SONUSCORE ORIGINS: STEEL TONGUE AND SANSULA + MUSIC BOX AND PLUCKED PIANO
Hi, welcome to StudioWise. Last month we produced an in-depth review of Sonuscore’s fantastic 12-String and Balalaika instrument library. We were very impressed with this that we jumped at the opportunity to check the next two titles in the series.
Today I’m doing more of a review extension, there is no need to thoroughly go over what are essentially the same libraries. Most of the in-depth information can be found in that original review right here, 12-String And Balalaika
Origins is a 3-part series each featuring unusual instrument pairings with an easy to use Kontakt based interface. Each is easily downloaded and extracted to your virtual instruments directory to be loaded through Kontakt’s file browser.
Our previous and much more in-depth review was for the 12-String guitar and Balalaika instrument. This time we are looking at the Steel Tongue with Sansula and Musicbox with Plucked Piano libraries.
All libraries feature the same workflow and layout. A simple yet effective arpeggiator section with a 16-step sequencer, pan, attack and release controls plus a comprehensive effects section.
A good selection of presets is included for each, separated by arpeggiator chord fingering (3, 4 or all notes).
All three libraries require Kontakt 5 full version.
Continuing the same ethereal timbre theme I loved so much with 12-String and Balalaika, these two libraries deviate somewhat from guitars but retain similar dreamlike qualities,
Steel Tongue and Sansula have a strong ethnic sound akin to African tribal music whereas Music Box and Pluck Piano is a lighter, harpsichord-like tone. Interestingly, though each of the three libraries are polar opposites in composition, together as layered instruments they complement each other surprisingly well.
Let’s look at each of the new libraries separately (again, check here for the previous review of 12-String And Balalaika).
Steel Tongue and Sansula is a melodic percussion library with two very unusual instruments I have not seen in the flesh. The Sansula is a small thumb piano similar to the Kalimba, played by plucking tongs with the thumbs and shifting the instrument to create the distinctive warbling sound.
The Steel Tongue is a melodic percussion instrument traditionally made from cutting slits into the bottom of old propane tanks. The instrument can be played with soft mallets or more commonly the hands.
Both instruments combined produce a light, mystical bell-like new age sound. It is reminiscent of its African roots, but a lot more contemporary sounding. There are some rather intense overtones which make it sound like the outputs are overloading. A quick roll-off on the low-end EQ fixes this.
Nice velocity layering allows for more attack when hit harder, bringing in more of the slap sound on the drum.
Conversely, the Music Box and Pluck Piano Library have a sharper and more dramatic sound. The child-like music box is the perfect companion to the strange plucked piano strings. There is a harpsichord-like quality to the sound, and much more which makes for a very interesting timbre, sounding both happy and terrifying at the same time. A pretty doodle played in a major key quickly becomes the stuff of nightmares by simply swapping to a minor.
Though its capable of some beautiful and atmospheric textures, the instrument excels at shrill and haunting Gothic staccatos. Though I haven’t found a situation to use this instrument yet, it is my favourite for its excellent character.
A Musical Trinity?
All three titles in the Origin series cover a full gamut of styles but at the same time sound familiar to each other. These libraries would suit film, game soundtrack and sound design composition perfectly, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the urban hip-hop and EDM guys picking up on this series for some edgy texture to their tracks.
I found playing all three libraries together too chaotic for my tastes, but the two work amazingly well together. My favourite is 12-String/Balalaika and Steel Tongue/Sansula, the mix of percussion and stringed instruments complimenting each other well. With a little automation and creativity with the arpeggiators, anything could be possible.
Arpeggio patterns can be copied between all three libraries which is excellent, so I conclude that the developers have intended them to be used together.
Steel Tongue and Sansula and Music Box and Plucked Piano both make for perfect stablemates with the 12-String and Balalaika library. While playing all three together is over the top for me, individually they can provide texture and interest to any arrangement.
Sonuscore doesn’t offer a bundle deal for all three in the series, which is a shame. At $79 USD each they’re good individual value, but perhaps a little pricey at $240 for the three.
It’s hard to call which of the three is best, they all have a time and place to be used. I do find myself gravitating to the 12-String and Balalaika more often than the others due to the symphonic hard rock music I compose. I love the whimsical Gothic nature of Music Box and Pluck Piano, and Steel Tongue and Sansula are so unusual and exciting.
For a media composer, there is a lot to discover here, for a songwriter or producer there is an excellent opportunity to expand your sound collection into unusual territories.
All in all, this is a fantastic series wrapped in a simple and elegant interface. Highly recommended.
Find out more on Sonuscores website right here www.sonuscore.com
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