Review: Ostinato Brass by Sonokinetic
Deep phrase library capable of complex harmonic and rhythmic patterns
Customizable mix with 4 microphone patterns
Intelligent voice-leading and inversions so you can generate ideas quickly
Relatively Complex UI takes a bit of time to learn and play well
No preset triplet patterns
Phrase-based libraries are designed to provide realistic-sounding motifs and Ostinato Brass goes a step further by allowing complex chord/harmonic construction. Ostinato Brass recognizes 12 chord types, 5 voicings, and 4 inversions. Ostinato Brass follows Ostinato Strings as Sonokinetic second release in robust Ostinato orchestral phrase libraries series.
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Review: Ostinato Brass by Sonokinetic
Ostinato Brass is next in the orchestral series of libraries by Sonokinetic, following on the heels of Ostinato Strings. Phrase-based libraries are designed to provide realistic-sounding motifs and Ostinato Brass goes a step further by allowing complex chord/harmonic construction. Ostinato Brass recognizes 12 chord types, 5 voicings and 4 inversions.
Ostinato Brass was recorded as ensemble patches with 14 players: 8 french horns, 4 bass trombones, 1 cimbasso, 1 tuba. The sound is that of a large brass section and uniquely cinematic, as the horns cover the upper range and the mid-low range generally occupied by tenor trombones. A lack of trumpets makes the library overall sound dark and allows it to easily slip into the role of mid-register ostinato function.
A lack of trumpets makes the library overall sound dark and allows it to easily slip into the role of mid-register ostinato function.
If you have Ostinato Strings, the UI will be very familiar, as Ostinato Brass employs the same engine. The UI is a bit complex, but well worth spending the time to learn deeply. If you need a refresher at any time, there is an included graphic explanation at the bottom of the UI indicated by a little “i”.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the library behaves as ensemble patches. The UI contains two rows with preset rhythms. The upper row has a treble clef to the left and the bottom row has a bass clef to the left. These rows control different registers within the library and show you what keyswitches correspond with certain settings. Looking down to the keyboard you’ll see a lot of different colors. Essentially, there is one zone of note selection and a lot of zones of keyswitches. The blue region at C1 (second zone in from the left) is where you play chords in 3 or 4 note voicing (it even recognizes Sus4!). The yellow keys beginning at C3 correspond to the bottom (bass clef) row displayed in the upper part of the UI, and the yellow keys starting at C4 correspond to the upper (treble clef) row in the UI. The key switches in these yellow zones match with the keys shown above in the UI (white and black keys included); these change the preset rhythm selected, which will highlight in orange above in the UI. An important note here is that by default the upper and lower patterns are linked; click the arrow on C#3 in the UI (or use the key switch) to separate the upper and lower parts, allowing you to have different rhythms in the bass and upper parts.
Another important note is that for each chord you play you will actually hear 3 phrases playing together.
Another important note is that for each chord you play you will actually hear 3 phrases playing together: two high parts with two chord tones each, and one low part, which contains an octave. (You can see the voicing as you play by looking to the left of the UI where the notes will display on treble and bass clef, and you’ll notice the top row of the UI controls the upper two phrases, as far as pattern selection). The keyswitches at F#3, G#3 and A#3 can be used to mute one of the 3 phrases, which becomes particularly useful for removing the lower part for variety and then adding the weight of that low octave back in where desired. The mod wheel controls the volume of the patches for both the high and low registers, adding some EQ adjustments automatically to enhance the dynamic range. The mod wheel will control both high and low by default, but you can deactivate it on the high or low layer using the little button in the top left of the respective row of the UI.
The engine works best if you play the parts in live, and it does take a little bit of time to become accustomed to the UI
The engine works best if you play the parts in live, and it does take a little bit of time to become accustomed to the UI in order to do this well. The keyswitches enable you to change the rhythmic pattern on the fly, creating complex ostinato patterns. The double-tongue sixteenth eighth pattern is particularly impressive and realistic-sounding. There is not a dedicated triplet rhythm as a preset, which I found a little odd, but can probably be convincingly approximated using the accent key to regroup repeated notes into 3’s. The speed of the phrases can be adjusted to sync with the DAW’s tempo, and as a helpful shortcut, there are buttons to playback at half speed and double speed (altogether there are 4-speed options assigned to a keyswitch).
Clicking the circular Sonokinetic icon at the bottom of the UI reveals the Options screen containing behind the scenes menu items, where you can control volume and panning, tuning, microphone positions (which includes Close, Decca Tree, Wide and Far), and the harmonic shift functions.
Harmonic shift is a very neat feature which enables you to quickly shift chords (using the keys highlighted in green beginning with C5) according to predefined parameters. This mode can be configured to “think” in terms of functional harmony using Relative mode or as absolute chords in Absolute mode. The root chord is determined by whatever you last played on the blue keys (starting with C1) and then you use the harmonic shift keys (green keys at C5) to transform that chord into a new one. The type of chord played is controlled in the behind the scenes menu mentioned above. So for instance, if you want a minor v instead of a V7, you simply change the chord quality in the Options. Use the velocity keyswitch at D6 if you want the phrase to continue while you shift the chords (high turns it on). This is a really powerful, deep feature of this library and spending some time figuring out how it works contributes to being able to create brass textures very quickly.
In addition to harmonic shift, Ostinato Brass has several features that help quickly generate good sounding brass passages. It will recognize inversions you play, but you can also force it to use a certain inversion using the keyswitches at C0. Note that even though it recognizes the inversion, it will play a root in the lower layer unless you turn on Bass Invert. You can control the voicing of the chord using the black keyswitches beginning at C#4: this gives you options of close voicing, close three note chord, wide open three note voicing, wide closed four note voicing and extended chords.
A potential downside is the library is RAM intensive.
A potential downside of this library is that depending on the capabilities of your processor, you might encounter performance issues as the library is RAM intensive. The library runs in a 16 bit or 24 bit modes and has the ability to purge individual rhythms from the pattern builder, removing those samples you aren’t using and thus reducing the RAM load. There is also a Tutti mix available to use in the lite instrument which will also lower the RAM load compared with customizing the four microphone positions.
Personally, I would have liked to push the dynamic range a bit further. It would of course, be totally unrealistic to have fff accents as an ostinato for any extended period of time as a real section would tire very quickly, but as far as achieving musical continuity I would have liked another level that was more loud and punchy to use at the last moment of an ostinato building to a climax. There is an accent key which when pressed will give you just a little more edge to the note, and it is useful for emphasis on downbeats or for creating subdivision such as 2+2+3. It isn’t a punchy kind of accent though.
Overall I found this library to be very deep in terms of its design and its capabilities. It has a bit of a learning curve, but it is more robust than other phrase libraries I’ve encountered, and it is well worth investing the time to use it to its full potential.
The library requires the Kontakt 5.7.1 and up & also supports Komplete Kontrol.
16 Bit version 3.9 GB sample pool, 10,000 samples
24 Bit version 7.3 GB sample pool, 10,000 samples
Ostinato Brass normally sells for €79.90 from Sonokinetic