MacDirectory Magazine

Spring-Summer 2010

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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REVIEW ABLETON ORCHESTRAL INSTRUMENT COLLECTION WORDS BY TREY YANCY level of control that you might have with a stack of full-featured dedicated sample players. Fortunately, Ableton’s modular instrument approach makes it possible to add an envelope or other forms of modulation as you wish. One of the greatest challenges in music production is that of using a keyboard to produce believable symphonic music. First and foremost, you must have an excellent understanding of how the actual instruments are played. Beyond this, you need an audio workstation application that is designed for creating and manipulating complex arrangements, an excellent set of samples covering a range of articulations, and a sample player with controls that are customized for each instrument. A worthy candidate for this challenge is the combination of Ableton Live and Ableton’s $599 Orchestral Instrument Collection. Instruments This is not just a well-executed sample library, but rather a collection individually designed Ableton Live instruments. Created in collaboration with the sampling experts at SONiVOX , it spans the four orchestral sections – strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion – and features 41 solo or ensemble instruments with a generous selection of velocity-sensitive articulations that vary by instrument. A small number of these instruments are available in Ableton’s Essential Music Collection (included in the box version of Ableton Live) but the Orchestral Collection offers a far wider range of instruments and articulations. Depending on instrument, these include legato, legato mute, pizzicato, staccato, tremolo, sforzando, trill, hits and rolls, making for a total of 124 sounds. Hands On The orchestral instruments share an interface that is similar to other Ableton instruments, with animatable, mapable controls that are specifically tailored to each individual instrument. Articulations are velocity-sensitive and are managed by a sensitivity control that can be mapped to a continuous controller pedal or mod wheel so that you can limit the range of articulations as you play, such as using a high velocity keystroke to trigger a pizzicato note as opposed to a bow hit. With a bit of practice, you can easily shift between articulations, creating a performance that most listeners would readily mistake for the real thing, and if you need to change articulations afterward all you have to do is edit the velocity data. Observations The Ableton Orchestral Instrument Collection is a very nice package that is well executed, right down to the (modifiable) position of the instrument in the stereophonic field, and in the hands of a capable artist the creative result can be truly stirring. Thanks to Ableton’s time-synched clip- based approach, arranging is a walk in the park and if you happen to have an Ableton-specific controller, such as those made by Akai or Novation, the production of highly complex orchestral arrangements can be greatly streamlined. Furthermore, thanks to Ableton’s SmartPriming technology file size is not a major concern. Working behind the scenes, this technology removes all unused samples, resulting in enormous savings in space and very fast load times. While the design of these instruments is generally well done, you do not have the One issue of note is the implementation of tremolo. As the tremolo articulations are interpolated, the speed varies between notes so you may need to toss in a LFO pitch module and play legato. Another issue is the lack of a harp. The harp that is bundled with Live is far too thumpy, so if you need a good harp one you will have to look elsewhere. (For example, SONiVOX’s harp goes for $49.) Conclusion As mentioned earlier, the better your understanding of the actual acoustic instruments, the better things will sound. This said, the Orchestral Instrument Collection will go far in getting you there. It provides a nice balance of quality and playability and the price is reasonable. The individual sections are also available on their own, ranging in price from $159 to $189, so if you want to add a touch of Isaac Hayes to your rock tunes, here’s a great way to do it. This collection will not turn you into a John Williams overnight, but with a bit of skill and practice, it will provide just about everything you need to create compositions that are rich, full and more than a little impressive. Product Ableton Orchestral Instruments Collection Made by Ableton Price $599, individual sections from $159 to $189 Pros High-quality samples, preformatted instruments Cons No harp, interpolated tremolo voicings Rating ★★★★★ MacDirectory 101

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