If there’s one thing that we composers always like more of, it’s percussion. Impact Soundworks have delivered some great libraries of both acoustic and electronic drums in the past and now they tackle ethnic percussion.
This should be no surprise to those who are aware of Andrew Aversa and his team’s work – they have sampled instruments from as far afield as India, Japan and even Kazakhstan – and now they release Forest Frame Drums.
Forest Frame Drums is a library featuring three different frame drums, hand-crafted by the Ojibway tribe, one of the largest First Nation tribes in Northern America. We have the ‘feature’ drum, the Forest Drum, and also two supporting percussion instruments, the Deep Drum and the Small Drum. Separately, they provide great rhythmic accompaniment; together, you have a wonderfully rich drum circle – and there are options to create an even larger drum circle if you wish; more on that later.
Let’s start with getting Forest Frame Drums up and running. Installation is perfectly simple. This isn’t a ‘Powered by NI’ library, so you just open the zip file and place the folder wherever you keep your Kontakt libraries. I have a ridiculously large ethnic percussion folder for this occasion. It requires the full version of Kontakt 4 or higher and you’ll need 1.3gb of space for all the samples.
That might seem like a lot of samples for a library with just three patches (especially when one patch, the Small Drum, has just two articulations). However, this is where this library really shines. For the Forest Drum and Deep Drum, there are a great number of articulations: played with fingers, thumbs, hands, mallets and sticks, played in the centre, on the side and the rim. And each of these playing styles features six dynamic layers and fifteen round robin samples. These drums are never going to sound robotic, even if you quantize the hell out of them!
This combination of multiple dynamic layers and round robins really allows for some very effective percussion playing. You can really pull this library to the front of your mix without any qualms.
All three drums have been recorded beautifully. Just enough raw character to truly capture the spirit of the hand-crafted drums, without making them a nightmare to fit in the mix or the same ‘room’ as your other instruments. Each drum can be played in either an intimate style or a more bombastic temperament (this is, again, where those dynamic layers star). There are also many useful sound manipulation tools built into the elegant and simple user interface.
For further tone tweaking there is a three-band EQ, a limiter, saturation (which is really nice), plus a reverb section that comes with some bespoke impulse responses. Also, you have control of the volume of the release samples (which is ideal for controlling both fast and slow percussion passes), a stereo width tool to add extra ambience and some Ensemble controls. These Ensemble controls allow you to move from solo playing to three, four, five or six players – at each stage you can manipulate the tightness of the playing (i.e. how loose the timing is) and also the stereo spread of the players.
With these tools you really have some powerful tools to make sure Forest Frame Drums sound exactly as you want them to, without needing to reach for any third party plug-ins.
Even if you already own some frame drums, Forest Frame Drums will find its place in your collection. It doesn’t have the solid, robust, dry tone of the Celtic bodhran nor the deep, tonal, loose noise of the Persian daff. It essentially sits somewhere in the middle of those frame drums and gives a little bit of both sides.
I personally both own and play a couple of frame drums: a Moroccan bendir and a North American shamanic drum. Forest Frame Drums stood up well in the sound and playability department to both my drums, as I jammed along. The only slight weakness I felt that was present, was the fact that the tone of the Forest Frame Drums changes more than I’m used to between the various articulations. With my own drums, regardless of how I play them, the tone remains fairly consistent. With Forest Frame Drums the tone wanders a little and could occasionally stand out when there a few other instruments playing alongside them.
All in all, this is a great library. Well recorded, deeply recorded, and a very intuitive playability via the highly attractive GUI. At just $49 it will make a great addition to your existing ethnic/hand percussion collections. I love them and can see myself reaching for them regularly, especially on days in the studio when my own playing is sloppy!