Review: Riff Generation from In Session Audio


Thinking outside of the box and combining all of the elements of the best-of-breed instruments into one unique package, Riff Generation is one you should not miss.



Jump to the Demos of  Riff Generation 

Jump to the Videos of  Riff Generation

► Save $50 on Riff Generation by In Session Audio
Use coupon code “SLR-50” for the first 25 users or until June 22: here.


Review: Riff Generation from In Session Audio

InSession Audio have joined in the “quiet revolution” of sound design products being introduced for Kontakt with the introduction of Riff Generation. With its unique design, Riff Generation is a venerable combination of best of breed ideas packaged together into one unique sound design toolkit and sonic playground. Never has there been such a brilliant combination of elements that allow you to quickly create the underlying rhythm and/or melody for an entire song in such rapid fashion while maintaining an almost surgical precision in control of individual parameters. You can even play a whole composition with one finger.

Riff Generation sells for $249.99 from In Session Audio



So what is the “quiet revolution”? It is a movement amongst a new generation of developers who are thinking outside of the box to bring us tools that change the way that we make music.Not to say that there is anything wrong with a new piano or a new guitar, but to be perfectly honest the virtual instrument marketplace has become extremely saturated with instruments of all pedigrees, often times finding multiple releases of the same instrument in a short period of time, leaving composers wondering what to buy or whether they even need it..

When I say that I find Riff Generation to be revolutionary in its design, I must in all fairness say that some of the basic premises that went into its design are not entirely new.They are a combination of many of the best ideas that have been introduced in both VST and Kontakt format instruments in the past several years. What sets this apart from the others is not only the combination of the elements that make up the design but the extensibility of the underlying functionality and the precision of control that it affords you as the user.

Riff Generation goes well beyond the standard fare

So what does that really mean? At the highest level, the first thing that I found after watching the intro videos was that unlike many tools that offer a “generate” function that produces a randomization of the various parameters to create an entirely new sound, Riff Generation goes well beyond the standard fare and allows you to lock any and all of the individual parameters against randomization while continuing to regenerate new sound structures around your saved selections. I immediately found the beauty in this to be for example, the fact that I may really enjoy the pattern that was produced and a couple of the sounds that were generated but want to replace one or two of them. I simply need to lock the ones that I want to keep and regenerate and the same goes for all of the other parameters which I will get into in a moment.

The other thing that I found really appealing was the fact that it contains a step sequencer that can go out to 256 steps and be latched so that you can design an entire song. Each step created with the sequencer can be individually customized using what InSession Audio call the “Dot Matrix”. I want to focus on some of the real standouts in this review and encourage you to spend some time watching the videos that are available, as they go into a significant amount of detail into not only the functionality under the hood (of which there is a significant amount), but also into examples of the various types of music that you can create using this very unique tool.

When you first open Riff Generation, the interface is somehow familiar and ominous at the same time. There is a familiar step sequencer and a strange array of dots along with a number of different buttons and controls. A short time later after spending some time with the video manual (which I highly recommend) and you are well on your way to making great music.

There really is enough functionality in Riff Generation that I could write a mini essay to describe all of the functionality and all of the combinations of things that you can accomplish with this remarkable tool.

Let’s start with some of those high points. The top half of the interface is where you have control over Velocity, Duration, Volume and Pan in the step sequencer along with the ability to change the pitch each of the individual steps by up to 24 semitones. You can also extend the length of any sequence that you have generated by using the controls under Pattern, including the ability to extend it out as far as 256 steps and a control called Follow that ensures that each segment of 32 steps continues to follow the previous segment. You can also latch this for continuous playback.This is quite useful if you are using your sketch to write an entire song without having to copy sequence segments.

The bottom portion of the screen is the Dot Matrix. This is where for all intents and purposes a lot of the “magic” happens. Here you can control not only the individual Sound per step but you can also control Glide, Stutter, Delay Burst and Verb Burst as well. This was an idea that founder Kyle Zee came up with as a solution to create what he described quite eloquently as “ear candy”, in other words the ability to create that special sound that you can’t get any other way and isn’t really repeatable in a conventional sense using other tools.

On the bottom of the screen are the controls for the Key, Scale, Generation Options, Retrigger and Latch and and of course the unmistakable Generate button. You will also note throughout the interface wherever you see the padlock icon that you can lock the individual parameter against any form of regeneration. This also means that you can lock your composition to a specific scale and even if you play notes outside of the Key the application is going to correct your notes and re-harmonize them back into the key that you have selected. One last note that I would make here is that for all of the controls within the step sequencer if you don’t like anything that is generated, you can redraw your own pattern or curve with the mouse.

Clicking on the Generation Options control displays the underlying controls for the Dot Matrix. This is one of the areas that I would advise that you not only watch the video manual, but also consult the actual manual to understand the power of all of the parameters available. There are essentially five basic areas here that you can manipulate: Rhythm Generation. Level Generation, Pitch Generation, Time Generation and Sound Generation. There is a fair amount of power here and I would advise you to not trip yourself up by making random changes until you’re comfortable with the impending outcomes. With that said, turning the sounds that you want on and off is very straightforward. In any given composition if you only want to use certain sounds simply click on the ones that you don’t want to turn them off.

By clicking on the Sounds control, you expose the overall design controls for each of the five unique sound types. I must say that in addition to what we have already covered, when I discovered the level of control afforded over each of the individual sounds including Panning, Sample Start, ADSR and individual lock and regeneration controls I was extremely impressed by this.

As with everything that we have talked about up to this point, each of the five sound choices can be locked against being modified through regeneration or you can click the tool icon above it to individually regenerate just that sound. There are a total of 255 unique sounds that are included and given the depth of what can be created using the combination of just those sounds makes this a very powerful tool. This comment may be a bit out of place as I’m talking about sounds here but at any point when you find exactly what you’re looking for you can simply click the disk icon in Kontakt and save it as a new snapshot. The next time that you go back in, it will be available under User snapshots.

What would a sound design tool be without effects? By clicking on the Effects control the lower portion of the interface exposes the array of effects that are available which include Filter, Modulation ( Chorus, Flanger, Phaser), LoFi/Distortion, Compression, Equalization, Delay/Reverb(including multiple convolution types). Now as I usually say, I am not a big fan of using built-in effects in libraries and prefer to use premium plug-ins to mix “in the room” within my DAW. That being said, there are some pretty unique things going on within Riff Generation that I would afford some latitude toward using some of them.

One of the things that makes this library work on such a grand scale is the unique ability to tweak the sound at every step in the sequence.

Being able to control the stutter and delay are impossible using an external plugin. Where I have found the effects to be extremely useful are in using the filters, the delay and reverb. All of the other controls are essentially effective on a global basis and I am finding myself needing to experiment a bit further to determine whether or not I am going to use them or try to replace them with external plugins. One thing that I do find useful in using the built-in effects is from a sketching perspective. If you think about this as being a sketching tool and wanting to really understand what a sound’s potential can be there is nothing quicker than to dial it in directly within the library.

Riff Generation looks a bit like a complicated beast on the surface but I found that after watching the roughly 20 minutes of tutorial videos that come in the form of part of the video manual was that after working with it for a mere five minutes, it becomes incredibly simple to navigate and start to build extremely meaningful compositions. From my perspective, I think this is a tool that a lot of musicians, sound designers and composers will be looking for due to the sophisticated nature of its capabilities and its ability to deliver a rapid result for those working on a deadline. When I think about where this tool is most effectively used, I think it really runs the gamut of anyone who is writing music.

The sounds and snapshots included will allow you to create convincing analog, ambient, dance, electronic or pop music and at the same time will allow you to create underscore or virtually anything that you can dream up. In a short time, I have been able to dream up baselines ala Tangerine Dream, ambient soundscapes reminiscent of Mr. Eno and an incredible amount of other tracks that are starting to form the basis for new compositions that have changed my way of thinking about how I can jumpstart composing new music. The utility of using a single instrument in Sound A coupled with the ability to export your composition to MIDI makes it ideal if you want to adapt the sequence for another instrument that is not included. I think that the innovation shown by InSession Audio here is deserving of the Gameshaker award. Thinking outside of the box and combining all of the elements of the best-of-breed instruments today into one unique package really make this one that you should not miss!

As always, please check out the audio and video demos with the links provided below to make sure that this is the right tool for your unique needs.


Riff Generation downloads and installs at 2.4 GB and requires either Kontakt Player or a full Native Instruments Kontakt 5.6.1 or higher license. NKS support is available for owners of the Komplete S Series keyboards. It does require Microsoft Windows 7 or Mac OS version 10.10 or higher. 325 snapshots are included to get you started making music.

Riff Generation sells for $249.99 from In Session Audio

  Demos of Riff Generation

Videos of Riff Generation