MusicLab RealLPC – Let There Be Rock
Welcome to StudioWise. There are some very convincing sample library instruments out there, and though guitar simulators have been around for some time, they have not quite measured up to their real-life counterparts.
Sampling a guitar is one thing but creating software that can recreate all of the more delicate details in playing the instrument is another. In the past I have tried to use software samplers to recreate guitar parts but always giving up in frustration. In the end, I have just hired a professional player, usually for less than I paid for the software.
With one part tweakers’ funbox and the other part rock concert, RealLPC appears to be a software engine that is intuitive to play and it sounds convincing if the online videos are anything to go by. I was definitely looking forward to trialling this one.
RealLPC is a deep-sampled Gibson Les Paul Custom virtual guitar library. The software runs as both standalone and VSTi insert, compatible with all modern DAW systems.
The instrument includes an impressive number of articulation techniques, such as strumming, picking, bridge mutes, harmonics, etc.. The guitar was recorded dry, so a 3rd party amp and cabinet simulators like Amplitube or Guitar Rig will be required.
Other features include double tracking, humanisation, pattern manager, full songwriting mode and an intriguing Struminator. An interesting Floating Fret Position system simulates the change of hand position on the frets.
The comprehensive 100+ page manual is well written and an indication of the depth of the software. The self-executable installer requires around 800 megabytes.
RealLPC is one of four available electric guitar libraries available, each covering a classic style. This Les Paul Custom variant squarely focuses on the stadium-rock genre.
Setup is straightforward once you have downloaded the core installer. It is nice to see that MusicLabs offer a sample optimiser. Though all wave samples are 44.1k, you can optimise for your studio setup to any rate up to 192k. Extra fidelity isn’t added, but it’s a great touch to help reduce overheads on your system later.
RealLPC is by far the most comprehensive guitar sample library I have seen, so I will try to cover only the most prominent features hopefully without sounding like a rewrite of the manual (at 103 pages, that would make for a lengthy review)
MusicLabs have rightly chosen to focus only on the guitar and have not included a half-baked amp simulator. This is a budget consideration if you don’t already have an amp simulator. Choosing the right amp and cabinet match is critical to guitar tone and another conversation on its own. We have thoroughly reviewed IK Multimedia’s amazing Amplitube 4 right here which is a great match, but there are many others to choose from. Two of the others that we recommend are:
– Guitar Rig 5 from Native Instruments
– TH3 from Overloud
RealLPC does ship with the freebie version of Amplitube 4 Custom Shop which includes 24 amp models and effects, more than enough to get you going.
There are also some excellent tutorials online in conjunction with “KeytarJeff” Jeffrey Abbott showing the capabilities of the instrument.
Get to grips
The system setup controls are a good indication of RealLPC’s depth. Output controls have a 2-band EQ, custom tuning, key ranges, timing control, fret/release/pick noise mixer, articulation mixer, and a built-in wah effect.
RealLPC has the most flexible controls modes I’ve seen on a MIDI library – standard “Smart MIDI” for performance mode, a pattern and song builder; a joystick mode control for using Guitar Hero controllers (I had to look up what Guitar Hero was); and a full MIDI guitar interface for all you folks using the guitar synth systems. Finally, there is direct sample access for full manual control of the internal samples.
Pattern mode includes a large selection of pretty much every strum and picking pattern I could imagine. Of course, you can freely create and save your creations and drag and drop into your DAW.
The song builder works similarly to Toontracks EzDrummer or EzKeys, in that you drag and drop patterns into the arranger to build a song with blocks. The same chord selector tool is available, and the sequencer tracks the patterns you’ve used, so it’s much easier to reinsert blocks as you need. I found the pattern and song creation extremely easy to use, miles better than Toontracks’ comparatively clunky interface, though the sequencer could use a range loop option.
I particularly like the way the patterns are cataloged. A filter fine-tunes the available selection by tempo, time signature, feel or play technique. You can then cycle through patches within the category on the fly, a much faster system than loading MIDI files one at a time to preview.
One fantastic feature that still somewhat blows my mind is that you can import chords from a text file or your web browser. Find the lyrics and chords to a song online, select all the text and drag and drop it directly into the library favorites section and the program will import the chords!
I did pass over the joystick/Guitar Hero section because I don’t have a controller, but it does look very featured. I know a few guys who take the game somewhat seriously, so this could be a particular feature to check out.
Sadly, I could not test the MIDI guitar section either as I sold my GR707 about ten years ago. (I regret that decision all the time). But again, this section looks extremely deep, and I can see some merit here in possibly looking to buy another controller at some stage.
By default, the keyboard is split between the main zone (C1 – D5) and repeat zones on either side. Every note or chord played in the main zone is duplicated by hitting anywhere in either of the repeat zones.
The repeat zones contain either strum up or down keys, which you either blindly hit or attempt to memorise. The white keys are open notes, black keys for string mutes.
It’s such a brilliantly simple operation. Play a note or chord with one hand then repeat it with your other. I quickly found that playing a note or chords in the main zone and then using my free hand to toggle a pair of notes parallel to each other to create the strum up and down rhythm worked best for me.
It’s just such an intuitive system it makes you wonder why nobody has thought of this before.
The same system is carried over into each of the play modes (solo, harmony, chords) with the bass modes offering bass and strum variations.
Velocity switching is also well implemented. You can choose from two ranges to effect with any number of performance articulations. I found setting 120 and higher to pinch harmonics and blow 50 to bridge mutes work well for my playing style.
Legato mode is interesting. When enabled only the closest semi-tone or whole-tone notes have no attack. Legato produces a sound as if you used your fretting hand to hammer on a note. You can enable hammer on mode with a defined range as well.
A bass mode enables a preset range to play open notes unaffected by velocity switching or mutes. The pedal mode has options for controlling switches with a foot pedal.
Included is a comprehensive custom key switch manager, so you can completely customise what keyboard note is triggering the desired articulation. You can further define the range, toggle, sustain or key through mode (acts as a note and a key switch!).
Finally, the hold function acts as a sustain key in all modes except solo, in which it holds only the notes played after the initial note. You can play a note, then as long as you hold this, each note played after that will sustain.
Ok, so the software is clever … very clever. But if it doesn’t sound any good, what’s the point?
The acoustic sound of the Les Paul Custom is excellent. A lot of attention to detail was used during the recording to capture all aspects of the original guitar. However, as I said, RealLPC requires a 3rd party amp and cabinet simulator to function as intended.
Perhaps the Achilles heel of RealLPC is this. While I’m happy an amp simulator hasn’t been tacked on, you are at the mercy of 3rd party software to provide the tone for the guitar. There are good amp simulators out there and a few pretty awful ones, mostly of the free variety.
I cannot stress this enough: invest in a decent amp simulator. I am a big fan of Amplitube for its incredible selection of amps, but Overload’s TH3 sounds fantastic. Of course, re-amping to an external processor like the Kempler or Avid Eleven is another good idea.
The smart Floating Fret Position guesses where on the neck you are most likely to play the note you have triggered. A capo indicates the lowest position and won’t allow notes below it to play unless you choose a lower string.
Any guitarist will tell you the position you play the strings dramatically affects the tone. This system takes a little practice to feel out but attributes a lot to the realism.
For live performance, you are best leaving the system set to auto. For sequencing, you can manually define string position with automation.
The included performance articulations are too many to list, but everything you can think of from bridge mutes, tapping, string scrapes, slides, tremolo, and trill, up and down slides, bends, feedback harmonics, chucka mutes and more. Comprehensive is an understatement.
Of course, throwing out big power chords is what a Les Paul was born to do, and RealLPC successfully brings out the rock god in me.
The system can also detect up to 30 types of chords, plus any number of user-defined ones.
RealLPC is an ambitious and complex instrument that will take a bit of time to perfect. Some may ask why not just learn to play the real guitar? But there are many benefits to sequencing, none less than dragging in thousands of dollars in equipment, microphones or hiring a world-class guitarist.
I found RealLPC’s internal settings relatively easy to set up for playing solo lines, though I’m struggling to perfect dynamic palm muting rhythm style. When automated with a sequencer everything is a lot easier, but I’m afraid it will be a while before I become the next Keytar Jeff.
RealLPC is a tweaker’s delight. The sheer depth is impressive, though I feel a skilled guitarist will appreciate most of this more than a novice. I often have to refer to the manual as some of the more common features tend to be tucked away. But generally, the instrument is pretty straightforward to play at a fundamental level, right out of the box.
The chord importer, song and pattern arrangers are incredible. I found no trouble creating grooves and melodies, especially when paired with Toontrack’s EzDrummer and ExKeys. These are the songwriter’s holy trinity.
RealLPC is a seriously complex instrument that is surprisingly easy to learn. It has been well thought out and designed by a team of actual guitar players. The tiny little details are all both over the top and required for obtaining this level of realism.
Like the real instrument, RealLPC is simple to play but hard to master. It will take time and practice, but everything is here to perform remarkably convincing live performances. With the right combination of effects, a good amp simulator and raw talent, you’ll be shredding out enough hair metal to get a phone call from Axl Rose.
For those who are more interested in the songwriting aspect, there is a lot of value here. For me, RealLPC shines as a sequencing instrument as I can take my time to program realistic techniques at my own pace.
Anyone spending the time to dig deep will be rewarded with the most responsive and realistic sounding guitar sounds. Coupled with a quality amp and cabinet simulator, in my view, hands down, RealLPC is one of the best rock guitar sample libraries on the market.
For more details on this and other guitar libraries, check MusicLabs website right here www.musiclab.com.