This week I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing some great pieces of software from Realitone (www.realitone.com). A great sample library company that specialize in Vocal based products. Realivox – The Ladies, and Realivox – Blue (out very soon), are two amazing vocal based products, but in this review I’m focusing on one of the other instruments in the range, namely Acoustic Lite. I’m also going to be briefly looking at the Banjo and Whistle from the same company.
Why am I interested in this product you might be asking! We composers work so often with string libraries, brass libraries, we always want the next best percussion library, it seems that we sometimes forget about the other contemporary ‘pop’ instruments.
One thing to consider with this library is the popularity of the instrument in question. You can’t turn the TV on without hearing upbeat contemporary pop music with acoustic guitars in, it’s everywhere for advertising. The banjo has had a resurgence in popularity thanks to bands like Mumford and sons, and hearing the Homebase advert you will notice that a whistle takes the main melody, and is at the heart of the sound of Homebase thanks to this advert:
Firstly, I can play the acoustic guitar, and the banjo, and I can whistle. The reason I’m interested in these products is that recording stringed instruments is hard. I will often use a stereo microphone set up, and apply all sorts of FX chains to get a thick sounding acoustic guitar track. What if you’re in a rush? What if you just want a quick acoustic guitar strumming the basic chord patterns in your song? This is where Realitone come in.
Acoustic guitar is the one instrument that I constantly record from one week to the next, and I often find myself simply recording similar pop chord progressions, or recording very similar patterns. The things that change are the key, the tempo, and maybe the strumming style. I always been on the look-out for a sample library that can take that hassle away from me for adding in acoustic guitar parts!
I’m going to focus mainly on the acoustic guitar in this article, and take a quick look at the other two products in the range (the banjo and the whistle).
Installation was fairly straightforward. I had two Zip files to download for each product, one containing the samples and data, and the other containing the actual Native Instruments Kontakt preset files. Unzip them both, pop them into the same folder and your away. Very easy and hassle free.
Acoustic Lite comes with just three patches – Acoustic Lite, Pizzicato, and Spanish Solo. Within each of these patches you have 4 articulations (Sustain, Palm Mute, Spanish and chords) which feels like 4 extra presets. I really like how this is laid out. Rather than having tonnes and tonnes of presets for ever possible style of playing, it’s much easier to just have a few presets, and have a choice of articulations or styles.
Starting with the Acoustic Lite preset I went straight for the ‘Chords’ section. This is what I imagine I will use this for the most. I’ve been on the look out for a long time for a decent acoustic sample library, and I think I’ve found it.
One of the hardest things to program in using Midi is realistic chords. There are so many rhythmic possibilities, combined with up strokes and down strokes (strumming the strings starting from the top down, or from the bottom up).
An excellent feature with this software is how the chords are laid out. You have major chords as blue keys, minor chords as green keys. The red keys to the left hand side are beautifully recorded slides (and yes the keys are correct. Hit a D and you are sliding down from a D note – a great way to start a song or lead into a chorus). Another point to check out here is that the lower octave keys can be changed from falls (octave slides) to ‘chuck’ (a nice quick muted guitar strum) or even ‘Scrape and KS’ which are some scary acoustic guitar scrapes and muted slides (these are definitely going to come in use for my work on Horror Films!) The red keys to the right hand side are recordings of various fret noises, like the sort of muted fret sounds you may here in a real recording.
I’ve put together a basic chord pattern (the old classic G – D – Em – C) for you to hear the sounds
What I love about this is the speed and ease of putting together a chord based acoustic guitar track. I literally put that together in 60 seconds. I didn’t have to watch any tutorial videos or read anything, it was so easy and sounds so realistic. My only fear now is I’m not sure when I’m actually going to be using my lovely Takamine acoustic guitar…. It may be gathering dust for some time!
The next patch is the ‘Palm mute’ patch. Recorded by placing the palm of your hand just gently above the bridge of the guitar, giving it a bit of a dead sound. Very useful for all sorts of styles and genres. Here is a recording of a nice easy chord sequence using this patch –
Now on it’s own I apprecieate that this does sound a little ‘midi’ or cheesy sounding, but put it into the mix with everything else and you would have a hard time trying to identify a real guitarist or a fake one –
This track includes a drums, bass and a Wurlitzer keyboard. On top of that we have the palm mute track, along with the shimmering sound of the 12 string with reverb and chorus. It gives you a great idea how you can use this instrument in your compositions.
The last main patch is a Spanish flamenco style patch. A very clever combination of palm mute and a sustained note. It sounds pretty realistic, and I’m sure I can use this in some ambient / atmospheric track with a Spanish or Mexican fusion!
The interface is well laid out and not too cluttered. I found all of the controls very quickly, and the unit comes with a nice FX unit (Reverb, EQ, Delay, Chorus, Phaser) and a whole host of options. These FX really help you to create an array of guitar tones, everything from a classic pop rock sound, to a more 60’s psychedelic sound, to that classic 80s power rock ballad sound.
Choosing ‘sustain’ mode you can also switch the instrument to a 12 string which sounds fantastic. Add a splash of reverb and chorus, and you have a very realistic sounding guitar that you can record some beautiful sounds with
These recordings are with no additional compression or EQ applied, and this is another strong point from this piece of software. They will sit nicely in your mix without you having to do anything!
The sound is brilliant and well recorded – and that is no easy feat. As I mentioned earlier, when I record guitar I set up a condenser aimed at the sound hole, a dynamic aimed at fret 12, and sometimes I even take a DI out and mix all three signals together with various compressors, EQ, harmonic exciters, e.t.c. just to get a decent sound. The acoustic guitar was an instrument for a long time that I always recorded live, as I was unhappy with the product choices out on the market.
The guitar in question is a Takamine. The website states that they did not record a Martin or a Taylor, but a nice standard dreadnought body Takamine. Another great aspect of this instrument is that it’s not a resource hungry one. The company purposefully didn’t record tonnes of round robins or velocity layers. They aimed at recording the most useful aspects to make the instrument quick and easy to use and set up. The whole thing takes up under 100MB on your hard drive which is a drop in the ocean compared to some of the other libraries that I have which struggle to get under 100GB!
Reali Banjo and Whistle
Two other products from the same company are the Reali Banjo and Reali Whistle. The Banjo was an excellent product, that was very well recorded. What was great about the Banjo was that it came with 6 different banjo style picking patterns. You simply press and hold a chord in the upper octaves and the instrument will automatically play a picking pattern synced to your sequencers tempo. On top of that you can ‘humanize’ the sound by having the notes straight, swung, or loose, giving your Banjo a bit more authenticity. This is a very useful feature, and means you can very quickly add a great sounding Banjo track to your compositions without having to program in a tonne of notes. You can also switch between these six picking patterns on the fly, meaning you can have a different one for each chord or for each bar giving your compositions plenty of variety.
Lastly was Reali Whistle.
A very unique product in today’s market where the company have sample two different whistle styles (normal and airy) with two layers of dynamics and three round robins! Adjusting the legato to a medium to long setting enabled you to create some realistic sounding pitch bends between each note. The company also produce Realivox – The Ladies which is a great product that can get you some great sounding ‘Glee’ style vocals. They are also about to release their eagerly awaited Realivox – Blue.
This is where things get crazy! These products are very competitively priced (I personally feel that they are a little too cheap). Don’t let the price put you off, this is a seriously good sounding sample library that has been professionally recorded and will sound excellent in your compositions. Acoustic lite and Acoustic Whistle comes in at $39 while Acoustic Banjo comes in at $59.
This is the first product that I have given full marks to. The more and more I look I cannot find a single bad thing about it (ok maybe one thing – that I won’t play my real guitar as much!). These sample libraries are a little bit different to others out there, and they are very playable. They will suit composers that create contemporary corporate pop music for adverts and corporate films, and priced at $140 for all three, they represent excellent value for money.