Review – Signor Paganini Solo Violin

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SimpleSamSamples’ Signor Paganini Solo Violin is a library for owners of the full version of Kontakt 4 and above that sets out to do one thing very well: short solo violin notes.

by Per Lichtman, July 2014

SimpleSamSamples’ Signor Paganini Solo Violin is library for owners of the full version of Kontakt 4 and above that sets out to do one thing very well: short solo violin notes. Because it’s so narrow in its focus, it’s also exceedingly low-priced at the time of writing, squarely in impulse purchase territory (marked down from $44.99 USD MSRP to $14.95 USD for download from www.simplesamsamples.com). It doesn’t offer recorded round-robin variations, but it does offer deeply-sampled velocity switching – and I found that it could handle repeated variations quite well if you downloaded the Ultra TKT Kontakt script (which can be downloaded for free at http://nilsliberg.se/ksp/scripts/utkt/utkt.htm)

Spanning a wide dynamic range with a massively deep-sampled 13 dynamic layers mapped to velocity (other libraries often use one to five), these recordings are full of detail and life, recorded up-close for maximum flexibility (in a location that’s never noted and didn’t get my attention). From the instrument’s low G up to some quite high notes on the instrument, the library is well-recorded and demonstrates great consistency – I wasn’t looking for bum notes (13 layers would have been a lot to look through for each note) but I can happily say that none leapt out during my evaluation. The many velocity layers make it possible to vary the velocity for some very dramatic and natural crescendos or for accents without drawing attention to velocity layer transition points. The library is great for very fast-paced performances – I never felt like the samples were struggling to keep up with my playing speed.

Now the library’s narrow focus begs an obvious question: while complete collections like XSample Chamber Ensembles or VSL Solo Strings I Full offer a full range of articulations and instruments, how can one take advantage of the strength of Signor Paganini Solo Violin’s short notes when a piece calls for a wider range of articulations? And how does it sound alongside other instruments? Luckily, I found the samples could be mixed and matched with a wide range of libraries, especially with judicious application of FX at the mixing stage to marry the sound (such as EQ, spatial placement and reverb plug-ins). The library is very close-miked, so the sonic signature of the recording space is minimized. The frequency balance changes with the dynamics, with less pronounced harmonics at lower dynamics (an accurate reproduction of the instrument’s response in real life) and if you are looking for a warmer sound, I would urge you to experiment with using the quieter dynamics and bringing up the level of the track instead of the velocity.


What’s missing?

Signor Paganini’s very specific in what it aims to do. Not only are there no sustains or legato samples, there aren’t even longer short notes like marcatos. There aren’t options to vary the bow position to sul ponticello or sul tasto. There are no mute options (though products such as Numerical Sound’s Sordino Universal impulse library launching this month could help). There’s only one deeply-velocity-layered patch, with no key switching and (as mentioned earlier) no round-robins. Thankfully, the aforementioned Ultra TKT script makes the library quite usable for repeated notes but round-robins would definitely have been preferable.

With all that said, the library doesn’t claim to do any of those things. It’s narrow in scope and priced accordingly.

Conclusion

If you own Kontakt 4 or higher and use (or want to use) short solo violin notes in your writing, I would say go ahead and buy the library because frankly at this price it’s worth it if you use it even for just one song. It offers a different sound and energy that means I often include it in my quartets and quintets alongside instruments from more expensive libraries, even in cases where those libraries offer two violin variations. The library is more than just a “fun impulse purchase”, it’s got tons of dynamic layers and a range of character, too. It can help add energy and life to your compositions and keep up with your playing, whether you’re going classical, film or folk. It’s not a “cheap” product; it’s a high quality one, unusually focused in scope and a great value for the price. Honestly, I’m anxious for SimpleSamSamples to add more solo strings – I want the same thing for my violas, cellos, double basses and then possinly a second violin, too! Here’s hoping next time they add round-robins, even if that means removing the current discount.

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