When I was first asked to review the Claire Woodwind Bundle I have to say I was giddy with excitement that I would get to play with another 8Dio product. They continue to outdo themselves each time they release a new product and the 7 instruments inside the Claire Woodwinds Bundle are no exception. The moment I opened the legato flute patch and fiddled around on the piano, I found myself playing like a concert flautist with a lifetime of experience! It was too easy!
Once you purchase the Bundle exclusively on their site you will be sent a unique code and links to manually download the product. Instead of the manual download you can use the code to paste into their custom 8Dio Downloader application, which is also linked to in the e-mail. All 7 instruments come in at around 36gb. They are Alto-Flute, Flute, Piccolo, Bassoon, English Horn, Oboe and Clarinet. They are downloaded as multiple RAR files that automatically unzip which is handy. This library does NOT use the “add library” function in Kontakt and all files must be accessed through the regular Kontakt browser (upper left side of Kontakt) or “Load” option. You will need the Full Kontakt Player 4 or 5.
I did have a couple of issues with “missing files” and “missing samples” which I had to manually look for, sometimes unsuccessfully. However, this mainly happened with the Alto Flute and only once with the Flute. It had something to do with a corrupted download, so make sure you have a good internet connection! Despite this, 8Dio customer service were prompt to help and the issues were resolved after sending me new download links.
The slick interface gives a nice visual of each instrument using the keys as knobs and faders that you can manipulate in order to get your desired sound and performance. Below is a detailed description of the interface.
The samples were recorded inside a Symphonic Hall and come with Three Mic positions:
- Close –recorded using a stereo pair, which was uniquely isolated to give a tighter sound.
- Wide (Far) – A beautiful, distant sounding Hall with a longer reverb tail.
- Decca (Mixed)
You can turn any of these mic positions on/off and mix to taste between all three.
You also get 4 Midi CC controls:
- Dynamics (CC1/modweel) – Engages carefully crafted filters and volume curves to create fluid dynamics without the chorusing and phasing which can destroy the air and magic of a solo woodwind sample.
- Expression (CC11) – Using CC’s is about the ability to shape your notes in a more flexible manner, and really make things breathe. Riding CC1 and CC11 will give you a steeper curve (a stronger arc into your note) – a sense that your notes are rolling forward. CC11 also allows you to create expression within a particular dynamic.
- Legato Speed (CC 16) – This control alters the sample start of the intervals and also adjusts some very finely tuned envelopes. The intervals and valve clicks become slightly more pronounced as you move the knob to the right. Try speed all the way up for run and arpeggio type figures, particularly when using the strong legato instrument.
- Legato Volume (CC12) – This control allows you to adjust the volume of the actual interval transitions, and by extension the entire “natural” articulation. It is set to a natural volume by default and generally can be left untouched.
There are also some other features:
- Legato ON/OFF (C1 MIDI Keyboard) – When legato is off all arts are polyphonic.
- Release – This button turns off the natural release, which triggers at the conclusion of a legato phrase.
- II – this button alters the character of the samples to create a second instrument, allowing for greater diversity in harmonic writing
There is an incredible, diverse range of performances, articulations and other effects with every instrument. All patches are quite similar across the 7 instruments, so once you get your head around the patches of one instrument, you more or less will have no problem familiarising yourself with the others.
There are 5 Main Patches with each instrument:
- General Articulations
- Legato Strong (or Fast with Clarinet patch)
- Legato Lyrical (or Slow with Clarinet patch)
- Arcs – performed dynamics (eg. pp-ff-mp)
- Bonus Effects and Runs
(nb. Bassoon comes with Lyrical Sus xFade patch as well which is just an additional Sus xFade performance within the Legato Lyrical patch)
General Articulations (5-6 Articulations)
The General Articulations contain all the core essentials you might need for creating a rough woodwind line. I use the word “rough” very lightly as these contain some incredible sounding performances. They are also very playable right out of the box, which I like.
Staccattissimo – “Stacmo” for short. This is one of the best staccato performances from woodwind instruments I’ve ever heard in the sample world. With velocity sensitivity and 9 round robin (8 with clarinet) you will never fail to capture an incredibly authentic performance. The wonderful breathy sound from the Flutes and Piccolo and the subtle key clicks from the Bassoon and English Horn create awesome realism. Of course these noises can be minimised with creative use of the mic positions, but letting these subtleties shine through can certainly add a little extra something to the music.
Marcato – a nice short, emphasised performance with strong vibrato from most instruments except the clarinet which is played without. This is also velocity sensitive with 2 Round Robin.
Sustains – The third keyswitch (and fourth with some instruments) gives us sustains which differ in style and name for each instrument. They come under “Sus Vel”, “Sus Exp”, “Sus Soft Less Vib” “SusXFade” or simply “Sustains”.
SusXFade was designed with long phrases in mind. They are left un-looped, preserving the natural character of the entrances and exits of notes, but are sufficiently long for slower underscore applications.
All sustains come as a full performance and are velocity sensitive (apart from SusXFade). You can hear the clear tonguing at the beginning developing into a full vibrato, before a slight diminuendo that leads to a neat finish. You can even hear a slight breath afterward with some samples and a slight movement of the mouth and tongue. This is what the team at 8Dio must mean by their concept of “emotional sampling”. There is a depth and soul to the performances, which you rarely hear with today’s woodwind samples.
Trills – Finally, the last two key switches of each instrument in General Articulations is Min 2nd Trills and Maj 2nd Trills. These are self-explanatory! However they are not velocity sensitive, so to create a dynamic performance you will need to get creative with the Expression and Dynamics Midi CC.
The General Articulations may be a perfect way to capture a performance quickly and efficiently before getting into the gritty details of programming the performance you want. However, the real fun starts with the legato patches as we delve into exquisite and detailed playing with a large palette of performances to choose from.
The Legato Lyrical (“Slow” with Clarinet) patches, according to the documentation is a “flowing and emotional legato performance with an emphasis on capturing the mournful and melancholy expressions”, of the instrument, and I couldn’t agree more! There is a huge amount of emotion in these performances. Each instrument patch comes with a set of 6 legato performances, which differ slightly with each instrument. They come with light, medium and strong vibrato’s for extra flexibility. Once you familiarise yourself with the different keyswitches you will have no trouble programming the performance you want.
Each instrument patch comes with the following performances:
- Natural – A Full legato performance with full ring out in the concert hall
- Medium – Great all round articulation for melodies
- Strong – More dramatic, emotional performance
Each instrument comes with 1 or 2 “Medium” and “Strong” performances. In addition to these, some instruments come with following performances:
- Soft – comes with piccolo, alto flute and bassoon – for softer passages
- Vibrato – only with clarinet – nice addition, lovely ethnic sound
- Heavy Vibrato – again, only with clarinet
- Sus XFade – Sustains crossfade from p-f using CC1
Each legato instrument patch comes with the previously mentioned “Staccattissimo” and “Marcato” which are also found in the General Articulations patch.
The Legato Strong (“Fast” with Clarinet) patch features the same legato performances but with a completely different recording of legato intervals with a stronger and more dramatic interpretation. However, this can be sculpted to sound softer with the use of the expression and dynamics knobs, again giving you a lot more variety when building a realistic performance.
The Legato Speed knob is another great tool, which can also be controlled and automated during the performance with CC16. When the “Legato Speed” knob is moved to the right it gives a snappier performance between the notes – the interval and valve clicks become more pronounced. The opposite is true when the knob is turned to the left, creating a slower more elegant performance between each note. This allows for some amazing control over how each phrase is played and again gives you the opportunity to inject more realism into the performance.
The legato intervals are triggered by keeping a note held down as you play the next. This applies to any note within an octave range. So for example, if you play middle C and hold it, you can play any note up 12 semitones to the next C or any note down 12 semitones to the lower C and you will trigger a unique sample for each interval. Anything beyond an octave from the note you last played will not trigger a legato interval sample. Once the “Legato” switch is turned off, these legato interval samples will not be triggered and the samples can be played polyphonically.
There is a lot to play with here and the best thing to do is to familiarise yourself with each performance – the length of the note, the strength of the vibrato, the dynamic arc of the performance and even the breathiness is all unique to each key switch. Your creativity is the only thing stopping you from phrasing your lead lines the way you want them.
The Arcs are a selection of typical dynamic crescendos and decrescendos. Most are swells – starting quiet and getting louder before a final decrescendo. This is a really powerful tool and an awesome feature of this Woodwind bundle. In each instrument you get between 6 and 8 different dynamic markings such as:
..as well as others. These are really fun to play with as you can create some incredible ensemble sounds by just playing chords on the piano. They are great for laying down a quick ensemble backdrop to help add some body to a composition. It’s especially fun when you create a multi-instrument patch! None of the dynamics are locked to a particular tempo and the length of the notes differs between each dynamic performance. This does reduce the control you have but then again you always have the expression and dynamics knobs to help lock the performance into your composition. Work it right and you can have some really authentic swells and dynamics happening in your piece.
Bonus Effects and Runs
This is another cool tool in this 8Dio Claire Woodwind Bundle. In case you can’t get enough valve clicks and breathes, they have given you a separate samples to inject more realism into the music!
In addition, every instrument comes with a set of Major and Minor Runs. They come in several different formats:
- 1 Octave Major Run Up
- 1 Octave Major Run Down
- 1 Octave Minor Run Up
- 1 Octave Minor Run Down
- 2 Octave Major Run Up
- 2 Octave Major Run Down
- 2 Octave Minor Run Up
- 2 Octave Minor Run Down
Some instruments come with more options than others. The tempo of each run can be adjusted using the pitch bend, which is a neat little feature and will help you lock the runs into your piece. They are fun to play with and you can get some cool effects when you play polyphonically. They can come in handy when you want to create some tension in a piece. You could have multiple instruments playing runs in different directions and different keys – like some sort of woodwind thunderstorm!
Overall, I have to say this is certainly one of the best woodwind libraries on the market in terms of creating an authentic, soulful and expressive performance, if not THE best. The legato speed knob is a really subtle but vital tool in defining the performance, whether it is lyrical and fluid or fast and bouncy. The individual legato samples between each interval are extremely well executed and scripted. As a woodwind player, these are subtleties I pick up on when listening and/or creating mock-ups. It is so refreshing to have this amount of control.
There are a wonderful, diverse range of performances and articulations that are playable right out of the box, which is something I absolutely love. This is a common theme with 8Dio products especially with their Adagio and Adagietto Strings (which I also own). This is the ultimate bundle for not only creating great solo woodwind lines, but also as a great tool for perhaps mixing a top line into an ensemble patch from another library to create more depth and realism to the ensemble sound.
At the end of the day, the 8Dio team have clearly worked hard to make this a groundbreaking set of woodwinds samples, getting some of the best performers in the world together along with some clever engineers and programmers. With Colin O Malley and Troels Folmann behind the wheel of 8Dio it is no surprise. They not only have incredible ears, they are also incredible composers, so it makes sense that the samples are this good. If I haven’t sold you, just listen to the compositions that they put together to demo their 8Dio products. Enough said.
All instruments are $139 each which is not bad for something of this quality. However the bundle is significantly cheaper at only $649 – this is $349 off the total cost of 7 instruments ($973), bringing each instrument down to only $93 each – pretty great value. For anyone serious about creating orchestration mockups, this is a must have.
Listen to more examples and purchase exclusively on their website at: http://8dio.com/instrument-category/woodwinds/#instrument/bundle-10-claire-woodwind/
I’ve put together a playlist of walk-through’s for each instrument. These will give you a great sonic overview of each instrument. They are taken from the 8Dio YouTube channel: