Review: WaveSkimmer by Modwheel
The GUI is well designed, easy to understand and even easier on the eyes;
The use of the Modwheel to affect the sample start point, timbre and intensity is incredibly unique;
The ability to play in key regardless of how the Pitch Sequencer is stepped;
The addition of various musical modes to select from;
Well documented PDF file and a very entertaining & instructive Walkthrough video
Would like to have seen a function to manually edit the start / end of a particular sample on the “Sample Selector” page
Does not have a latch mode or sustain pedal support for the pulse and pitch sequencers (I will say however, if you ask the kind people at ModWheel for a .NKI that supports a sustain pedal, they will probably send you one as they did me…great support)
The step sequencers are only uni-directional
This is NOT your grandmother’s percussion library. While this latest release for Kontakt from the team of David Donaldson and Steve Roche, aka Modwheel, looks, feels and plays with relative simplicity, there is a complex dynamic working under the engine which provides for a flexibility to be catered to many genres of music and styles, whether it be used as an underscore for ambient/electronic music, layered with other acoustic instrumentations in more complex orchestral scores, or whether used to add eccentricity to film or trailer compositions.
Jump to the Videos of WaveSkimmer by Modwheel
Jump to the Demos of WaveSkimmer by Modwheel
Review: WaveSkimmer by Modwheel
WaveSkimmer sells for $69 from Modwheel
If you don’t own any Modwheel products or if you have never heard of them, please, do yourself a favor and head over to their website and, at the very least, check out the demos for their products. If you’re an old codger, like me, who really enjoys all things “retro”, you will get a real kick out of the Modwheel videos. They are quite entertaining and inventive. Trust me on this!!! Up until the middle of last year, I had never heard of them until someone else recommended them…that’s what I love about the internet, word of mouth can open an entire new world to one who is willing to explore.
Modwheel is a small company that operates out of New Zealand by a pair named David Donaldson and Steve Roche. They primarily create niche libraries for the full version of Kontakt. In this case, niche doesn’t mean weird and unusable, it means, well, eccentric and VERY usable. Once you get started using their libraries, you will get hooked and start to find instances to use products like Lowdown, Mystichord or Perc+ Percussion Library. The proceeds from the latter help support the Tironui Music Trust. Thus far, Modwheel has raised well over 6,000 NZ Dollars toward this worthy cause.
If I had to compare Modwheel’s products to another company, the closest would be Sound Dust who also make exceptional “niche-type” libraries.
So, what is WaveSkimmer? At face value, it is a dual layer sampler in which you can create movement via 2 sequencers. One being a pulse sequencer for velocity and the other a sequencer that manipulates pitch. The layers, themselves, are harmonic in nature and they can be further manipulated through the use of the modwheel. The developers make it a point in their walkthrough and in their documentation that the modwheel is the primary modulation source in this release. Not only does the modwheel alter the start point of the sample, it also affects the timbre and intensity. As you move the modwheel upwards (or downwards), the entire dynamic of the playback changes. Dave and Steve actually brought in a professional scripter to help with this function.
The presets, in WaveSkimmer, are accessed in Kontakt via the snapshot down arrow. Since this is not a Kontakt Player library, the snapshots have to be manually placed in a specific folder. For those who are novices to using snapshots, you should read the enclosed PDF instructional file that comes with the product download. If the snapshots are placed in the wrong folder, they won’t be visible via the drop down arrow. The snapshots are broken up into 5 distinct categories: Starters, Evolving, Pads, Percussive, and Sweeps-Risers. Each snapshot contains 2 groups, A & B, each with its own source sample (you cannot use the same sample for both groups). On the main page, called the Pulser, at the bottom left, there is slider where you can mix the sounds. In addition, the sample in Group B can be lowered an Octave with the radial below the sample name (8vb). If you don’t like the sound of a sample, you can click on it with your mouse, this brings down a selection of other samples you can use to replace the one you wish to discard.
Both of these samples, together, are manipulated with the sequencers (the pulse velocity sequencer is always on / the pitch sequencer has to be engaged). It’s rather apparent the location of the sequencers on the Pulser page. In fact, it’s so friendly to my eyes, I can at last put away the mini telescope I have set up in my studio to read some of the more “age discriminatory” interfaces. Anyway, I digress…the sequencers are pretty basic and, for anyone who has experience using them, this should be old hat. Each of the sequencers range from 1 to 32 steps with a rate from 1/64 to 4/4. The Swing is a global effect. The Midi thru, when engaged, will play alterations to the sequence immediately and, when dis-engaged, will play the edits after the sequence has been passed through. Changes can be made with your mouse.
To the right of the sequencers, are the global effects. The Delay is tempo synched to your DAW in 1/64 increments. The reverb and chorus are rather basic. In addition, there is an A H D Envelope and a Transient Master X-Y Pad where the X Axis controls the Attack and the Y Axis controls the sustain. There is a Centre radial for the X-Y Pad which centers the Transient Master.
When the ModWheel is in use, you will notice a blurred circle passing through the Waveskimmer name in the lower left.
For those of you who prefer to use CCs as opposed to a mouse, here is the CC mapping for the Pulser Page:
The 2nd page of the library is labeled the Sound Selector. It is a page which presents an alternate way to load a sound source. The left bank of sounds corresponds to Group A and the right bank of sounds corresponds to Group B. At the top of the screen the associated wave for a particular sample is displayed. The wave is non-editable. Personally, I think it would have been an added benefit if the start / stop of the actual sound could have been manually manipulated.
The sounds are broken up into 8 categories : (A) coustic, (G)uitar, (M)etallic, (P)ercussion, (R)iser, (S)ynth, (V)ox, and (W)ire.
The sounds are broken up into 8 categories : (A) coustic, (G)uitar, (M)etallic, (P)ercussion, (R)iser, (S)ynth, (V)ox, and (W)ire. The actual instrument, in many cases, is truncated making the source sometimes ambiguous. To get an idea of what the sample sounds like, in its raw form, you will have to turn down all the effects, disengage the pitch sequencer, and set the pulse sequencer to 1 step & a rate of 4/4. In short, it would have been great if one could preview the sound sample.
The last page of the library is labeled the Scale Map / FX page. At the top of the page you can select the root note of the sequence and the mode in which it is to be played. This function directly influences the pitch sequencer on the Pulser page. The pitch sequencer can be offset + or – a single octave scaled in semitones. With the Scale Map engaged, the pitches in the sequencer will automatically be corrected to play in the correct key as represented by the Root Note. In addition, it will further compensate according to whatever Mode is selected. This is another real bonus of this product because you have an incredible amount of modes in which your sequencer will play back in. Time to brush up on your music theory!!
The bottom part of the page includes a global Tremolo effect, the ability to distort one or both sound groups and an equalizer which can mix low, low middle, high middle, and high frequencies.
While all of these features help make this an excellent product, overall, it’s the eclectic choice of sound samples that really push this to the top of the pile, so to speak. There are samples here that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else. These are samples that you come back to time and again to augment your other percussive elements and give it a uniqueness that you can call your own, to give your music a style that will, indeed, stand out from the others!!
WaveSkimmer contains over 150 snapshot presets, 168 sound samples at 24bit / 48kHz and downloads as 245 MB. WaveSkimmer requires the full version of Kontakt version 5.6.6 or higher.
WaveSkimmer sells for $69 from Modwheel