, It works with Kontakt Player.
ESSENTIAL for: No matter how many different bass presets you have that come with your main sampler or even those that you got with any virtual instrument, there is a big difference between just sounding good and sounding authentic. If you are a skilled keyboard player, you can get a hell of a lot from this plug-in. If you are not, then at least your simple bass lines will finally sound as they should. The better the bass is, the easier it is to set it properly in the mix. This one is as good as it gets.