Tonehammer is fast becoming one of my favourite sample library companies that consistently provide fantastic, innovative and unique-sounding products, at a very fair price to the consumer. One of the later additions to their Piano family is the bowed piano, which is what it says – a piano that has been bowed (amongst other things) with 3 metre fishing line, instead of played the more traditional way, with fingers.
The “package” The pack is a download only software, weighing in at 1.4GB, and will work on Native instruments Kontakt player version 4 and higher. The installation process is simple, (although leave some time for the download, especially if your internet access is not the best), this time operating through Native instruments Service center, where you activate the library. It then shows up in the list of libraries in Kontakt. There are 3 main bowed piano instrument sets – one with a long release tail, a shorter release, and a staccato set. Each of these three have ‘lite’ versions, to conserve CPU if you’re running a tight ship. Additionally, there are FX and Drone Folders, with an extra 34 sound sets between them.
How it sounds The main sounds are absolutely fantastic. Recorded with the same piano as the Emotional piano they are smooth, deep samples, and in the usual tonehammer scripting brilliance, they are easily tweakable from the performance GUI right there in Kontakt. As you might suspect from a piano, bowing the strings creates piano-like sounds with a slow attack, and are extremely resonant and harmonically rich. One nice addition is a performance legato mode – which enables you to play very smooth phrases even though it would be impossible in reality. Other changeable parameters are the attack and release, pedal dampening, and some dynamic control.
The drones were perhaps my favourite of the soundsets. They are a mixed bunch – predominantly all fairly dark intense pad sounds. But there are some that are more ethereal and I could see a lot of these blended with other pads to create some beautiful atmospheric soundscapes. They are very tweakable, and for the brooding tense atmospheres you might be in need of creating, these sounds are just perfect. Loads of organic grit, subtle distortion and drive, evolving paddy type sounds. One little performance script I loved here was the use of the Mod wheel as a swell. It enables a lot more expressive use of the drones in performance.
The FX are classed as ‘bonus’ material to the main library, but I thought there were some excellent sounds in there. They are mostly various types of glissandos, running various articles (picks, fingers, nails, mallets) over the strings. There is a set of hits – the sounds of parts of the piano being tapped, slapped or shut, creating an interesting bunch of clicks and hits. The use of keyswitch here is excellent. For a lot of these sets, each note is a different sample entirely (a totally different hit, or scrape, etc.) So the bottom half of the keyboard is devoted to keyswitching – enabling you to set the key of any of the samples that you play, so that they fit harmonically in whatever music you slot them into. You can also tweak the keyswitch to suit your needs. Very nice.
The convolution reverb is very tasty for the included price, and the various rooms simulated, such as the slightly more quirky ‘stairwell’ as well as the obligatory ‘catherdral’ all have very distinct characteristics that draw plenty of differences out of the sounds.
The tones, timbres and crazy harmonics that are created from this library are just phenomenal. Some really eerie, haunting sounds emanate from the various patches available in this library. For something that creates long sounds that are organic, familiar, but not instantly recognisable – this is a great sample set to have up your sleeve.
… They are very tweakable, and for the brooding tense atmospheres you might be in need of creating, these sounds are just perfect…