Review Brad Hoyt Harp Guitar from Soundiron
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Review: Brad Hoyt Harp Guitar from Soundiron
Simply a stunning instrument! It has a ringing tone with a pure singing quality as the strings resonate. The Harp Guitar has been an overlooked and under-appreciated instrument for much of the 20th century until being made commercially popular by Michael Hedges in his mid-80’s Windham Hill recordings. The have been many more practitioners of the Harp Guitar since, including of course – Brad Hoyt, the designer and a prominent musician and composer in his own right.
Brad Hoyt Harp Guitar sells for $129.00 from Soundiron
There are certain instruments that I get really excited about. The Brad Hoyt Harp Guitar is one of them!
I have owned this one since the day it came out. When we started talking about candidates for the guitar week Weird & Wonderful list, this was my Top Pick. As an instrument that started out in the 1920’s as an 11 string built by Dyer, we now fast forward to the 21st century and a 30 string version (see the Facts section for Technical details). Sound-wise there are some very definite advantages in the depth of sound, resonance and of course the design elements that Soundiron has added to the virtual engine. Let’s take a look.
I love the interface – nice and clean. Unfortunately, that clean vibe doesn’t allow you to see the real look of the guitar. Not to worry. I provided a picture of Brad and the Harp Guitar at the end of the review. The Advanced Performance page gives you control over solo playing on an individual string course level.
There are 10 strings (2 courses of 5) on the main guitar performance section. You can also apply Mute or Choke controls to the Bass and Treble Harp strings (also 10 strings each in courses of 5 X 2). This really makes the playability of the guitar (with True Legato) as realistic as possible.
I like the addition of the controls for Swell and Release volume being included to allow for easy shaping of the sound. I should note that the instrument makes extension use of keyswitches for playing control of not only articulation but string courses.
Speaking of Tuning – the Tuning selector will allow you to change the tuning of the individual string courses as well as change chose playing scale and key. The Setting selector allows you to set whether you want to latch the Choke, Allow, Slide, Palm Mute and Hammer-Ons or set them to a momentary response. You can also set the Slide range and Fret noise. The controls have been really well thought out and make playing a somewhat ominous instrument pretty easy to tame with a little patience and practice.
The Strumulator allows you to build your own Chords or play the keyswitched chords designated along with options to change the key and type. Note to fellow guitarists – Remember that it is a 10 string so the tuning is different.
The part of the strumming concept here that I really like is the step sequencer in the Auto Strummer. Here you can design to your heart’s content – Note Timing, Stroke direction, Articulation and Rest controls per step – up to 16 steps! There are some patterns to get you started but you can freely design some amazing guitar parts here. I like the inclusion of the Humanize control here to relieve some of the mechanization that can build in some strums. If the sound too perfect, they lose their effectiveness in your recording. The Strumulator is also accessible as a selector at the bottom of the page.
I don’t normally spend time on the Help functions in most of my reviews – they are simply self-explanatory. In the case of Harp Guitar it is a fairly important commodity. You can see from the illustration that there is a color coded keyswitch diagram that provides you with articulations, strum directions for chords and the playable ranges of the Guitar, Bass and Treble strings. This is really a well-designed function that I have repeatedly used to navigate the guitar as I play it.
Soundiron has included a very comprehensive set of FX including Dynamics control, Modulation control, Amp & Cab simulators, 3 band EQ, Delay and Reverb. They are really nice and handy for sketching your sounds within the interface. I prefer to use premium plugins on my instruments and main bus when recording, but again, these are really great additions.
I have wanted to review this instrument for some time and this was the right time. The Brad Hoyt Harp Guitar is a one of a kind instrument with a singular sound.
There have been other Harp guitars built over the past almost 100 years but this one is just special in its construction, its tone, its charm and the care that Soundiron took in sampling it and bringing it to life for musicians to explore. I am awarding the Brad Hoyt Harp Guitar my Top Pick in the Weird and Wonderful category and while it is different and unique, it is certainly wonderful!
I really only have one criticism of the Brad Hoyt Harp Guitar. I would really like to see Soundiron add NKS support to it so that users of the Native Instruments Kontrol Keyboard could take better advantage of navigating the keyswitches using the NKS light system.
The library weighs in at just under 12 GB with 4,203 samples and requires a full NI Kontakt 5.3.1 license. NI Kontakt Player is not supported. It was sampled dry in wide stereo using a pair of large Neumann studio microphones and Sound Devices pre-amps. Sampling was done with 12X Round Robin and 7 Velocity layers per note. The string courses (5 pairs per course) are 10 String Acoustic Guitar, 10 Bass Harp and 10 Treble Harp. (Man, I love when you get the recording details!) The samples are all fully accessible if you choose to use them in other sampler or VST instruments.
Harp Guitar actually has 8 different full instruments including the Advanced Performance, Auto Strummer, Effects Tuned & Un-tuned Percussion, Effects, Tuned Percussion, and 2 Ambiences Instruments. There are also Lite version of the Advanced Performance, Auto Strummer and Effects Percussions and Tuned Percussion to meet lower memory usage requirements.
The instrument supports single note solo performance as well as a Chord Builder, Strummer and articulations that cover the gamut – Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs. Palm mute, Chokes, Slides, Glisses, Plucks, Body Slaps and String Scrapes. There is also a wide range of tuning options from the standards to the unique and off-the wall varieties. Your imagination is the limit here. The string course controls allow you to control them at the individual level and it also features True Legato.
Perhaps the most important detail for me was “Which Harp Guitar is it?” The guitar sampled was the custom AVC (Arpa Viola Caipira) custom built for Brad (pictured above) by UK Luthier Stephen Sedgwick. I think the photo of the real guitar gives you a sense of just what a majestic creature this instrument really is.