Review – Heavier7Strings by Three Body Tech through Best Service
A metal guitar player under your keyboard fingertips. This one is hard to recognize as virtual instrument, even if you are a skilled guitar player.
by Alex Arsov, Nov. 2017
Heavier7Strings is a metal guitar emulation virtual instrument based on a guitar sample library, made by Three Body Tech developers from China. As soon as I heard a demo, I knew that I’d like to try it. Having been a guitar player for almost 30 years, it is not so easy to fool me with some “wanna-be” guitar sounds, but this one sounds quite real, not to mention the fact that it comes with over 200 MIDI clips that can be loaded into your sequencer for further manipulation. After installing this 9 GB beast I spent some time glancing through the quite-detailed manual, along with browsing for some video tutorials, as it proves not to be a “first try – first success” sort of plug-in, or to put it simply, I was not able to get immediate results. Of course, when I finally figured out how everything worked, everything seemed so logical, easy and well-placed.
Finally, after all the tutorials and manuals, I was on the road to making my own riffs. If you listen to Heavier7Strings in isolation, you may notice some tiny moments that can give you a clue that this is not a real guitar played by a guitarist, but, at least in my opinion, they are so small that only a skilled guitar player can hear the difference. This is definitely not the case with any other guitar library/instrument that I’ve tried before. Most of them sound quite solid in a full arrangement, but sounds obviously fake in isolation, mainly because the attack was too prominent causing the whole thing to sound more like a harpsichord and not like a guitar at all. Next thing with all other guitar emulations is the issue with the transitions between riffs, or even between some notes in solo phrases, that sounded a bit off, unnatural. Those are only two of the main reasons, but truth be told there are also all sorts of other, maybe not so prominent, smaller guitar misbehaviors comes with all other guitar emulation software, that can be spotted even by non-guitar players. So, thumbs up, my dear China friends. This one comes quite close even in isolation.
As soon as you put virtual drums and virtual bass alongside Heavier7Strings, everything becomes absolutely real and wild. You need to be a really, really picky guitar expert to notice the difference (and trust me, it is better to have good fake guitar than a bad live guitar player). Riffs and even lead lines sound very authentic. Of course, my dear keyboard playing friends, it would not hurt if you know at least the basics about how harmonies are played on guitar, or at least know how to recreate a few basic heavy guitar riffs. Even if you are somewhat barefoot in this field, there are those aforementioned 200 preprogrammed MIDI patterns that should serve as a good starting point.
Let’s go through some details. Top left is the main menu, with five buttons. First two are reserved for load or save options where you can store specific settings for the whole instrument. Last button is reserved for Settings, where I have set Zoom to 125% as the main window was a bit small for my taste. Of course, this is not the only thing that you can set there.
The most interesting parts of the menu, at least for me, are Patterns and Effects buttons, opening new windows with this two parts. For a better understanding, we should explain that the main structure or base for the whole instrument is clean sounding electric guitar samples that are processed later through a quite impressive and detailed effects rack. So, in the effects section you can drag various effects into the rack directly from the left side menu. Also, you can simply load some ready made effects rack combinations from the right menu with the browser, where you can select one of many effects combinations, choosing between Ambients, Clean, Epic Riffs, Metal Riffs, Overdriven, Rock Riffs, Solo or Strumming group. There is also a set of options here to save, delete, create a new group or separate presets within a group.
The next one is the Pattern window, offering quite similar groups as can be found in the Effects section, offering three additional groups along with all the aforementioned ones. These are Demo Songs, Noises and Ultra Low. Every group comes with quite a nice number of patterns, offering a star rating system for every pattern. You can also preview a pattern being perfectly in sync with your host. All patterns come with predefined settings for the Effects section, along with settings that are preselected for that pattern in the main window. The one you like can easily be dragged into the arrangement window. Of course, there is a problem that every new added pattern changes the whole settings, so it would be nice to have some option to drag a MIDI clip only once when you first load MIDI in your arrangement, preventing that all further clips will change your settings. The good thing is that you can make your own Groups and add new patterns simply by dragging your MIDI clips inside the Pattern main window, having them for further usage in some other projects. This works in Cubase, but at the moment unfortunately doesn’t work inside Studio One. Hope this would be fixed in a future update.
All controllers are set around a big black guitar picture. In the upper part we find level sliders for all six strings along with modulation and sustain buttons. Of course there are still a zillion other controllers, so you can totally go into detail regarding your sound, but I will only go through those that change the sound quite generally. So, at the bottom you can find a nice number of buttons for various functions. One Key Fifth button, for adding a fifth interval to the note you currently playing. Play Octaves adds an octave to a lower key when you press two notes. Simple Chord makes a proper guitar chord out of your three notes. All these changes are visible on a guitar neck as small dots with names of all played and added notes visible on a guitar neck. There is also Legato Mode, Unison Bend and Auto Slide buttons for exactly those things they are named for. As mentioned before, a few other are also there, but for me the most sweet and useful one is Vel Muting, which plays palm mute notes on lower velocities and open, normal notes on higher velocities. The whole system is set that at the highest velocities we get pitch harmonics that are very specific for any metal music. Hammer-on/Pull-Off is triggered on velocities under 28.
There are a few ways to control your playing. One is with velocity. Also, almost everything is controllable through CC controllers. The modulation wheel switches between palm mute and normal legato notes. There is also a nice number of key-switches for all sorts of functions – again my favorite is the Repeat function where some keys repeat muted notes that you hold higher on the keyboard range, while other Repeat keys repeat open notes. It allows you to go wild, changing chords with the right hand and banging rhythms with right hand just by changing between Mute-Repeat and Open-Repeat keys. In the upper keyboard range we also find an octave with harmonic control. It is very nice addition, being able to reach some functions and articulations in different ways, leaving the final choice to the user, not being so determined by the developer’s choice. Specifically regarding those palm mutes: open note combinations are on some occasions not so easy to control just by velocity, and it is far easier to achieve this through the mod wheel or simply by drawing some controllers in the CC controller editor.
Once I had gotten a grip on it, Heavier7Strings has been one of the most joyful instruments that I’ve used lately. It is not just a tool for creating angry metal riffs, but also for playing mad metal solo lines, sounding absolutely realistic with all the elements that you hear in most metal songs. I didn’t elaborate on this part, but according to some third party demo clips, with some keyboard playing skills and a few CC/key-switch changes, it can be done perfectly. Playing chords and melodies with clean sounds is also quite enjoyable and surprisingly realistic. Some clean presets sound a bit 80’s, but otherwise very impressive.
It’s one of the best heavy guitar recreations that I’ve heard and tried in the last decade – and I’ve heard and tried quite a few of them. Even if you are a guitar player, sometimes it is quite a bit easier to use such an instrument. And if you are not, and you are looking for such an addition to your sound arsenal, then this is a must.
More info and some additional video and audio clips at:
It comes as a VST instrument – AAX native, AU, Mac, Win, also can be used Standalone.
It comes with more than 10,000 samples used as a base, containing 19 guitar effects, 16 amps and 66 cabinet IRs.
Price: $249 USD