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AAS Strum Electric GS1

Virtual Guitar Instrument By Nick Magnus
Published September 2009

AAS put their physical modelling skills to the test once again, with an electric follow‑up to Strum Acoustic GS1.

Strum Electric GS1 is a physically modelled guitar instrument based around the same concepts and techniques as AAS's 'acoustic' GS1 plug‑in, the aim this time being to emulate, unsurprisingly, electric guitars of various flavours. As its name implies, Strum Electric (or SE) majors in strumming duties, but can also be used to perform arpeggios, power chords, solo lines and duophonic parts. The technique for playing SE is the same as its predecessor: essentially, the desired chord shapes are played on a MIDI keyboard with the left hand, while the right hand 'strums' them using a range of trigger keys.

Strum Electric is both Mac and PC compatible and runs in either VST, Audio Units, RTAS or stand‑alone modes. Since the over-arching principles and functions of SE are almost identical to those of Strum Acoustic, I recommend referring to my review of SA in the September 2008 SOS /sos/sep08/articles/aasstrumacousticgs1.htm).

The Front End

Another view shows Strum Electric's detailed individual string editing parameters.

Despite the similarities to Strum Acoustic, Strum Electric nevertheless features a number of differences appropriate to the electric guitar genre, the most obvious of which concern the Effects section, situated above the mahogany‑coloured guitar body graphic. Here we find an integrated amp simulator with two channels; one optimised for clean sounds, the other for higher gain, overdriven tones. This provides drive amount; level; a three‑band, fixed‑frequency equaliser; a spring reverb; and a choice of open or closed speaker cabinet types. Following this are two effects slots, each on their own tab. The first tab is for preamp effects and the second applies the effects post‑amp. There are nine (mono) pre‑amp effects: chorus, flanger, digital delay, tape delay, phaser, auto‑wah, wah‑wah, notch filter and tremolo. Post‑amp effects include the nine previously mentioned, plus ping‑pong delay, and stereo versions of the chorus, flanger and tremolo. An additional, post‑everything, fixed-length, 'natural' reverb effect is found at the top of the window next to the master Volume control.

While all this is no match for specialist processors such as Guitar Rig, the amp and its suite of effects nevertheless complement Strum Electric quite nicely, and seem well judged. Of course, if you have your own favourite guitar amp and effects plug‑ins, you can bypass all those in SE and use your own gizmos instead.

Moving down to the beige performance area, we find that palm mutes and pick/finger response now have individual velocity sensitivity knobs, as opposed to Strum Acoustic's single global velocity control. Also new is a velocity-sensitivity knob to vary the range of strings strummed — the higher the range is set, the harder you have to strum to get all six strings to sound. This is a definite improvement over Strum Acoustic and helps to inject a welcome degree of tonal variation into strummed performances.

Modelling Parameters

The deeper-level editing parameters for each string are almost identical to those of Strum Acoustic, with two exceptions. Firstly, SE's individual String Modules feature a volume knob to adjust the gain of each string. Secondly, Strum Acoustic's Body parameters have been replaced in Strum Electric by a pickup selector which, on the global editing page, offers a choice of neck, bridge and neck, or bridge pickups, plus a pickup gain control. On the individual string editing pages, additional pickup parameters include single coil or humbucking pickups, and there are additional controls for tone colour and position of each pickup, as well as vertical distance from the strings for the bridge pickup. All pickup settings (sensibly) affect the instrument globally, rather than on a per‑string basis.

The Presets

Musiclab's Real Strat.

A wide range of presets is provided, in categories such as Styles, Lead, DI'd and Signature. The guitar models themselves comprise Les Pauls, Stratocasters and Telecasters, with neck/middle/bridge pickup variations. The DI'd category is a useful starting point if you intend to use third‑party amp and effect plug‑ins, while the Bare Guitars folder offers 'vanilla' starting points using SE's own processing.

As with Strum Acoustic, SE provides a comprehensive set of tools to manage, import and export preset libraries and MIDI controller configurations. Performance parameters (all the settings in the lower part of the GUI) can be stored and recalled as separate presets, which wasn't possible in Strum Acoustic. This is beneficial because it means that you can select instrument presets without altering the performance parameters, or select performance presets without changing the guitar.


The lack of residual guitaristic 'noises', the modest range of articulations and the inability to play free‑form polyphonic parts (see box above) might suggest limited potential. However, Strum Electric reveals itself to be useful and versatile in many areas, whether it's used to lay down a reference part for a real guitarist or, with a certain degree of additional graft, as a seriously intended substitute for the real thing. As mentioned elsewhere, its rhythmical applications (especially overdriven rock guitar stylings) are the most successful and convincing. I've found myself routinely using SE to supply chunky, raw chordal aggression whilst Real Strat handles the soloing gymnastics and 'Frippery'. Strum Electric also uses a negligible amount of RAM, and the CPU hit is quite manageable by a modern two or four‑core computer, so you needn't be shy about using multiple instances at once.

To sum up, Strum Electric is a worthwhile and fun addition to the computer musician's sound palette.  


The closest alternatives to Strum Electric GS1 are sample-based, rather than physically modelled, and fall into two main categories. Firstly, there are virtual instruments with proprietary sound engines and user interfaces, such as Musiclab's Real Strat and Steinberg's Virtual Guitarist 2. Secondly, there are Kontakt 2 Player‑hosted instruments such as Chris Hein Guitars (which uses similar concepts to Strum Electric and Real Strat, but with extensive utilisation of custom KSP scripts), Prominy's SC Electric Guitar and LPC Electric Guitar.

Strum Electric vs Real Strat

Musiclab's Real Strat (reviewed in January 2008) is Strum Electric's closest competitor, both being based around similar voicing/trigger-playing techniques. Naturally, each offers facilities the other doesn't, so it's not a simple question of which one is best — they each have their own strengths. Sonically they are quite different, not least because SE is capable of a emulating a variety of guitar types via its presets and physical modelling parameters, while Real Strat is based around a core sample library representing only a Stratocaster. Real Strat's basic sound is comparatively brighter than SE's, with a slightly rougher edge, especially in the lower range, where some fret buzz 'realism' is evident.

Strum Electric goes for an all‑in‑one approach, with integrated amp simulation, reverb and multi‑effects; Real Strat, on the other hand, requires amp simulations and effects to be applied as additional post‑processes, although it does include an integral wah‑wah effect. One consequence of SE's integrated amp simulation is that you can't apply compression before its amp stage, nor indeed any other effects that aren't part of SE's multi‑effect suite. Nevertheless, compression does appear to occur naturally in the amp simulation at higher drive settings, just not so much at the clean end of the scale.

The biggest differences between the two become most apparent when it comes to 'guitaristic' articulations. Strum Electric has only four basic articulations: plucked, hammer‑ons/offs, mutes and palm mutes. Unlike Real Strat, SE has none of the additional string squeaks, scrapes and string release noises to add that vital 'human element'. Harmonics (flageolets) and pinched harmonics are not possible, nor can you perform legato slides without having to use the pitch wheel. The last, along with many other articulations, is achieved very easily and intuitively on Real Strat. The upshot is that solo lead lines on SE can tend to sound rather static and 'keyboard‑like'. Additionally, there is no 'round robin' effect, such as that found on sample‑based instruments, so repeated notes can sound mechanical. Nor can you play freestyle polyphonic parts, since SE interprets three or more notes as a chord and is obliged to strum them.

However, all this is perhaps missing the point of an instrument called 'Strum', because there are plenty of areas in which SE excels. Power chords, low single lines and gutsy, chugging, overdriven rhythm parts work extremely well on SE, sounding (to me, at least) slightly more convincing than Real Strat. One crucial difference here is that while Real Strat can switch between plucked, muted and palm-muted articulations easily enough, it's a direct jump from one sample set to another, with no smooth transition. Strum Electric, on the other hand, can access the 'in between'; palm mutes can be made to gradually 'open out' almost into full notes by giving a high velocity-sensitivity range to them. Similarly, the harmonic character of scratch mutes also varies continuously according to key velocity.

System Requirements

  • Mac: OSX 10.2 or later, G4 733MHz processor, 256MB RAM.
  • PC: Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, PIII 800MHz, 128MB RAM, Direct X- or ASIO‑supported sound card.


  • Wide range of realistic electric guitar tones.
  • Detailed editing of guitar models.
  • Built-in amp simulator and effects.


  • Freestyle polyphonic playing is not possible.
  • No string releases, squeaks or other guitar‑related noises.
  • Limited articulations mean fewer tools for creating realistic 'virtuoso' solo parts.


Strum Electric's sound is remarkably realistic, with a wide range of tones available. With care, practice and the appropriate processing, SE can produce pretty convincing strummed and arpeggiated rhythm parts. While overdriven power chords and rhythmic 'chugs' are amongst its fortés, solo lines come off perhaps less well.


£129 including VAT.

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