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Samplemodeling Solo & Ensemble Strings

Created by Giorgio Tommasini & Peter Siedlaczek

Another string package? Why? There are already so many, either conventional libraries or based on physical modeling! Do we still need another one? The answer is YES. But not just another one. Something completely different. We need virtual instruments overcoming the limits of the current approaches. With a realistic timbre, sample-based, but allowing any kind of soundshaping and user-molded articulation, according to Samplemodeling philosophy. Equally suitable for composition and realtime playing. Including all solo & ensemble string instruments. Compact and flexible. Not an easy task, which required four years of intensive research & development.

Now the brand new Samplemodeling Solo & Ensemble Strings are finally available, in a single package, and at a very affordable price. :-)

Instrument Technology

Solo & Ensemble Strings further expand Samplemodeling™ technologies. Multi-microphone anechoic recording allows to capture the original timbre of the instruments, along with their radiation pattern. Our proprietary "Harmonic Alignment" yields continuous transitions across virtually infinite dynamics. Specially devised "early reflections" impulse responses add a virtual space to the anechoic sound, greatly contributing to realism. New, patent pending technology allows to vary the perceived size of the ensemble in a continuous manner. The programming moves further away from conventional libraries, by exploiting physically-oriented modulation of the recorded sound. The result are playable, very expressive virtual instruments retaining the rich, full sound of real strings.

The package includes four solo instruments, namely Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass, and five ensembles, Violins I & II, Violas, Cellos and Double Basses. The base material of the instruments consists of 5 GB of samples, chromatically performed by professional string players over a very wide dynamic range. All samples are unlooped, and have a minimum duration of about 10 sec. The Strings engine is structured according to an adaptive model, based on the performance "fingerprints" of the real instruments. The purpose of the model is to minimize the differences between the real phrases and those played by the virtual instruments.

Proprietary instrument body IRs, innovative techniques for sample modulation and advanced artificial intelligence MIDI processing are used for real time construction of all articulations and morphing across dynamics, vibrato, legato, portamento, cross-string, portato, trills, tremolo, staccato, pizzicato, col legno, harmonics and so forth.

Pseudo-random detuning and pitch & dynamics modulation, based on real performance-derived trends, is another outstanding feature of Samplemodeling Solo & Ensemble Strings, adding further realism.

Why anechoic?

The purpose of anechoic recording was threefold:

  1. avoid “contamination” of the pure strings sounds with the uncontrolled resonances of a particular ambience,
  2. allow artifact-free “harmonic alignment” processing
  3. provide clean articulations and phrases as a database to build the “adaptive model”.

Virtual Instruments? No additional software needed?

the graphical interface

Kontakt 5 Player

Samplemodeling Solo & Ensemble Strings are supplied with the NI Kontakt Player 5.8.1, the read-only version of Native Instruments sampler. It provides 64 bit, extended memory and multicore support, DFD optimization, better compliance with some OS and hosts, 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, AU and AAX are supported.

The Strings were developed on Kontakt 5.8.1 and are fully compatible with Kontakt 6. Please note, however, that it will not run on previous versions of Kontakt.

Kontakt 5 Sampler vs. Full Kontakt.

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

Which are the main features of Solo & Ensemble Strings?

The Strings include several exciting features:

Velocity mapping

User-drawn rescaling of the note-on velocity allows greater flexibility and better control of the articulations. This is particularly suitable for breath or wind controllers, or other physical input devices.

Expression Mapping

User-drawn rescaling of the expression CC allows better control of the dynamics. This is particularly suitable for breath or wind controllers, or other physical input devices.

Pitchbend Mapping

User-drawn rescaling of the Pitchbend allows to tailor the response to different input devices. Some devices, for example require that subtle PB oscillations are strongly amplified, while large ones remain within the PB range. The latter has been extendend to +/- 3 semitones for particular applications.

Early Reflections algorithm

The early reflections (ER) are those components of the emitted sound reaching the listener shortly after being reflected from the closest walls, floor and ceiling. They convey information about the spatial localizaton of the instrument, and greatly contribute to realism. In the Strings, a sophisticated algorithm extracts the directional information of multi-microphone anechoic recordings to recover the overall timbre of the instruments along with their radiation pattern, assembling this information into a suitable ER impulse response, which adds a virtual space to the anechoic sound.

Virtual Soundstage

This feature allows precise positioning of the instruments in a virtual space located before the listener, using early reflections, pre-delay, convoluted panning, stereo field width, and perceived distance algorithms. You can move your instruments back and forth, from side to side, or with a combination of the two, even in realtime, mimicking the natural movements of the player. You can modify the ratio direct/reflected sound, and even "displace" the back wall, for a variable depth effect. This virtual soundstage will set you free of adding a further suitable acoustic environment, without incurring multiple-ambience issues. This can be carried out within the same Kontakt Player, which provides a high quality convolution reverb.

Built-in Reverb

Each instrument, solo & ensemble, is equipped with a high quality convolution reverb, with several selectable IRs, ranging from a small chamber orchestra space to a large auditorium. The dry/wet ratio, IR length and predelay are under user's control. This internal reverb permits to get a full realistic sound straight out-of-the-box. When set to zero, the internal convolution reverb is switched off, allowing the use of your preferred ambience setup.

Real time Timbral Shaping

This revolutionary new feature adds a virtually endless timbral variety to sample-based instruments, by acting on the amplitude of individual harmonics, or groups of harmonics, even in real time. This is not a graphic equalizer; the controlling bars are not assigned to fixed frequencies, but to the first 10 harmonics of the played note. As a consequence, the affected frequencies vary with the pitch of the note. So, rising, for example, bar #1 will boost the fundamental frequency (first harmonic) of each note played, yielding a "rounder" sound. Rising bars #3, #4, #5 will increase the intensity of the corresponding harmonics for a more "nasal" sound, etc. "Sul tasto" and "sul ponticello" can be mimicked by boosting, for example, the first harmonic while decreasing the level of some upper harmonics, and the reverse. Timbral shaping can also be controlled in realtime by suitable CCs.

Microtuning

Another important feature is microtuning, coping with the requirements of musicians using non-tempered scales, as in Middle Eastern and Asian music. Our approach to microtuning yields maximal flexibility, allowing user-defined scales, where the extent of detuning (range +60/-60 cents) can be precisely set for each note by means of a series of bars. The scale can be saved as a preset and recalled by dedicated keyswitches.

Unison Ensemble Multi

Special consideration has been given to creation of realistic unison ensembles. An advanced "Ensemble Maker" has been developed, affecting timing, static and dynamic pitch evolution, phase, response to dynamics, pitchbend, velocity, portamento time, in such a way that even if driven from a single MIDI source, each instrument will sound slightly different, as if played by a different musician. The ensemble use specially devised IR, markedly reducing the phasing which may occur when several instruments are driven from the same MIDI track (i.e. in unison). A completely new, patent pending, technique has been developed, allowing to vary the perceived ensemble size in a continuous manner, ranging from a small chamber orchestra to a large symphonic ensemble. Ensemble vibrato varies from random to slightly synchronized, under CC control, to impart a more expressive character to intense climaxes. Five ready-to-use Ensembles, including First and Second Violins, Violas, Cellos, Double Basses and an appropriate convolution reverb, suitable for unison playing straight out of the box, are included in the package. The reverb can of course be bypassed in each ensemble if one wants to use his own ambience.

Articulations

Despite their structural complexity, these instruments are very intuitive and easy to play. As all Samplemodeling instruments, the Strings do not use pre-recorded articulations, and shaping the sound is the task of the player, carried out by proper use of a few midi controllers. However, extensive use of advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques greatly facilitates this task. Our revolutionary “Adaptive Model” approach acts by minimizing the differences from the real instrument, whatever articulation or phrase you play. You can therefore concentrate on creating music, rather than mastering complex sample bank management. Nevertheless, thorough knowledge of the controllers and the keyswitches, and some practice, are certainly needed to get most realistic effects. Seamless continuous crescendo-decrescendo across several dynamics is simply obtained by acting on the expression controller. The attacks are controlled by the interplay between note-on velocity and the expression CC. Legato/portamento is activated by overlapping notes, and the duration of the articulation is linked to note-on velocity, or if needed, can be assigned to an independent CC. Trills are easily obtained by retriggering. Pure staccato can be obtained by very short strokes with high note-on velocity. And... simply play at very low dynamics and lowest velocity, and you will get a very realistic "subpianissimo" sound.

Additional techniques and articulations

Several playing techniques which can be applied to string instruments (e.g. pizzicato) and some articulations (e.g detaché) are easily recalled by using keyswitches (KS). These KS are placed immediately below the playing range of each instruments. By pressing a KS you can activate microtuning, pizzicato, col legno, harmonics, solo or poly (arpeggio) mode, detaché/bowchange, portato & tremolo, allow open strings and selecting low, middle and high playing position. All the KS are working in real time, either in momentary or latch mode.

Mode & Articulation Display

The instruments displays the selected input device (keyboard, breath controller, wind controller), identifies mode (solo, poly, detaché), technique (tremolo, pizzicato, col legno, harmonics), articulation (downbow, upbow, bichord, accent, staccato, legato, cross-string, portamento, trill, run) and playing position (open strings, low, high, highest), and displays this info in real time on the main GUI.

Other features

Automatic velocity correction for uneven velocity response of the keyboard.

It is well known that MIDI keyboards have different and uneven velocity response, and this may heavily influence the performance of a virtual instrument. To obviate this problem, the instruments includes automatic detection of any velocity inhomogeneities or non-linearity of the keyboard, and provide automatic rescaling to any desired curve.

GUI knobs/ Controllers remapping

All the controllers needed for proper functioning of the instrument are mapped to virtual knobs in six GUI panels, which can be activated by a drop down menu. The function of each controller is indicated by the associated label. The virtual knobs permit to monitor the incoming midi data, but can also be used to directly control the instrument. This allows users of keyboards without physical MIDI controllers or knobs, to explore the expressive capabilities of The Strings. Additionally, all the controllers, plus the aftertouch, can be remapped to any other MIDI CC.

Breath & Windcontroller mode

Playing The Strings with either a keyboard plus breath controller (e.g.TEControl), or directly with a windcontroller (e.g. Yamaha or Akai) is very easy. Breath & Windcontroller modes automatically set proper CC settings, enable triggering of note-on and off by the expression data flow, optimize the bite–to-pitch response for the individual WC, etc. A sensitivity knob allows to cope with virtually any input device.

Transpose

All samples in the Strings are mapped according to standard MIDI note numbers. This is very convenient when using a sequencer or a large keyboard. Conversely, users of small keyboards might take advantage of transposition to conveniently exploit the full range of the instrument. The Transpose knob facilitates this task, by transposing keys and keyswitches at the same time, without the need to bother with keyboard programming.

System requirements

Samplemodeling Strings provide unprecedented realism and expressiveness. However, it’s a demanding software in terms of CPU load. An up-to-date, multiple-core PC, Intel Core i7 or equivalent, 4 GB RAM, Windows 7, 8 or 10 (latest Service Pack), or Mac OS 10.11 or higher is recommended. Less powerful systems may also prove satisfactory, but may require larger buffer sizes, involving higher latencies, and may reduce the number of simultaneously playable instruments.

A good quality audio hardware with suitable low latency drivers (ASIO for the PC) is required. Recommended buffer sizes may range from 128 (low-latency, hight CPU load) to 512 samples (higher latency, but less CPU load).

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 some great fun though), using a sequencer may obviate the need for several physical midi controllers, by manually drawing controller data to the MIDI tracks while maintaining full control of the instrument's expressiveness. The Strings have been thoroughly tested on several common sequencers, like Cubase, Logic & Reaper. Some excellent MIDI demos are downloadable from the Strings demo page.

What does the Solo & Ensemble Strings package include?

The package includes four solo instruments, namely Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass, and five ensembles, Violins I & II, Violas, Cellos and Double Basses.

How much will I pay? Any discount?

  1. The retail price for the Solo & Ensemble Strings for new customers is Eur 399 (+VAT if applicable).
  2. All previous customers are entitled to a time limited discount of 10%.
  3. To obtain the discount coupon, please follow the instructions published here.
  4. Please note that the instruments are only available as a single package, as described above.

Online Activation?

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

Are any demos of these Strings available?

Credits and acknowledgements

The Solo & Ensemble Strings are the result of a many-year research carried out by Giorgio Tommasini and Peter Siedlaczek, who also performed all the recordings. The scripts were written by Nils Liberg and Giorgio Tommasini.

Fabio Vicentini for his advice, patience and professionalism. Special thanks also to our beta testers and wonderful demo makers, and to many Samplemodeling's friends for their valuable help and cooperation.