Review: Fingerpick 2 by Realitone
Two great sounding acoustic guitars
Plenty of picking patterns
With good programming it can be very realistic
Loads of useful customisation features
MIDI drag and drop function
It cannot play more unusual chords and no two note chords
Page tabs could be more easily laid out
Latch pedal not working yet
Cumbersome anti-piracy procedure
The popular acoustic guitar sample pack is back with a host of new features and a trip to Spain included!
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Review: Fingerpick 2 by Realitone
In a market swamped with sample libraries and developers constantly delivering new products, Realitone have managed to carve out a great niche for themselves by producing a range of superb and highly focused sample libraries. They have covered blues vocals, banjo and even a whistle to critical acclaim and in 2016 they released Fingerpick. This has very recently been given a thorough update, which retains all we liked about the original and packs in substantial improvements. Albeit an update, for the purposes of this review I will be going over it from the ground up.
Fingerpick 2 sells for $129.95 from Realitone
The best way to understand this instrument is to look at the keyboard first.
You can select your keyboard size which makes the layout specific to your controller. The sections can be easily moved around, but by default in the bass notes are triggers for capo position and legato, then there are 3 octaves of each note multisampled individually. C3-B3 selects the fingerpick pattern and any notes from C4 upwards are used to play chords. This takes a bit of getting used to as you cannot play every single chord possible, so sometimes you play something and get nothing out and it also does not allow more harmonically simple two note chords (ie. 5 chords). However, all your major and minor chords are here and it does sus2, sus4, 6th, 7th, 9th, maj 7th, min 7th, add2, add4, augmented and diminished. New in this update are Squeaks and Knocks which can be added to the keyboard by clicking the corresponding boxes and given time can be carefully programmed into your midi sequence for added realism and interest.
Returning to the Main Page reveals all your main controls.
Auto Legato means when you play the single notes legato with a semitone or tone interval it will trigger a hammer-on, pull-off or a slide as most guitarists would play this way, though it can be disabled and activated by a keyswitch if desired. The 12-String option gives a pretty decent faux 12-String effect and in the settings section you can customise this further to tighten or loosen up the tuning and select the octave/unison split. The Fret pulldown puts a capo on the neck and expands the range of timbres hugely, as the same chord played with a capo on compared to open strings can sound very different. The reverb is the stock Kontakt one and most users will likely use their own 3rd party one, but it is here for ease and can be tweaked in the Settings tab.
The Pattern Player is where we see many of the version 2 additions, mainly in the expanded range of patterns available – over 50 and with plenty of 3/4 and 6/8 varieties. These can easily be assigned to any of the yellow pattern keys so effectively you can make your own pattern palette across the 12 notes. There are various timing options to add randomisation and swing and a Stop Ringout toggle to do just that. The Latch feature is a new addition and proves really helpful when trying out different patterns and for those with less then perfect piano skills! Auto-Squeak adds a string squeak for each chord change and it does so intelligently so a D to Dsus4 does not trigger it, as it would not require a position change, only a change of root note triggers Auto-Squeak. In practice I found this a bit too much on every chord, but the settings enables you to reduce the frequency of it. A separate volume for this would have been good and hopefully might come in version 3. An Intensity slider controls expression cc11 and gives control over the dynamics from super soft to angry, percussive plucking. Speed can half or double your time, which works well if your DAW tempo is resulting in unrealistically slow or fast playing – it is aimed to work best at around 80-110BPM.
The Pattern Player really is the heart of this instrument because if you try to start playing the single notes to recreate picking patterns you quickly learn how differently guitars are played compared to pianos and it is really tricky to simulate it well and even then would require very careful programming. The patterns are simply midi sequenced loops that trigger the single notes, but they are wonderfully musical and varied and by moving patterns when changing chord or in the middle of a chord complex performances soon emerge. This realism is added to by the End With button which gives a variety of endings as a release trigger. Should you want to really customise your parts you can drag and drop the midi pattern to your DAW and dig in. For example, this then gives you control over individual note volumes, so if the top note of a pattern is too loud for your tastes this is the way to fix that easily.
The main Settings page provides a host of detailed tweaks, some of which I have already mentioned.
The major item of interest here is an easier way to customise the pattern keyswitches that you get on the Main Page. There is also a Force Fade which specifies the time it takes to fade out should you use the Stop Ringout feature – a small but nice touch. Somewhat puzzling is the Pedal Polarity switch which the manual admits is disabled. This is a first in the sample library world for me – a revision of a library that retains a non-working feature that the developer admits they cannot figure out how to get working! I can only suppose it will be fixed soon in an update.
The final part of the library is the Mixer section.
This gives EQ, pan and volume control per string and also for the knocks and squeaks. However, the exciting thing in the revised 2.0 version is that by clicking the text at the top of each note you can select a different string type as Realitone have gone ahead and added an entirely new guitar to the library. It is as superbly recorded as the original steel string and is my personal favourite of the two. It also means you can create a hybrid acoustic guitar and for instance make the bass strings all mellow nylon and the treble strings a more biting steel string. Hopefully Realitone will keep expanding the raw samples within this excellent engine in future updates, as it can only make Fingerpick even better.
I had a lot of fun playing this and all the new additions add significantly to the realism and flexibility of use. The sound is clean, clear and the GUI is well thought out. My only grumble on the interface side is that the Mixer and Keyboard Layout tabs would be better accessed from the Main Page instead of having to go into Settings to find them. If you have the inclination you can get really detailed with this and add in some of the knocks and squeaks and even layer the single notes over the top of the fingerpicking chord patterns.
Users should be aware that it requires an unlock code above and beyond the Native Instruments Player code which comes in your email. It is cumbersome to enter it and just frustrated me when I just wanted to play it, but once done you never need to do it again, so not a big deal.
I really have few major criticisms of this excellent library, though I would love to have the chord possibilities extended both ways in the next incarnation – simple root/5th chords or even octave pulses all the way to more esoteric chords.
Being a bit of a fingerpicker myself on both steel and nylon guitars I was a bit dubious how convincing such a complex technique could be presented in a sample library. However, I was very impressed by not only how good Fingerpick sounds, but by how relatively simple it was to create quite complex chords and patterns. This will definitely appeal to singer-songwriters who might want to sketch out ideas or to create a decent demo at speed, without having to go to the bother of mic-ing up the real thing. For the media composer it provides a realistic sound that when programmed and mixed well would be convincing enough for some library and commissioned work. Both artists and composers who come from a piano background will also enjoy the ability to try out their songs using guitar to see if that suits them better than the ivories.
Fingerpick can’t be made to give you the unique sound of a Nick Drake, Neil Young or Jose Gonzalez as it is simply just too pristine and ‘proper’. However, for a standard, beautifully played and recorded acoustic fingerpick style it is well worthy of serious consideration, especially as it comes with a 30 day no quibble full refund policy, which is so rare in this business. The major improvements in version 2.0 truly make it one of the best fingerpicking libraries currently on the market. Check out the excellent walkthroughs with some fun and enthusiastic patter from Mike, the main man at Realitone.
Fingerpick 2 sells for $129.95 from Realitone
Contributor Sam Burt reviews Fingerpick 2 by Realitone
“The popular acoustic guitar sample pack is back with a host of new features and a trip to Spain included!”