Review: Solo Brass Untamed by Westwood Instruments


Westwood Instruments let it loose with Solo Brass Untamed. Featuring five solo instruments, it’s a wild ride from experimental performances to intriguingly subdued moments. For composers wanting something inspirational for alternative scores, it’s time to unleash the brass beast!

Jump to the Videos of Solo Brass Untamed by Westwood Instruments

Jump to the Demos of Solo Brass Untamed by Westwood Instruments


Review: Solo Brass Untamed by Westwood Instruments

This library is a continuation of the similarly performance-based string quartet and associated percussion, which were very well received by composers and producers over the last few years. For those releases, the man behind Westwood Instruments, Rob Hill, took an innovative approach to sampling improvisations, by mapping three to each key according to velocity. Now for Solo Brass Untamed what was not broken needed no fixing and the same methodology was employed, except this time using trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, and flugelhorn. There is a huge amount of content here, in addition to numerous improvisations, there is a wide variety of shorts and longs, few of which are conventional, in typical Westwood style.

Solo Brass Untamed normally sells for £175 from Westwood Instruments


The detailed interface boasts some fine graphic design and the understated Westwood house style in terms of colour palette, reflecting the nature of this library as something classy and edgy. It’s basically divided into ‘things to fiddle with’ at the top and the articulation selector at the bottom.

Main Interface

Of the many articulations, it is the improvisations that belong at the core of Solo Brass Untamed – long evolving sustains that are unique for every single note. And it gets deeper, as depending on velocity, each note features three variations. Low velocities trigger the calm; soft and fragile textures that whisper and flutter. Medium velocities are lively; passionate playing that chatters and has bursts of action. The very highest velocity will give you wild; bold phrases that shout and become chaotic. If that is not enough, how about four entire banks of these improvisations per instrument?! The amount of sample content here is seriously impressive. For the feel of multiple players and an overall denser and more complex sound, you can also shift-click multiple articulations and they will all play at once. The only limitation with this is that the volume of each set cannot be changed, which makes blending Improvs with the more traditional articulations difficult, as the latter are nearly always quite a bit louder.


Multiple Patch Selection

There are two further extensions to the Improvs that are very creative. Firstly, the Improv RR which cycles through sets A-D on each finger press. Secondly, is the Storms articulation which uses the mod wheel to build from a single calm patch to the lively ones, and finally to all 12 wild patches playing at once. This is just superb for creating unique and powerful crescendos and diminuendos.

The Euphonium, Trombone, Trumpet, and Tuba additionally offer a wealth of extra articulations. The Flugelhorn, by contrast, is limited to Improvs only (I think it was possibly a late addition to the sessions). The type and number of these extras differ per instrument. This makes excellent sense; rather than dogmatically mirroring articulations, Westwood has chosen to curate what sounds best for each instrument. There is a range on offer, from basic longs to staccato and some unusual longs to aleatoric techniques. My favourite patch common to all is the Surges. These are sustained notes that randomly pulse with sudden crescendos to create undulating and unpredictable patterns. Other standout oddities include the slightly ripped style of the Euphonium Smudges, the breathy super soft Trombone Bends, the percussive Tuba Pops (which are not a million miles away from Grandad after too many parsnips!), and the raw Trumpet No Tuning Pipes.

This library is so rich in sounds there is barely time to tell you about the user controls, but briefly, you get basic envelopes, 3-band EQ, reverb with custom IRs and performance controls for dynamics, expression, and vibrato.


User Controls

The recording space is the wonderful Nave Studios in Leeds. It’s a converted church, so it reveals a very natural, smooth decay that is not so long that it ever gets blurry. The Room mic pair captures most of that, with two Gallery mics for extra distance and width. The Close stereo mics bring it all in a bit for some upfront liveliness, with the mono Spot mic being the driest and full of detail. I would say it’s generally a very natural and pretty neutral sound, which helps maintain the focus on the instrument performances. It’s the same space for some of Westwood’s other libraries so that can also help when blending them together. The equipment chain used was just stellar – plenty of high-end mics, preamps and convertors from the likes of Neumann, Brauner, Neve, and Apogee amongst others.

The final thing to mention are the included Multis. Divided into five distinct categories they showcase the power of stacking multiple nki patches.


Multis Folder

I loved Euphoria, which cleverly combines surges, normal longs, and vibrato for wonderfully mournful, hollow tones. There’s also an undulating drone called Making Bones in the experimental patch which is delicate, yet haunting. It made me consider how pliable this library can be, with the ability to use the sounds as the basis for some organic sound design.

There is no shortage of evolving and experimental orchestral performance libraries out there, but Solo Brass Untamed displays a unique approach with the velocity triggering and per note individual sampling. It’s also worth pointing out that while we have quite a few string texture products (including Westwood Instrument’s very own Solo Strings Untamed) there is not a great deal that covers brass in this manner. I especially enjoyed how well it copes with quicker note changes and it’s so much more than a one-note wonder drone machine, though it does that well when you need it. However, it’s actually all the extra articulations that make this library an immense value for money; the longs and shorts are very usable and the more experimental techniques are very playable and inspiring. When used in tandem with the improvisations for occasional flourishes of something special you can write really unique parts, full of the beautifully unexpected.


Tuba Patch

One of the only drawbacks is the lack of legato.  I know that’s not what the library is about, but when you hear the longs you wonder how great a true legato sampling would sound! Probably my only other criticism is that it would be nice to have control of the volume of the improvisation layers. The wild ones are radically louder than the calm, which are whisper quiet and this slightly restricts how well you can combine different layers on different notes when playing in a chordal fashion. Playing like this also made me wonder what a random sample start time might do to vary things up for note repetitions.

Like all of their products, Solo Brass Untamed is not the place to go if you are looking for anything conventional. Nor is it the best choice for mock-ups as the improvisations will be impossible to replicate with live players. Its strength is how it bridges the gap beautifully between a phrase library and conventional sample playback. Yes, you are stuck with the particular performances, but it’s at a single pitch only and with a good amount of user variance built-in, meaning you can shape the end result nicely. It will find favour with a broad swathe of composers who are tasked with coming up with fresh new brass playing for less conventional scoring jobs. I also think it has much to offer for the savvy artist/producer. Some of the Improvs reminded me of the slightly maverick brass parts that Radiohead occasionally employs and I can see it working well for left-field indie stuff. Props should definitely go at this point to the brilliant players themselves, who really gave some super creative displays of brass prowess. Hats off to you James Hamilton, James Stretton, and Tom l’Anson.

Solo Brass Untamed is an extremely welcome addition to Westwood Instruments’ improvisational product line. It oozes style, fragile intimacy, wild abandon, and detail in its unique performances. And while it’s on point with modern scoring styles, it’s certainly classy and flexible enough to be a library I can see myself using for many years to come.


Solo Brass Untamed consists of over 25,000 samples making up 19.2GB of data. It downloads via the Pulse download manager and it is watermarked for each customer. There are 5 instruments sampled with nearly 80 articulations, 4 mics and 30 multis. The library requires a full version of Kontakt 5.6.8+.

Solo Brass Untamed normally sells for £175 from Westwood Instruments


Demos of Solo Brass Untamed by Westwood Instruments


Videos of Solo Brass Untamed by Westwood Instruments


Contributor Sam Burt reviews Solo Brass Untamed by Westwood Instruments
Westwood Instruments let it loose with Solo Brass Untamed. Featuring five solo instruments, it’s a wild ride from experimental performances to intriguingly subdued moments. For composers wanting something inspirational for alternative scores, it’s time to unleash the brass beast!”