Rating: **** 4/5 Stars
Whether it’s for blues, bluegrass or country, the ability to play slide, pedal steel or resonator can be considered something of a specialist skill within the broad church of ‘guitar playing’. Fortunately, if you have a need for the distinctive tones of a resonator guitar, but not the personal skills to play the real thing, IK Multimedia’s The Resonator, produced in collaboration with developers Indiginus, might be just what you need to plug the skill gap.
Available at a modest price as an instrument for IKM’s Windows/macOS SampleTank 4 virtual instrument (including the free‑to‑download SampleTank 4 Custom Shop version), The Resonator provides a deeply sampled take on a Hound Dog Dobro (the metal cone is held in a wooden body) played with a metal slide. The 1.6GB library includes a number of different instrument presets, MIDI performance patterns and, of course, allows access to SampleTank’s usual array of sound editing and effects options.
Sonically, The Resonator gives you an instantly authentic sound that would fit right into a blues, folk, country or bluegrass context. Thankfully (at least, thankfully for our attempts to fake the performance of a resonator when we can’t actually play one), it is also very playable. Each of the presets offers a different combination of performance articulations. These use a combination of conventional keyswitches but, usefully, also some velocity‑based ones. For example, the Resonator Full Mt preset provides muted notes, sustained notes and notes with slides at low, medium and high velocities respectively, while keyswitches allow the slides to toggle between up and down. Yes, like all multi‑articulation virtual instruments, it requires a little practice to pull off a convincing performance, but it is much less of a stretch than learning to play the real thing.
Other presets provide automatic harmony notes and there are two presets that use SampleTank’s very neat ‘strumming’ system, allowing you to pull off basic strummed parts with ease. There is also a preset that has a suitable guitar amp sim included for some blues rock attitude. Finally, the instrument includes a range of MIDI preset patterns that can be triggered from within SampleTank covering country picking, bluegrass and blues. These offer an impressive demonstration of how good The Resonator can sound when you have mastered the key and velocity switching. Dragged and dropped into your DAW, the patterns also provide a helpful tutorial on playing techniques.
Aside from some noise added by slightly over‑zealous use of SampleTank’s compressor on some of the presets (which you can, of course, turn off) and the wish for even more of the very useful MIDI preset patterns, The Resonator is a pretty cool package. If you are creating an album of blues, bluegrass and country, you are going to want to find yourself a good session player. However, for more occasional use, with lots of character and presented in a very playable format, The Resonator may be all that’s required.