Musical styles come and go and, if you work in genres such as electronica, dance or even R&B, you can easily get caught up in (and caught out by) the speed with which production trends and arrangement tricks change. However, one musical genre — that of the melodic, AOR pop-rock song — always seems to be with us. Yes, the singers may change, and the productions may get (even) slicker, but the style is a mainstay of radio playlists the world over.
Today, of course, it might be Coldplay, Jason Mraz or Train. Tomorrow? Well, it might be you... courtesy of Big Fish Audio’s Guitar Sessions: Pop Songwriting Guitars. Whether you go for the multi-format audio loops (which is what I auditioned for this review) or the Kontakt version, what you get is 25 construction kits containing all the guitar performances you need to construct a full-song arrangement. With acoustic guitars (picked and strummed, including some hi-strung ‘Nashville’ guitars), tasteful electric rhythm guitars (clean, overdriven, strummed, picked and, where appropriate, processed with delay, reverb or tremolo) and the occasional banjo and ukulele, each kit allows you to built plenty of dynamics into your arrangement. Equally, with intro/outro parts and performances suitable for verse, bridge and chorus, piecing together a complete guitar bed is, frankly, just a bit too easy.
The WAV-format files I explored contained around 500 individual loops spread across over 3GB of sample data. If you opt for the multi-format version that I explored, you also get DAW-ready versions for Cubase, Logic and Pro Tools; simply load the project and then copy/paste the files on their pre-configured tracks to build the arrangement that you want. You do, of course, have to add your own drums or bass or other instrumental touches and suitable vocal talent.
As befits the generally very slick production quality of current artists working in this genre, the recording quality and performances here are top-notch. With the appropriate additional instruments and vocals, many of these kits would certainly sound right at home in any AOR radio-station playlist. While the artists listed above are where the bulk of the kits had me thinking, the banjo and ukulele parts (and the occasional slide guitar) could get you into something pop/country crossover and, if you focus on, predominately, the acoustic guitars, then you could easily dial up a slice of something more Ed Sheeran, Mumford & Sons or Ray Lamontagne. If you want an instant slice of classy, slick, emotive pop-rock guitar, Guitar Sessions: Pop Songwriting Guitars is right on the money. Yes, as with any construction kit library, you are constrained to the supplied performances but, in this case, those performances are excellent and the contents of each kit provides plenty of flexibility. Simply add drums, bass and a stellar vocal performance for your own top 40 pop-rock chart wannabe. John Walden