Embertone have done it again with the latest addition to their rapidly growing library of eclectic instruments – The Joshua Bell Violin. As the name suggests, the instrument was meticulously recorded with the maestro himself, and his glorious 1713 ‘Huberman’ Stradivarius.
With the Embertone Friedlander Violin already in my library, I was curious to see how it would compare – and let me just say — this thing is on a whole new level. Not just in terms of the sound of it, but the playability as well.
Watch Embertone’s sneak peek-style preview of Joshua Bell Violin here:
I was really inspired loading it up for the first time. It is extremely intuitive, and highly playable out of the box. It’s bold and inspiring. Fragile when it needs to be. You can finally write that Main Title to the Village II with this thing.
Alright, smoke blowing aside, let’s check it out.
There are 3 main panels in the interface. Character, for controlling the tone, of which there are 7 types – Dark, delicate, natural, etc. There are also some built in reverb settings which can be adjusted easily, but it’s worth noting that the violin really sounds quite good dry. In the past I’ve often avoided using a solo violin sample, or if I’ve had no choice – I’ve drenched it in reverb. Not the case here.
There’s the Intuition page, which lets you change how the instrument responds to your playing. The cool feature here is the ‘instability’ setting which is perfect for runs and quick arpeggios, it sort of blurs the notes together, like a real performance would – and it is surprisingly effective. No weird artifacts here…It works really well.
This instrument handles fast passages, runs and arpeggios just as well as it does the slow, broody stuff. You can also get quite bold, passionate playing (as you’d expect from the Joshua Bell violin) with nice strong attacks too. Playing fast arpeggios is probably my favourite thing to do with this library, it sounds really lyrical and flowing.
The Control page is where the real magic happens, and this is where you can change the way you want to use the instrument, on a deeper level.
There’s a keyboard mode, which is great if you want to control your performance mostly with the keyboard, as well as various modwheel presets, plus the ability to make your own. But the thing to note here is just how customizable it is. You can control things like bowing and slurring with a keyswitch, velocity, playing speed, or a combination.
When you let go of a keyswitch, it will revert back to the intuition settings which gives you a lot of control without much hassle. There’s a cool feature on the intuition page which lets you change the percentage of slur to bowed playing, which actually works pretty well and everything seems to respond to how you play things.
You feel like you’re actually making a performance, not desperately trying to cover up sample flaws. There’s a natural, built in vibrato, but like with the other settings, you can override this and control it yourself.
All the common articulations are covered as well as the ability to change the bowing style and to play sordino. I’m really impressed with the legato of this library – it’s smooth and highly responsive. According to Embertone, Legato is something they founded the company on – it’s really important to them, and I think they have done an amazing job with it here.
How Does It Compare With Other Solo Violin Libraries?
So how does it compare with other solo violin libraries?
As I mentioned earlier – I have the Friedlander Violin, but I have also played around with several others from 8dio, EWQL, as well as the patches you’ll find in Komplete. I was using the Friedlander up until recently as my instrument of choice, and though I did enjoy it, I find this to be much more playable, and programmable in general.
It’s definitely more responsive and real than any other solo violin I’ve heard, especially once you put in a bit of work to program it.
To conclude – this library is a real gem. Embertone haven’t cut any corners here – I’m really stoked with it, and haven’t felt so excited about a new instrument in a long time.
It’s a powerful library that will hopefully inspire you the way it has for me. I’ve already used it on a bunch of projects – I’ve been sneaking it into just about everything since I got it a few weeks ago.
It works wonderfully as a solo feature, but also it’s a great tool for squeezing some extra life into your section strings. At 8GB, it’s fairly light on the resources, and a real joy to play. You too, can be a Stradivarius master- without the four million dollar price tag. Embertone’s Joshua Bell Violin is $199 and can be purchased here.
Written by Chris Hurn
Chris Hurn is a composer from New Zealand. He writes for several trailer and production music libraries, and is currently working on a couple of video game scores. His website is http://www.chrishurn.com
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