Review: Lost Piano by Westwood Instruments

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This latest creation from Westwood Instruments provides a welcomingly organic sound, whilst at the same time sounding excitingly unfamiliar. For all the wanderers out there, Lost Piano might be just what you are looking for, with its dizzying combinations of heavily processed upright piano samples in a deep Kontakt engine.

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Jump to the Demos of Lost Piano by Westwood Instruments

 

Review: Lost Piano by Westwood Instruments

Westwood Instruments are one of those small indie samplists that, in my opinion, are an essential part of what it means to be a media composer in 2021. Yes, the big guns are giving us unparalleled orchestral scoring tools with the huge budgets that such projects require, but any composer who’s not also digging into the more niche developers out there could really miss out on something. Over the last few years, Westwood Instruments has earned themselves a reputation for doing a particular flavor of instrument especially well – left-field, intimate, and real instruments with a twist. The Untamed String series has given us four uniquely beautiful libraries, with the Alt Piano Upright and Untamed Percussion along the way. For their latest release, Lost Piano, the Westwood sonic signature is continued, but it has evolved as they incorporate a more designed approach to the raw samples.

Lost Piano normally sells for €139 from Westwood Instruments.

Thoughts

The heart of Lost Piano lies in the 32 sets of piano sounds that draw heavily on Westwood’s own Alt Piano library for source material, but are drastically re-imagined and recorded with unusual additional material. Reel-to-reel tape machines, cassettes, boutique pedals, and unusual plugin chains have twisted and reformed a characterful, but essentially normal, set of piano samples into a myriad of different sonic shapes. Couple this with new prepared piano sampling with wooden plectrums, drum sticks, and muted plucks and you get 24 piano sounds and 8 textural pads. They appear on the Sounds page as a dual-layer that the user can fade between using the large Blend knob.

Sounds

Each layer has a level, pan, tune, attack, release, and an interesting T-Pitch which tunes the piano down whilst keeping the same pitch. Yes, it confuses me too, but the net result is a darker sound without resorting to EQ or filters – very nice. Motion controls an LFO that blends between side A and side B, for either a subtle morph or for more dramatic rhythmic movements, depending on how aggressively it is dialed in. Sound selection is done by clicking the patch name, which brings up the 32 available sample sets.

Sample Set Selector

There is a wide variety of sounds to offer, all easily previewed simply by clicking the name. We’ve got lo-fi, heavily saturated, de-tuned, percussive, shimmery, pulsing, resonant, and more. Experimenting with different combinations is all part of the fun. The bottom eight patches are all looped pads that will continue playing with only the sustain pedal down. The net result from so many possible sounds is that you can get anything from analog synth-esque drones to edgy, plucky pings.

Back on the main page, there is a Get Lost button to randomize everything and a Mood control with six variations. Essentially these are effects chain presets and the names are very apt – Temper increasing the dirt factor and Blur giving a suitably chorussed, washy sound, for example. I like this idea as it gets you closer to your vision with minimal fuss, but it annoyingly resets the Motion control whenever you change the mood type. All six presets change parameters in the Process and Places pages as shown below.

Process

In this section, you get control of the full ADSR for each layer and a number of effects, including wow and flutter for those inclined to wonkiness. Effects can be assigned to layers A and B jointly or individually. If you want to push them all a bit more, a good tip is to increase the level of the layer itself, as this feeds into the effects chain. The Process section is fairly standard, but the same cannot be said for the Places page, which enables the crafting of background textures and the surrounding space.

Places

The Ambience section lets you introduce an atmospheric noise floor (room, forest, etc.), whilst the Noise parameters let you dial in a specific type of recording noise (tape, static, etc.). This really ups the ante in terms of creating a grimy, lo-fi quality to the main samples. The delay pushes the superb Replika delay within Kontakt to the max, albeit with some degree of CPU cost, but it’s hugely varied and sounds amazing. Finally, the reverb here is what I really love about Westwood – they do stuff differently and it features twelve custom IRs, each with an esoteric reference to a famous film. Not only do they sound very interesting, but they have kept me puzzling, trying to guess each movie. Answers on a postcard please to SLR Headquarters!

Last, but very much not least, is the Memories pages. It’s quite hard to describe but easy to hear, so I would urge you to check out the excellent walkthrough from the main man, Rob, on the Westwood Instruments website. What I can say, is it basically repurposes any of the 24 main piano samples sets into a repeating, bouncing, echoing, shimmering, and panning menagerie of magic.

 

Memories

There seems to be a sequencer and arpeggiator in there somewhere but mixed with a whole load of other modulation and delays. The exact rhythm patterns are selectable from a drop-down and next to that are presets specifically for the Memories engine. These are well worth flicking through, not the least to see just what it can do. It’s an incredible effect and can really fill out the sound. Playing more minimally when using Memories is a savvy move, so you can really appreciate the nuances of what is going on.

There is plenty happening here and for the first ten minutes it does feel a bit full-on, but it soon becomes clear that it’s a very user-friendly interface once you get your head around the slightly unusual nomenclature. To get you started there is a host of cracking presets that are really well-curated.

 

Presets

As good as this library is, there are limitations to it. It never quite reaches the sparkly, epic, Hollywood sound some composers might yearn for, and generally, it’s very mid focussed, with rather rolled-off highs and not the most focussed bottom end. It’s not always smooth sounding and, at times, I did slightly grimace at the strong resonances of certain presets, but nothing a few deft EQ moves would not solve in the mix. This instrument is really all about the lo-fi sound, fragile and atmospheric. If Rob is reading this, I would love to see a Found Piano next, where the same concept is applied to grand piano recordings, but with an emphasis on a more hyped, shiny vibe and a galactic edge to the sound!

There is a quiet beauty in Lost Piano that pervades every preset in the list and spills out into the dusty interface design. It made me think of what a synthesizer might sound like in a post-apocalyptic world where the only resources are natural materials! In context, it somehow manages to blend well within both organic and electronic compositions. It’s incredibly varied and fulfills a number of requirements in a variety of genres; it can do a conventional, slightly aged upright piano, to synth-like atmospheres and from gritty lo-fi to ghostly keys. At the same time, it feels familiar, yet totally fresh.

Above all, however, I recommend Lost Piano as that elusive beast – the cue starter! As capable as anything in my own near 4TB sample library, these sounds inspire you to come up with the beginnings of compositions. The excellently designed and organized snapshots are great starting points for this, but the engine also responds well to customization.  In a world where everyone can have the same libraries, being able to craft something truly unique is always to be valued. Lost Piano lives up to its name and it genuinely took me on a journey into unfamiliar territory. And you know what, even though I am normally a bit of a map nerd, I swiftly became a very happy wanderer indeed.

Facts

Lost Piano consists of 2750 samples making up 9GB of uncompressed data. Once compressed this downloads as 3.4GB via the Pulse download manager and it is watermarked. There are 24 piano sounds and 8 textural pads. The library works with the free Kontakt Player and is NKS compatible.

Lost Piano normally sells for €139 from Westwood Instruments.

 

Demos of Lost Piano by Westwood Instruments

 

Videos of Lost Piano by Westwood Instruments

 

Contributor Sam Burt reviews Lost Piano by Westwood Instruments
“This latest creation from Westwood Instruments provides a welcomingly organic sound, whilst at the same time sounding excitingly unfamiliar. For all the wanderers out there Lost Piano might be just what you are looking for, with its dizzying combinations of heavily processed upright piano samples in a deep Kontakt engine.”