Ventus Series Ocarinas by Impact Soundworks
You will need to have some programming skills to master this virtual instrument, but when you do, the end result could be very rewarding, almost epic.
by Alex Arsov, Jan. 2018
When I heard a demo clip of this Ocarina instrument from Impact Soundworks I was immediately attracted to it. After I finally got it I soon realized that such results are not self-evident, as you need to have at least a basic knowledge of how wind instrument lines are made, being able to add those short notes between longer ones at transitions, changing key-switches for better results and all other “no pain no gain” programming activities. This will definitely force you to roll up your sleeves if you intend to get the best out of it.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a fantastic library / instrument. Every note in every layer is superbly recorded and pre-programmed, so there are never any level issues between different pitches. Also, all legato notes are recorded at such a length that you won’t get that looping sound by playing slightly longer notes. Those note lengths also make the whole playing experience more realistic.
If you are good at programming it, you can easily make divine melodies that sound almost better than the real thing. Also, obviously, all samples are recorded with someone who has mastered this instrument. I can tell this as I tried to play a real ocarina some time ago and the end result was a bit embarrassing and far from pleasant. So, this is a great addition to your cinematic, or even pop arsenal of solo instruments, as with a few programming tricks it can sound very unique and add a nice measure of character to any tune.
The real gem with this instrument is that it isn’t being overused these days, so having such a unique sounding, rarely used lead instrument is a great bonus. With a few short ornamental notes you can make a great sounding memorable piece even from simple phrases.
What Do We Get In The Box?
For $89 USD you get three different multi-sampled Ocarinas with additional sets of phrases distributed through the keyboard range for all three instruments. A Costa Rican Pendant Ocarina, a Triple Ocarina and a Chinese Xun. All three Ocarinas are Kontakt-powered instruments. The full version of Kontakt is required. At the Impact Soundworks page they claim that you’ll need 7 GB disk space for this library, but on my disk it shows up at 10.7 GB.
Every Ocarina comes with decent number of prerecorded phrases. One patch for every instrument with time stretched phrases and one without being time stretched. Rather then being melodic phrases, they are mostly bowed effects in many variations played on one note or in some cases as thrills, being quite specific to that instrument, and are more or less impossible to recreate with a virtual player. Quite a handy solution for spicing up melody lines with those characteristic but non-programmable sounds that can add the impression of a real player standing behind this line instead of just another virtual instrument.
Xun and Costa Rican Ocarina cover a few notes more than one octave, while Triple Ocarina covers a bit over two octaves. This is not such a big problem as the sound of Ocarina is ideal for lead melody legato lines, that in most cases don’t stray far from this one octave range. Also, Costa Rican Ocarina has a slightly deeper sound, almost an octave deeper than Triple Ocarina.
Every Ocarina comes with up to twelve key-switches, covering legato, staccato, legato with thrill attack, legato with breathy noise attack (flutter, as it is called), legato with banding note and some other variations of those, like fast bending and slow bending.
There is also a ranking of various short breaths added to every instrument, so if you wisely combine all those articulations with those breath sounds, controlling the overall level during the long notes with the mod-wheel, you can achieve very impressive results. Do it right and it will be almost impossible to recognize it as a virtual instrument. It is one of those libraries that simply can’t be used just with the main articulation.
As with many other Impact Soundworks instrument, there is a separate Settings window for Articulations where you can change key notes for every articulation or even associate them with velocity CC, pedal or any other key, adapting the library to work with your MIDI controller in the best way possible.
The first thing you notice in the main window is a big Ornament button allowing you to set a percentage of how often the selected articulation will be randomly triggered. Next to this ornament button is a waveform display along with some additional controllers for Dynamic (currently attached to mod wheel), and Flutter, which adds a breathy sound to a note at any position and can also be linked to aftertouch. The last one is a Vibrato controller, offering six different sorts of vibratos that can be attached through CC.
At the bottom of the main window we find buttons for setting microphone position along with sliders for microphone volume, pan and width, along with an ADSR section. On the right are transpose and fine tune sliders along with a microtuning window.
By pressing the Advanced button you get additional window at the bottom where you can adjust some legato and vibrato parameters.
I know it is nice to have all those additional options and controllers, but in the end, I’m a musician and not a programmer, and not willing to spend too much time tweaking all the details. Thankfully, most of the job can be done just by key-switches and some with a few CC controllers. Sometimes I get the impression that the Impact Soundworks fellows really go a bit too deep with all those options, but truth be told, all their instruments sound fantastic, so in most cases I put my “Ignore Additional Controllers” hat on and simply starting playing the instrument without thinking too much about the details, adding a few different articulations through key-switches at the end.
One thing is for certain, at that price you will be hard pressed to get a better set of ocarinas. They sound great and I’m sure they will find their place in many cinematic or pop productions in home or professional studios. The only downside is the programming effort that you need to put in to achieve epic results, but OK, presumably the end result will repay all the effort and time spent on additionally tweaking the details.
Also, all ornaments, slow and fast bends and similar articulations make this instrument stand out from the pack. And let’s not forget to mention that legato notes are sampled at sufficient lengths, preventing those looping annoyances that some virtual wind instruments can have. I’m also glad that Impact Soundworks didn’t just cram in a whole bunch of melodic phrases and instead added some “flutters” and thriller / banding phrases that can be used occasionally inside melody phrases, making this instrument even more realistic.
All in all, no matter that I rather dislike additional programming, I still really like this instrument, both its sound and appearance. I suggest you to take a moment to listen to the demo clips on the Impact Soundworks webpage, and if you like what you hear, be prepared to roll up your sleeves – it’s time to program Ocarinas.
To use this toy you will need $99 USD, 10.7 GB disk space and the full version of NI Kontakt. It doesn’t work with Kontakt Player.