Up until now I generally haven't used a lot of brass in my music. Brass instruments are such a prominent force when they're part of a cue, and I never felt like my samples sounded good enough to stand out front and center. Rather than have bad sounds, I just avoided them.
I've been eyeing the popular brass library CineBrass from CineSamples for a while now. I recently decided to check it out and I must say, I love it. The samples are full and rich, the patches are intuitive and easy to control, and the quality is inspiring.
In this tutorial I want to give a brief overview of the library. I am going to walk you through the Trumpets Ensemble Articulations patch, which gives a good overview of the options that are available in most of the other patches. The guys at CineSamples set up the library to allow for the freedom to customize the patches to work the way you want them to, especially in regards to sample selection and control. I'll walk you through some of the available options and discuss the ones that work for me.
Even if you aren't using CineBrass specifically, the principles are common across many different libraries, especially those using Kontakt. You will certainly pick up a few tips that you can integrate into your workflow, regardless of the particular library.
The basic library comes with the following patches:
- Trumpets Ensemble Articulations
- Trumpets Ensemble True Legato
- Trumpet Solo True Legato
- Horns Ensemble Articulations
- Horns Ensemble True Legato
- Horn Solo True Legato
- Trombones Ensemble Articulations
- Tuba + Bass Trombone Articulations
- Cimbasso + Bass Tbn. Articulations
- Trumpets Ensemble FX
- Horns Ensemble Rips
- Low Brass Pads
Trumpet Ensemble Articulations
The trumpet ensemble comes with 4 available articulations: 3 lengths of shorts (1/8, 1/4, 1/2) and sustain.
Here is a short phrase that uses all four:
The customizable options are:
- Articulation selection
- Legato Mode
- Short/Sustain Orientation
- Short/Sustain Split
- True Legato
- Sustain Dynamics
- Short Dynamics
- Mixer: Mix Positions and EQ
This is probably the most important element to customize based on your preferences. There are four ways to choose your articulation: velocity, pedal, keyswitch, and MIDI controller. You choose the "Map" that you want to use, and then Custom Map to adjust the parameters.
This is the default setting. The three short articulations are assigned to different velocity ranges, and the sustain is triggered if you hold down the sustain pedal.
Notice that the "Value" field can be adjusted to whatever velocity feels right to you. For example if you would prefer to give Short 1/4 a wider range, just bring down the first parameter.
The sustain articulation is set to be triggered by the sustain pedal. This helps make the patch more playable. If you wanted a soft dynamic but could only trigger sustain by banging down the key at a very high velocity, it would feel counterintuitive. It's worth noting that the note cuts off when you release the key, not when you release the sustain pedal. The pedal is triggering the articulation, not actually "sustaining" the note as if it was a piano patch.
Velocity Inverse Map
As the name suggests, the articulations are still selected by Velocity but this time shorter notes are triggered by higher velocities.
The next option let's you choose the articulation with a keyswitch, which is my personal preference. If you are not familiar with keyswitches, they are a common way to allow you to have more than one patch on a single instrument. Rather than have to load a separate track for every different articulation, you can put them all on one track and use the keyswitch to trigger the desired one.
The default keys are C0-F0, which make sense because they are way out of the range of the trumpets. You can of course change them to whatever makes sense for you. Perhaps you have a shorter keyboard, or you prefer to have them at the high end of the keyboard.
Similar to the Velocity Maps, the default settings for the Keyswitch Map have you control dynamics with MIDI Controller #1.
Keyswitch Velo Dyn Map
This map triggers articulations with keyswitches just like the previous one, but has a significant difference. The dynamics of the short articulations are controlled by velocity, rather than MIDI controller.
This is my setting of choice. I like to control the dynamics of the short articulations with velocity because to me it just make sense that the harder I hit the key, the louder the note. I find it difficult to play at just the right velocity, so the keyswitches help me choose the precise sound while the velocity lets me get the desired dynamic.
The sustain patch is also selected by a keyswitch, but the dynamics are controlled by MIDI CC#1. More information about that can be found below under the "Sustain Dynamics" section.
MIDI CC#2 Map
The last option is to choose your articulation with MIDI Controller #2. The advantages to this are that it's a little bit cleaner; your patch selection is kept very separate from velocity and you don't have to mess around with keyswitches. The reason I don't prefer this option is simply because I've never used it for any other library before, and so I'd rather not have to add one more layer of controllers to my workflow.
Just like velocity, you select a range of values that determines which articulation is selected and you can modify what those ranges are.
By the default setting, the only way to trigger the sustain patch is to play a velocity below 70. See below for more detail on this.
It should be noted that although the default is CC#2, you can actually choose whichever controller you want.
Essentially Legato Mode lets you choose how many notes can play at once. It only applies to the sustain patch, but lets you decide if you have a single melody or harmony.
Listen to how this sounds with Legato Mode set to Monophonic:
And now set to Polyphonic:
Obviously the difference is that Polyphonic Mode lets notes overlap, while Monophonic forces the previous note to stop before starting the next one.
CineBrass comes with a brilliant script called True Legato.
As they describe it, "True legato means that we sampled all of the intervalic leaps throughout the ranges, both upwards and downwards, for each brass section. When you play a True Legato patch, it instantly analyses the intervals you play, then plays the appropriate transitional leap between the notes. The result is a smooth and realistic legato performance."
Here is what it sounds like with True Legato on:
Here is the same line with much less expression by turning True Legato off:
Note: As far as I can tell, True Legato overrides the Monophonic/Polyphonic setting and forces Monophonic, which makes sense.
Short/Sustain Split & Orientation
The next parameters you can customize are Short/Sustain Split and Short/Sustain Orientation, which go together.
In the Keyswitch and MIDI CC#2 Maps, it is set up so that velocities above 70 will play whichever short articulation has been selected (either via keyswitch or CC#2), and velocities below 70 will play the sustain patch. You can reverse this (shorts low, sustains high) by changing the Orientation setting to "Short on Low Vel". Personally this option doesn't really make sense to me, because I want to be able to play a short articulation softly by using a low velocity. But perhaps it will suit how you like to work.
The Split setting allows you to decide where the crossing point between short and sustain is. If you set it to 0, the option becomes disabled. And if Split if disabled, the orientation becomes irrelevant.
Lastly you can decide how different dynamic layers are selected, and you can choose different settings for sustain and shorts.
The choices are either velocity, or MIDI controller (default CC#1). As I've already mentioned, I prefer velocity for shorts and CC#1 for sustain. You wouldn't want to use velocity for the sustain patch because then you would lose the ability to change the dynamics within a single note.
The default settings are CC#1 for both sustain and shorts for every map except Keyswitch Velo Dyn Map (perhaps now you get where they came up with that name?).
Mixer: Mic Positions and EQ
Once you have chosen your map for how you'd like articulations to be triggered and controlled, you can also control the actual sound of the instrument. The first page of the patch gives you a variety of choices for mixing different mic positions, as well as EQ.
You have a lot of options for balancing close and room mics, as well as blending the EQ. I'll be honest that I am pretty happy with the default sound and prefer not to mess with it!
Something that might strike you after reading this is that although you can really modify a patch to suit your workflow, CineBrass plays and sounds great right out of the box.
Please leave use your comments. Do you want to see an in-depth breakdown of more patches, such as the horns or trombones? Or has this article made you more interested in how to get more out of Kontakt ? Let us know what you'd like to see more of!