Oftentimes in guitar-based sample libraries and virtual instruments, harmonics seem to be included either as an afterthought, or “just for the sake of completeness”. Rodney Gates, founder of SoundCues, has tackled this head on by creating a Kontakt sample collection dedicated solely to detailed reproductions of acoustic, electric, and bass guitar harmonics.
And why should I care?
Because enough people agree with this statement for me to claim it as absolute truth: harmonics are awesome. Therefore, I feel that it would be worth having a tool in the sample arsenal that does them justice and does them well. This would be a tool that integrates itself seamlessly into your other guitar sampled offerings, as well as an additional colour in the palette with which to get creative – just because the original sample was a guitar harmonic, it doesn’t mean the end result needs to be.
Is GuitarMonics that tool? Fire up the wonderful sounding demos below, and hear it for yourself in the hands of some fantastic film and game composers.
But demos can only tell you so much.
Easy. Like many other Kontakt libraries today, GuitarMonics is delivered digitally via Continuata’s Connect installer (which has become a standard in this field for many developers). Plug in your download codes, point it to the directory you’d like to install into, and it’ll do the rest. It’s a 7.4 GB library, so how long that process takes depends on your internet speed (but it shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours on most connections). Manual links are not provided, but I suspect those who prefer them won’t have trouble obtaining them if they ask very nicely!
GuitarMonics is not a Kontakt powered library, and will only work on a full version of Kontakt 4.24 or above. It is accessible only via the Files Browser or the Quickload view, not the Libraries tab. Just FYI.
In your face
The user interface is identical for all the patches, and it’s built to be simple. Attack and Release knobs provide front panel access to the ADSR envelope, meaning you can change the sounds from harmonics that ring out into fading pads and short percussive sounds at your own whim.
A Velocity Filter is exactly what it sounds like, toggling a low pass filter that muffles the lower dynamics, should that feel more natural. Finally, a Reverb button engages the built in convolution. Of course, users can delve deeper into these parameters and others simply by hitting the wrench icon on the top left corner of the patch.
… the real thing. All of the patches contain 3 dynamic layers and 5 round robins. That makes for enough variation and responsiveness for them to sound and feel natural.
The acoustic component of GuitarMonics consists of a single patch. It’s simple and straightforward – you just play the keys and you get harmonics on a steel string guitar. They’re close miked in a dry studio environment, and should thus blend easily with any other guitar recordings or sample libraries you use, provided those are recorded dry as well. Harmonics are a different enough articulation from most others on a guitar that it won’t necessarily be obvious they come from different libraries or different guitars. They sound excellent, and that’s all that matters.
The electric guitar component comes in six patches. 3 of them are mono patches taken through a Direct Input (DI), each featuring a different pickup selection (bridge, neck, or both combined). This allows you to place them through your own signal chain, as well as run them through the same signal chain as any of your other electric guitar recordings, provided again that they are also running off the DI. The tone is beautiful, rich, and well captured. It does not sound “thin”, as is the possible risk in this type of sampling.
The other three electric guitar patches provide the same pickup positions, but run through an amplifier instead and captured in stereo. The amp, however, is clean and is presented without any additional effects or EQ. As a result, you end up with a slightly thicker, grungier sound, but ultimately it is not all that different, and merely provides an extra option of tone. Which is always nice.
The same DI and re-amplified options are found in the Bass Guitarmonics patches, offering the same selection of pickup positions. However, the difference between the DI and the amplified patches is a lot more noticeable on this one. The latter sound just dirty and saturated enough for them to have more of an edge, while the former are just clean and beautiful. They are both well captured, and should garner no complaints about sound quality. There are also additional “Pure” patches, that were edited to reduce the natural attack noise and provide a cleaner tone (in a similar manner to sample start offset – or “tightness” in other libraries, especially short string samples).
Nope. This is it. The library does one specific thing, and does it well. This is as simple as concepts and executions thereof can get. And I wouldn’t ask for more.
So, Add to Cart
For $119, you can buy the entire GuitarMonics collection. Each component can also be bought separately for $39 (Acoustic) or $49 (Electric and Bass).
Does it do what it says it does?
It is purported on the SoundCues website to be a “comprehensive collection of guitar harmonics of every type”. However, it doesn’t include nylon string or 12-string guitar harmonics, and I’d say those two omissions challenge the “comprehensive” label. And if I’m being really nit-picky, I’d say that GuitarMonics does not provide different options for the same harmonic, i.e. natural vs. artificial, or different fret positions.
That being said, however, it does not cancel out how well-captured the provided samples actually are. “Comprehensive” is not “exhaustive”, so the lack of nylon and 12 string harmonics is by no means a show-stopper. The different positions and harmonic types are also a small component of the sound that is not all that noticeable, so I definitely commend the library for going for the most practical approach.
Soundcues was founded upon the idea of “creating virtual instruments that lack a lot of representation”, and that philosophy is well reflected in this collection. It is great value for money, even if I would have preferred a slightly lower price tag. However, it is still very reasonable given the lengths they have gone to provide a great sounding selection of patches.