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Realistic, expressive, real time playable Saxophones?

The saxophone is probably the most difficult instrument to emulate. Despite several attempts using different technologies, ranging from traditional sampling to sophisticated physical modeling, the results obtained so far fell short of the expectations. This is particularly true if real time playing is concerned.

The Sax Brothers employ an entirely new technology, conceived by Stefano Lucato when it became clear that all the previously applied approaches simply could not do. The technical name is Synchronous Wave Triggering. It uses samples as a base material, chromatically performed by a professional sax players over a very wide dynamic range, and recorded with state-of-the-art technology. The resulting timbre is therefore that of the real instrument. But the analogy with a sample based library ends here. The underlying, proprietary technology allows continuous interpolation among different vectors like time, dynamics, pitch and formants. Advanced real time processing techniques yield realistic legato/portamento, vibrato, ornamentations & trills with phase continuity, constant-formant pitchbends, subharmonics, growl and flutter tongue to be performed in real time.

Virtual Instruments? No additional software needed?


Mr. Sax A, B and T are all supplied with the NI Kontakt Player 4, the read-only version of Native Instruments flagship sampler. It involves many new features and bugfixes, including 64 bit, extended memory and multicore support, DFD optimisation, better compliance with some OS and hosts, aftertouch support etc. The Player is included as a separate installer, and no additional software is required to play the instrument. Stand-alone mode, as well as plugin formats VST, DXi, RTAS and AU are supported.

The instruments can be also loaded and played in the full version of Kontakt. Please note, however, that they cannot be opened or modified, and no access to the samples, impulse responses or instrument programming is provided.

The graphical interface (GUI)

Here you can check and set the appropriate values for each parameter. You may vary the amount of random expressiveness, pitch response to dynamic changes, intensity of key noise, overall resonance of the pipe, subharmonic intensity on transitions, bite-to-pitch sensitivity (to cope with different types of windcontrollers). You may also set the master tune, enable keyboard mode, or keyboard + breathcontroller, or windcontroller mode (for either Yamaha and Akai WC), enable (a)symmetrical pitchbend response, choose among various attack setups, link portamento time to either velocity or CC5, assign the sustain pedal to different functions, such as soft velocity control, subharmonic or growl.

Background Philosophy

Stefano's idea was to create a musical instrument. The timbral properties should be indistinguishable from a real saxophone. It must be played as a real instrument, using a keyboard or a windcontroller, plus three or four midi controllers, including an expression pedal or breathcontroller. All articulations are easily shaped by the player, even in real time, using just velocity, pitchwheel, modwheel, an expression pedal or breath controller, a sustain pedal, plus some optional CCs to control subharmonics & growl. Virtually any windcontroller can be used to play this instrument.

The Controllers

Real time control of most parameters can be accomplished via midi. The Sax Brothers exploit several midi controllers for optimal performance. The basic controllers are the Pitchwheel, CC11 (or CC7, or CC2) for the dynamics, CC1 (modwheel) for vibrato intensity, CC19 for vibrato rate. Portamento time can be assigned either to the velocity of the overlapped note or to CC5. Special effects are key noise (CC9), Subharmonic intensity (CC20), Growl (CC21) and Flutter Tongue (CC23).

The Controllers - continued

Channel aftertouch (CC129) can be used to control several parameters, such as vibrato intensity or rate, subharmonic, growl or flutter intensity. A user defined smoothing parameter helps reduce any sudden jump of the less-than-optimal aftertouch response of several keyboards. In addition, MIDI remapping of incoming CCs can be carried out, using a dedicated GUI .

System requirements

The Sax Brothers provide unprecedented realism and expressiveness. However, they represent a demanding software in terms of CPU load. The present version 1.51, originally developed for Kontakt 3.5, is fully compatible with Kontakt 4. The latter has been reported as more CPU intensive than previous versions. However, multi-core processing has been optimised, so that on a PC with IntelCore2 Quad CPU Q9400 @ 2.66 GHz, audio buffer size 256, the CPU load remains between 7-12 %, and up to five saxophones loaded on separate instances of Kontakt 4 can be concurrently played with no artefacts.
On the Mac, similar excellent results have been obtained with Mac Pro Quad Core 3 GHz, 8GB RAM, Mac OS 10.5.2.

Please note: we supply our instruments along with the Kontakt 4.2 Player to maintain the compatibility with some earlier operating systems. The instruments are, however, fully compatible with Kontakt 5 (both the full and free Player version).

Less powerful systems may also prove satisfactory, but may require larger buffer sizes and higher latencies, and the number of active instruments may be limited to one.
A master keyboard with some configurable MIDI controllers, pitchwheel, modwheel, and an expression pedal (or breath controller) is required for real time playing. Virtually any type of windcontroller can also be used to play this instrument.
If real time playing is not contemplated (you will miss a great fun though) using a sequencer may obviate the need for several physical midi controllers, while maintaining full control of the instrument's expressiveness. The Sax Brothers have been thoroughly tested on most common sequencers, like Cubase, Logic and Sonar.

Online activation?

Yes. Immediately after installation of the software, you need to activate it via Internet, using the Service Center utility supplied with the Kontakt Sampler/Player. Without activation the instrument(s) will appear on a black background and will not work. The activation process is very easy, though, and is carried out in a few seconds.

How to play the Sax Brothers?

Availabilty of the physical controllers, most importantly an expression pedal or breathcontroller, and mastering real time use of the most important controllers are the key. You might start having a look at this nice keyboard demo performed by Stefano Lucato:

Excellent video demos made by Iwan Roth and Bernie Kenerson playing windcontrollers will be also helpful:

You should also download and carefully study the midi files of some outstanding performances by Maciej Mulawa:

Download Exported Midi File MIDI files
Click on the icon on the left to download the MIDI files

How the Sax Brothers will be supplied? How much will I pay?

The Sax Brothers for Kontakt are available now for download, please refer to the buy page for all the current prices and bundles.

Are any demos available of these Sax Brothers?

Are these products available for downloading, now?

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