Review – Chromatic Harmonica From

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Need a realistic-sounding harmonica with an plenty of articulations and controllers tol help you to mimic a live player’s behavior in every aspect? Maybe this is the solution.

by A. Arsov, Jan. 2014

This is a library made by a Chris Hein. If you know Chris Hein’s previous works, then you already have a picture of what you will get for your money: A very realistic-sounding instrument with an endless number of articulations and controllers that will help you to mimic a live player’s behavior in every aspect. The only small drawback with the Chromatic Harmonica library is the fact that it has one characteristic in common with country guitar – most of the interesting things are built from melodic licks. If you want to play blues or country with this one, it could be a bit tricky, as you will need to be a hell of a good keyboard player to recreate those licks. But most of the time, especially if you are in any cinematic, game or any sort of stock music business, making a Sergio Leone sort of basic lead melody could be easily done without too much effort. And that’s the field where Chris Hein’s Chromatic Harmonica library really shines, with all those dirty details which only a real player can add, or Chris Hein with his German sense for Ordnung und Disziplin. You name it, Chris will implement it.

Controllers, Controllers and Key Switches

That is a short description for Chromatic Harmonica Kontakt window. It will eat 3.5 GB of your disk space; it will cost you €129 EUR, and it will bring you four octaves of full-octane chromatic harmonicas. Of course if you don’t own the full version of Kontakt, you will need to pay a few hundred more as this is not a Kontakt-player library.

In the manual, it states that there are only 14 articulations, so it looks like there is something wrong with my eyes, as I got the impression that there are 26 of them, according to the list which is presented in a second, Basic window. They are all sorted in the lower part of the keyboard, so you can change them on the fly. There is also a window where you can tweak some parameters for the implemented convolution reverb. The next window, Articulations Presets, is a whole cockpit where even jumbo-jet pilots could feel a bit lost. It looks like a mad scientist’s room. There you can set various parameters such as setting the crossfade values, attacks, speed detection and all other “good to be there but hope that I will not need them” stuff.

More or less every articulation can be fine-tuned when adopted to your playing style. The main point with all Chris Hein’s libraries is that after setting some parameters, you can get excellent results playing them live by changing articulations with your left hand. So noise, sustain, attack and legato, glide mode and all other things can be tuned, and I have to admit that it could take you some time even to go through the manual to figure what you can do and how to do that. Sometimes you can even feel bad as you don’t have three hands to press all those hot keys a second after you change the articulations. The hot keys are special effects that could be achieved if you press the hot key note just before you press the next note or while the note is played. Various blows, attacks, falls and ups, along with a hot key for repeating the last note (very appropriate for fast parts) are here. Press the articulation overview and you will get the picture.

The next cockpit is the settings menu: ADSR, dynamics, fader settings, release variations, pitch bend and micro-tuner. You can also go mad setting and drawing curves for vibrato, or use auto vibrato. In the settings menu is also a section where you can tweak various parameters for a whole bunch of effects: Chorus, delay, flanger and similar things.

All in all a bit too much of everything if you ask me, but if you are into details, then you will feel like being back at home; but if you want just to plug and play, that can be also done. Right hand for a melody, left hand for the key switches and hot keys, and you are in the saddle.

Time To Say Goodnight

So, if you are in the music business, making cinematic music in search of some old-fashion memorable melodies, then this is definitely the right thing for you. You can’t get better virtual chromatic harmonica than this library. If you want to hear dirty licks, then you should hire a real player, but for everything else, you will get your boxed player for the price of an average virtual synth. You can’t miss with Chris Hein’s libraries; the only question is: Do you need a chromatic harmonica? If you do, then this is the real solution. I’ve tried to play a real one, after all a good friend of mine is one of the most cherished harmonica players in Slovenia, but I would rather stick with this one. So don’t stare too much in all those controllers, buttons and menus; they are there just to frighten you. It is much easier to get solid results than it looks. Just put your hands on the keyboard and blow.

More about Chromatic Harmonica and how to spend €129 EUR or $149 USD you can find on:

Ditto for audio clips.

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