Review – Renegade by Indiginus
Renegade is the latest electric guitar library from Indiginus. Fans of this company’s products won’t be surprised to find it’s easy to use, sounds great and costs less than a pizza party.
by David Townsend, May 2016
I’m a decent keyboard player, but I suck at guitar. Even though I’ve been playing both for half a century, my brain and fingers just don’t coordinate correctly to ever become proficient on the guitar. That’s why I’m a sucker for guitar sample libraries. They let me leverage the skills I do have so that I can venture into territory that would otherwise be beyond my abilities.
Oh yeah, I know. Guitar players hate guitar sample libraries. The same way horn players hate horn libraries and drummers despise drum machines. And they all have a perfectly good argument: no sample library can come close to duplicating the range of articulations and nuance that a skilled player can do in his or her sleep. I totally agree with this. If I could, I’d have two or three accomplished pickers on call 7 days a week. Funny, but none of the guitarists I know are really interested in coming over at midnight because I’ve got an inspiration. Samples, on the other hand, are always ready to go.
I’ll admit that any given guitar library has a limited number of tricks it can do. One solution: buy more libraries! Unfortunately, that strategy is constrained by economic realities that irrationally place a premium on things like food and rent.
Fortunately, we have Indiginus.
If you’re unfamiliar with Indiginus, you’ll want to be. Proprietors Tracy and Brenda Collins have carved a niche in the sample library business by producing inexpensive instruments that sound good and are easy to use. Granted, they’re not as sophisticated as some of the more-expensive products out there, but what they do they do well. Best of all, they are offered at a price point low enough ($40-$60) that you can afford more than one of them.
Tracy’s newest creation, Renegade, is a case in point. It’s a sampled Telecaster for full Kontakt 5.5 or later. It sounds great out of the box with ready-to-go presets, and it’s just $59.
Every note on the guitar is sampled twice, once for each pickup (3,547 ncw-compressed samples, weighing in at over 2 GB). Unlike many guitar libraries, these samples were recorded with a microphone and an amplifier rather than through a DI. Consequently, they have some built-in character even before adding effects and amp/speaker sims – but they’re still very low-noise. Note tails are natural and plenty long (8-12 seconds).
Separately-sampled bridge and neck pickups mean you get the full range of classic Telecaster tones, including that cutting twang you hear in everything from Country to Surf, classic rock to heavy metal, punk to fusion. Clean or dirty, mellow or bright, the Telecaster is long-respected for versatility across every genre. (It’s ranked #3 in Watchmojo.com’s “Top 10 Guitar Models of All Time” ).
In my opinion, Renegade shines brightest as a lead instrument. Yes, it’s got scripting for easy chord-playing (including I-V power chords), and it’s got a fun arpeggiator for picked chords (though no strum sequencer in this version). But carrying a melody is definitely its strong suit, whether long sustained notes or frenetic “chicken-pickin'”.
Articulations are limited to sustains, hammer-ons, trills, mutes and bends, plus a few effects. But they’re so ergonomically friendly and natural-sounding that you won’t feel constrained by the lack of ring slides, squeals and feedback.
Keyswitches or Velocity Triggers: Your Choice
One thing all Indiginus libraries have in common is that they invite live playing. To facilitate this, Renegade by default maps mutes, sustains and bends to velocity ranges. This makes it pretty easy to improvise a lead on the fly that won’t be too boring, without the need for first memorizing keyswitch assignments.
I like to record a melody as MIDI and then subsequently plug in keyswitches via the PRV to flesh it out with the full range of articulations. For me, that’s the best of both worlds, a compromise between a completely live performance and a purely programmed track.
There are eleven different articulations: sustain, hammer-on, trill (up), trill (down), slide up, slide down, up-bends, down-bends, up-then-down bends, mutes and harmony. All may be triggered either by keyswitches or mapped to velocity ranges. Or both. (Note: keyswitches override velocity if both are used.)
Velocity triggering is the easiest method for real-time performance, but not as versatile as keyswitching, so you may end up using both velocity mapping and keyswitches. But for your first foray into the instrument, I recommend using velocity mapping for some instant gratification.
By default, hitting a key hard elicits a bend, while hitting it softly gets a mute, and everything in the middle is a sustain. Just sit down, pick a preset and start playing. No manual-reading is necessary to have a blast playing this instrument. But of course, you’ll eventually want to venture beyond the defaults.
Renegade’s default screen is dominated by a simple velocity map. Well, it’s simple once you decipher the icons.
There are a total of nine icons, representing each of the nine primary non-sustain articulations that Renegade supports. They are repeated, first in white and then in red, to indicate which part of the velocity scale you want them to respond to.
Click on one of them to select an effect. Click the white icon to link it to the “high” velocity range, or click its red counterpart to link it to the “low” velocity range.
Here’s what the symbols stand for:
For example, click on the white hammer-on icon to cause that articulation to be triggered whenever the note velocity exceeds 92 (that’s default crossover point for “high” velocity). If you’re a heavy-handed player like me, you may want to adjust that transition point to a higher velocity. I like it around 100. Just drag the white pointer upward.
The “bend up/down” articulation performs a quick up-then-back pitch bend. Whether it goes up a whole note or a semitone depends on the note played and the Master Key setting. Its speed can be controlled via a slider on the “more settings” tab.
The “harmony” effect can be fun. It causes a harmony to be played with the note, and may be a 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th or octave, chosen from a dropdown list below the “Harmony” button. Try turning on the harmony feature at high velocities, for example.
In order for the instrument to know what harmony to use, you have to tell it what key you’re playing in. To the left of the velocity map screen you’ll find a knob for selecting the key. This setting actually affects a number of features. In solo mode, it also determines intervals for trills and hammer-ons. In chord mode, it determines what chords will be played by the dedicated chord keys.
There are two main modes: solo and chord. Their meanings are self-explanatory – one is for melodies and the other is for chording. You can select one or the other via keyswitches while playing.
In chord mode, the keyboard is mapped to up- and down-strums, one octave each. Which chords are actually triggered depends on the Master Key setting. For example, pressing the C note with the key set to C results in a C major chord. But pressing the same note with the key set to B-flat results in a C minor chord.
This may be customized, though, if you want to map a key to some other chord, such as a 7th or a minor 7th or a 9th. After you’ve defined a custom set of chords, the collection can be saved to a chord preset for future use. There are a set of keyswitches dedicated to setting the master key, so you can switch between chordal sets as you play.
Strum speed can be adjusted and/or made velocity-sensitive. When velocity is enabled for strum speed, the harder you hit a note the faster the chord is strummed, approximating what a guitarist naturally does.
There is also a chord arpeggiator, which is handy if you’re not a keyboard player. Personally, I prefer to play arpeggiated chords myself for a more human-like effect. But it’s a fun feature either way.
Look for the easily-missed anvil icon to the right of the Arpeggiate buttons. This turns all your chords into I-V “power chords”. Turn up the volume for mute articulation and crank up the distortion and you’re ready to chug.
A Telecaster has two pickups, and one of the distinguishing characteristics of this guitar is how different the bridge and neck pickups sound. The neck pickup is smooth with long sustain, while the bridge is edgy. Combined, they produce a very full sound that lends itself to thick distortion effects, gutsy leads and fat rhythms. Renegade features independent sample sets for each pickup for authentic reproduction.
The classic Telecaster sound in Country music comes from the bridge pickup. It’s bright enough to poke through any mix. Try the “Sunset” preset for a classic Country Rock lead sound (think Ghost Riders in the Sky or Green Grass and High Tides) from the bridge pickup and tremolo. (Or try the bridge-pickup “Angst” preset, bring up the distortion and dive into some classic 70’s hard rock.)
Pickup selection can, like most Kontakt parameters, be automated. I prefer to load two instances of the instrument when switching between mellow chords and biting leads, but it’s quite possible to do it with a single instance and MIDI automation.
Presets and Effects
There are six effects, two amp sims and ten cabinets to choose from. More often than not, with most guitar libraries I’ll usually use an external guitar effect suite such as Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig. But surprisingly, for the kinds of sounds I’m after with Renegade, the built-in effects cover it all very nicely.
The main screen has two tabs, selected at the bottom: Main and Effects. Click the Effects tab to open the effects and amp/speaker sims page. There you’ll find a preset menu with 23 slots, five user-defined and nineteen factory presets (which may be overwritten).
Effects include a compressor, distortion, delay, flanger, tremolo and reverb. These are all pretty generic, so I won’t elaborate on them except to say that they are quite usable and effective.
I only have one minor quibble, concerning the compressor. At higher compression amounts, it produces an unnatural-sounding volume envelope. I’d recommend staying within the lower half of the Amt range or using an external compressor if heavy compression is needed.
There are two amp models, cryptically labeled “Amp 1” and “Amp 2”. Both feature Gain, Treble, Mid, Bass and Master volume controls. The latter adds a Presence control and a “High Gain” switch, and may work better for more aggressive styles. The High Gain switch lends a nice amount of distortion and sustain, and also adds an authentic amount of noise.
You have a choice of nine speaker emulations, or you can bypass this feature if you prefer to use an external speaker simulator.
Renegade also makes use of Snapshots, a feature of Kontakt 5 (starting at 5.4) and the main reason this is a K5 instrument (many of the other Indiginus guitars are compatible with K4). Because this is a relatively new Kontakt feature, you may not be very familiar with it yet, so here’s the scoop.
A snapshot is a bulk save of every control setting to a single file. In some ways it’s functionally similar to saving a separate instrument definition (.nki file) but more convenient, especially when you later want to re-use it in another song or track. But snapshots don’t save everything.
The main difference between a snapshot and an instrument file is that the former only includes the values of existing controls, whereas the latter includes the control definitions themselves, included modules, sample maps, scripts, and optionally even the samples themselves. If you modify the scripts or the mapping or add Kontakt effects, then you’ll still need to save those changes as a new .nki file. But if you’re not a low-level tweaker and you’re only interested in saving control values such as effects settings and instrument options, then snapshots are the way to go. Because they don’t re-load samples or re-create controls, they load very, very quickly.
Note: snapshots are not global. They are tied to an instrument name, so if you do save your instrument as a separate .nki, any snapshots you saved under the default instrument name (Renegade.nki) will not be available to the new instrument. Do yourself a favor and just use snapshots instead of creating new instruments.
At the top of the standard Kontakt toolbar, there’s a camera icon. Click that to enter Snapshot mode. Click the “I” (Information) button beside it to exit Snapshot mode. A handful of factory-supplied snapshots are included.
To save your current instrument state, click the disk icon and type in a name for your snapshot. Now, your snapshot will be included in the snapshot dropdown list for future re-use.
Tweaks, Slides, Bends and a Couple Minor Nitpicks
There are a bunch of other tweaks for customizing your sound and playback. Some cool stuff you can do:
- Lock hammer-ons and trills to tempo
- Make harmonies bend, or not
- Alter bend speed
- Set independent levels for each articulation
- Adjust volume of release samples, finger squeaks and other noises
Note: to access many of these, you will need to show the extended settings panel. Look for a button below the velocity mapping screen labeled “more settings”. This brings up the scale-snap for hammer-ons and trills, bend speed adjustment and the articulations mixer.
Vibrato is controlled by the mod wheel, but you can add an auto-vibrato effect that can save programming time when precise control isn’t needed. Unfortunately, the only adjustment offered for auto-vibrato is depth – no adjustable fade-in time or speed. However, Tracy seemed amenable to adding these to a future revision, so I’m hoping they come along in version 2. In the meantime, I’m sticking to the mod wheel.
Slides are not very configurable, as they are sampled rather than scripted. This means they always travel the same distance (two semitones) and at one speed. It’s a calculated tradeoff; sampled slides make up for their lack of variation by sounding natural and believable. My advice: don’t go nuts with slides, lest your track give itself away as a programmed performance. Used sparingly, though, they’re quite effective.
Note that there are two types of slides: starting below the target note or starting at the target note. These are not key-switchable and may only be selected by clicking the “on target” or “below target” buttons on the Global Settings tab (click the little gear icon) or by MIDI automation. However, you’ll probably settle on one or the other and stick with it. I most often use the “below target” setting, which I find more intuitive.
Bends are a little more flexible. Unlike slides, bends have some intelligence behind them. Renegade uses the Master Key setting to determine where the slide begins (when bending up) or ends (when bending down). There are three types of bends: up, down and up-then-back. I try to use them all, plus the pitch wheel, to add variety and make the track sound less robotic.
Well, there you have it. I haven’t gone into much detail as to how you do all these things – my philosophy is it’s more important to know what’s possible than to know exactly how to go about it. But that won’t be difficult. The user manual is clear and concise, and Tracy has made a nice overview video . If you’ve ever used a guitar Kontakt library before you’ll figure this one out in about ten minutes.
What you’ll need: $59 and full Kontakt 5.5 or later. Renegade is not compatible with the free Kontakt player (which is why it’s only $59).