Essentials – Session Guitarist – Strumming Acoustic 2 by Native Instruments
Is Strumming Acoustic 2 a virtual instrument or real session musician? One thing is for sure, the listener will never know the answer.
by Alex Arsov, Jan. 2017
I’m a guitar player and I was very pleased to get this virtual instrument. Not that I couldn’t record similar lines by myself but, truth be told, recording acoustic guitar is quite an adventure, finding an appropriate room with good acoustics. Setting up two good microphones, finding the sweet spots for them (actually, I have only one good microphone and one more average one – not an ideal solution for recording acoustic guitar). This is just the technical side of the deal. I play mostly electric guitar, taking up the acoustic just once in a while, so this also means practicing before every recording session. Too much monkey business for such a simple task, if you ask me. To be honest, I would like to use acoustic guitar in every chorus, as it adds drive and width, making it bigger and more epic. Despite this I have acoustic guitars in only two of my songs. I get a headache every time I even think of doing all this. In the best case scenario I use my cheap electro acoustic guitar with Piezo pick-up – quite a lousy substitute for a good sounding acoustic guitar.
Strumming Acoustic 2 sounds just like the real thing, offering a large number of patterns (112 patterns recorded with 6-string guitars and 51 with 12-string guitars). Along with the patterns we also get a few additional guitar sounds hidden under the key-switches, making the whole played experience even more authentic (like open strings hit for using between chords, mimicking a live playing situation during chord changing). Various chord endings, guitar taping sounds and similar sorts of things. Before I go further with all things this library offers, maybe this is a time to confess that no matter how if a solid a guitar player I am, it is a fact that those three fellows that recorded these patterns are skilled studio professionals that did the job much better than I would ever be able to do. So, actually you get a professional session musician with this library to play the acoustic guitar part in your song.
All patterns are recorded in a range from 60 to 180 BPM, automatically synced with the host tempo. A great number of them are compiled into so-called songs, where every song offers a few additional variations. The best part with Session Acoustic 2 is that all harmony changes inside patterns sound very natural without any noticeable pause or any other rhythmical discrepancy. Finding the proper pattern is also quite easy, all we need is to tap the rhythmical pattern on our keyboard inside the rhythm search finder and Strumming Acoustic 2 will suggest a selection of patterns that fit our search criteria. You can also find an appropriate pattern with various descriptive search criteria, by selecting various parameters in the rhythm search page. Thankfully, patterns that you find can be previewed in context without being actually loaded into the instrument, making the whole search process easier and faster.
Patterns with a small bass clef assigned on the right side in the Pattern view page allow you to play separate bass lines along with your currently played chord. With the mod-wheel we can change the character of a played pattern transmitting playing style from overall to high voicing, causing only higher strings to be played – quite a nice solution for crowded arrangements with plenty of low parts. With pitch bend you can control accent in real time, making some variations between playing style, making it a bit softer or more intense with positive values. There is also an option to shift the starting point, allowing you to even make some odd signature patterns, but if you are on the novice side of musical knowledge, you can also use the Auto Chord mode. All you need to do is to set the key of your song and then press various notes inside the octave and all chords will play properly according to the selected key plus suspended chords accessible through the black keys.
The Sound Page
The Sound Page offers a large number of additional controllers allowing us to adapt the sound of Strummed Acoustic 2 to our personal needs. In the voice section we can set the default value to between low and high string strumming. We have already talked about this function, along with a few additional settings for Stereo or even Double mode, mimicking that well-known practice for fattening the choruses in pop productions by recording two acoustic guitars panned hard left and right. Stereo and Double mode can be combined in various ways covering quite a wide array of options, from doubling only for high strumming or only for low, up to more specific settings like the pan positions for stereo mode. In the upper row is also a Fret Noise knob that I leave as it is. Without fret noise your playing will sound fake, with too much fret noise there would be … er … too much fret noise. It is true that fret noise can make your playing more alive, but it is something that every guitarist tries to avoid, so leaving it on the default value is quite safe. The next three controllers are EQ, Compressor and Reverb. All three come with one big knob for amount, and a drop down list of presets. Reverb comes with various spaces, while EQ and Compressor bring various presets with different settings for each effect.
The Playback Page
The last page brings some general controllers that refer to playing style. Swing and Humanize do exactly what they stand for. The rightmost position in Humanize will give the original recording while on the left it would be totally quantized. Regarding the fact that all patterns are recorded by professional studio players, there is not much need for any additional quantization. Latch mode stands for enabling or disabling endless pattern playback (actually until you press end note or until changing chord).
The next one is pattern sync that determines if the pattern should start when you play a note or at the beginning of a bar (the so-called DAW sync). The last two are Timing and Tempo. Timing is for pushing the playing pattern slightly before the beat or delaying it slightly for a more laid back feeling. In the last Playback page feature, Tempo, we can set a half or double time playing speed relative to the host tempo.
The All in All
This is an ideal solution for everybody, guitar players and non guitar players alike. A must have for all choruses, easy pop songs or even just to spice up your electro arrangements. Strummed Acoustic 2 sounds as natural as live professional players can sound. I don’t know much about the first release of this instrument, but version 2 sounds just perfect to me. Even if you are skilled enough to record some of those patterns by yourself, it is still questionable if your guitars are at least half as good as those used for these recordings, not to mention room and microphone issues.
Strummed Acoustic 2 comes with such a large number of patterns that you would have to be really unlucky not to find an appropriate one for your song. All you need is few stereo patterns for the verse, some doubled on chorus and off we go. €99 EUR for over 160 different patterns along with overall sound quality and all the additional taming options make this one a very good deal.
ESSENTIAL FOR: Low price, excellent sound and a set of must-have patterns that can uplift any pop, electro, dance or any other sort of production. Professional session musician at your fingertips.
More info at https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/guitar/session-guitarist-strummed-acoustic-2/
p.s. For an even better user experience I suggest you skim through the manual or at least read the last few pages. There are a few nice tips and tricks that will help you bring this instrument to life.