Sonokinetic’s vigorous orchestral phrase library piles on the cinematic drama in 4/4 time.
As football fans know, some managers can’t resist tinkering with their team. A recent article by Conrad Leach in The Guardian revealed that Leicester’s Nigel Pearson and Hull City boss Steve Bruce each adopted no less than eight different player formations during the 2014-2015 season. Results didn’t go well for either manager: after a dreadful run of form, Leicester barely recovered to finish 14th in the league table, while Hull City were relegated. By contrast, José Mourinho stuck to the same formation in every game and saw his team Chelsea crowned champions.
I mention this not only because I am a Chelsea fan [Boo! — Ed], but to underline the fact that it’s not a good idea to mess with a winning formula. Dutch sound company Sonokinetic obviously share this view as their latest orchestral phrase library Capriccio replicates the format of its predecessors Minimal (2013) and Grosso (2014). All three contain tempo-sync’ed section phrases devised by composer Piotr Musial, performed by contemporary symphonic team Capellen Orchestra and recorded from the same four mic positions in a modern concert hall in Zlin, Czech Republic.
Boasting large sections of 52 strings, 14 brass players, 12 woodwinds and eight percussionists (the latter performing on taiko drums, orchestral percussion, xylophone, tubular bells, glockenspiel and piano), Capriccio works in the same way as Minimal and Grosso: basically, you play a major or minor triad and the software obligingly outputs tempo-sync’ed phrases in the correct key. For more details, please read the reviews of the previous Sonokinetic libraries on the SOS web site.
Where Grosso’s phrases were configured in 12/8 time, Capriccio’s material is in good old 4/4 with straight eighth and 16th notes throughout, ensuring an easy ride for those composers who instinctively ‘think in four’. As explained in our November 2014 review, it’s possible to adapt Grosso’s 12/8 phrases to 4/4, but for writers who don’t tend to use triplets and other three-based rhythmic groupings, Capriccio is a better starting point.
Like its predecessors, Capriccio runs on Kontakt 5.1 and above and also works with the free Kontakt Player. Containing approximately 38,000 samples, the library is 50.4GB installed (Sonokinetic’s largest orchestral collection yet) and includes both 16-bit and 24-bit versions of the samples.
Clicking on one of the trademark arty graphic squiggles that Sonokinetic use to identify phrases opens up the Phrase Picker window, where you can see all available performances of the instrument in question (see Phrase Statistics box). Phrases can now be previewed before loading, which greatly speeds up workflow and makes the reviewer’s job considerably easier! However, only the main version of each phrase may be previewed; to hear its variations (which constitute about a third of the total performances), you have to load the phrase.
Justifying the advertising tag of ‘Vigorous Cinematic Sample Library’, the string phrases include violins and violas playing rousing, accented staccato riffs and urgent spiccato eighth note ostinatos; these can be underpinned by motoring, single-note cellos and basses phrases to create exciting string orchestra action cues. In the woodwinds department, galloping, high-pitched rhythm figures and pulsing eighth-note chords played by flutes, piccolo and oboes combine well with staccato clarinets and bassoons licks. Further low-end woodwind clout, not to mention vigour, can be added by dialing in some of the library’s great, stentorian bass clarinet / bassoon / contrabassoon ensemble riffs.
Much of Capriccio’s power and grandeur comes from its large menu of brass phrases. Fanfare-like trumpet section figures, played in fourths and fifths or as single notes, sound bright, forceful and incisive; the French horns also perform propulsive, fat-sounding phrases, while trombones, bass trombone and tuba contribute some extremely strong low-end blasts.
The driving, energetic material described above makes up the lion’s share of the library and defines its character. However, Capriccio also features a good number of quieter, more subtle phrases. Some are in a light classical vein which Mozart would have approved of — lightly harmonised two-note legato motifs, flowing 16th-note ascending and descending arpeggios, lyrical melodic figures, etc. Trumpets and horns play some nice supportive sustained triads, while lively, flowing woodwind flourishes, fast clarinet triplet patterns and high-pitched, quicksilver piccolo mini-runs can be used to add a colourful, liquid swirl to earthy rhythmic passages.
Humorous touches are provided by the odd cartoonish oboe lick, jumpy, jocular clarinet trio figures and ‘oom-pah’ low woodwind patterns redolent of circus music. On a more serious note, the low strings perform a lovely, sonorous sustained major chord which reminded me of the opening of BBC TV’s The Sky At Night theme music — you can program such chordal events with multisamples, but a real string section’s rendition is hard to beat.
Many of Capriccio’s phrases are constructed on a simple root-fifth-octave or single-note basis and are therefore neither major nor minor. This plain, open tonality gives composers more freedom to alter and extend the harmony of their scores when adding extra parts. Phrases that have a major and minor version are identified as such in the Phrase Picker window; those marked ‘PAR’ (short for parallel minor key) transpose up a minor third when you play a minor triad, introducing the flattened third, sixth and seventh intervals of the original key’s minor scale.
Capriccio’s lack of choir phrases is compensated by the appearance of two new instrumental categories: the Pitched Percussion instrument is divided into ‘iron’ (glockenspiel and tubular bells), ‘wood’ (xylophone) and piano, each with its own set of lively rhythmic phrases. The piano (which spends a fair bit of time banging around in its thunderous low register) has some nice licks where the instrument’s strings are muted with the palm of the hand, while the high-pitched glock and xylophone phrases can be combined into a very pretty sound picture.
A cool multi-sampled percussion patch maps out tam tam gong, piatti cymbals, anvil-like iron hits and some excellent, powerful low drum samples, basking in a very pleasing, natural concert hall ambience and mapped for two-handed playing, these ethnic-sounding drums are a star feature. I was disappointed not to find any full-length crashes in the piatti hits; the player truncates the sustain of the hand-clashed cymbals in all performances, robbing them of some of their explosive quality.
As in Grosso, a large number of percussion phrases featuring taiko, orchestral snare and bass drums and metals are included. Many are of a militaristic nature, well suited to hectic and violent screen mayhem, with a big, masculine presence, straightforward rhythmic construction and positive forward momentum. A lighter, more original touch is provided by a 16th-note pattern sounding like a cross between handclaps and drum shell hits.
A cool new Runs instrument contains runs played by high strings (unison violins and violas) and woodwind ensemble (piccolo, two flutes, two oboes and two clarinets) which can be used separately or in combination. The runs are one or two-octave, major and harmonic-minor ascending scales played over one, two, three or four beats; there are a few ascending / descending versions, but no stand-alone descending option. Each run type has an alternative starting a fourth below the key note, and the woodwind runs also benefit from round-robin alternations. As you’d expect, all runs are tempo-sync’ed, ensuring precise timing co-ordination with the regular phrases.
To trigger a run, you first have to play a triad in the ‘chord recognition area’ to select the key and scale type, then activate the run with one of four preset-select keys positioned higher up the keyboard. As with the main phrases, the ‘Harmonic Shift’ function (explained in our SOS Minimal review) enables you to access harmonically related keys by pressing a note in the upper octave of keyswitches.
When runs of different lengths are combined, the software intelligently aligns their melodic peaks and/or end points, an ingenious piece of programming which gives satisfying, tight and natural-sounding musical results.
As in Minimal and Grosso, Capriccio’s built-in score view shows a mini-score for each of its phrases in all 12 keys. Major and minor variations are also displayed where available. A great new ‘Drag MIDI’ feature allows you to drop a MIDI file of the score into a track in your DAW simply by dragging and dropping it. (When using Kontakt in stand-alone mode, you can drag the MIDI file directly onto your desktop.) This is a great, time-saving resource for doubling phrases with samples from other libraries, editing the notes or preparing a version for live players. The only minor caveat is that the MIDI file is generated directly from the score rather than derived from actual performances, so subtle musical nuances in the original phrase may not be reflected in the MIDI data. A 186-page PDF conductor’s score of all the phrases is also available as an optional extra.
Other new features include a Sample Offset control which allows phrases to be moved forwards or backwards by a maximum of one beat — I found dragging a phrase an eighth note early produces an instant reggae feel! You can also use this function subtly to adjust the timing of phrases relative to one another.
Those blessed (or cursed) with sensitive hearing may detect that Capriccio’s phrases are, somewhat unhelpfully in my opinion, presented in A=441 tuning rather than the industry standard A=440. The difference is subtle, but for the sake of consistency I’d advise users to load each patch, open its Options menu, reset the tuning to A=440 and re-save it. The library has only 13 patches in total, so the procedure shouldn’t take long!
Potential buyers should bear in mind that with the exception of the multisampled percussion, Capriccio is restricted to phrases and runs. If you want to program a melody line, you’ll need orchestral section multisamples (such as those in Sonokinetic’s Da Capo, recorded in the same hall as Capriccio).
Capriccio completes a trilogy of orchestral section phrase libraries optimised for the creation of film, trailer and media music. While focusing on drive and drama, the musical range of the phrases is varied and entertaining; many have built-in dynamic movement, which adds animation and expression to scores.
As with Sonokinetic’s previous collections, I enjoyed the sound of the instruments and found inspiration in combining their phrases. Even for composers who have the skill to orchestrate their own music, this is a useful resource containing some impressive sonorities: expect to hear it at work, stoking the rhythmic fires and adding orchestral pomp and circumstance, in all manner of music productions.
Since libraries containing the ‘quadruple whammy’ of strings, woodwinds, brass and tuned percussion phrases are as rare as wise sayings by Donald Trump, we have to concede that the only viable alternative to Capriccio is Sonokinetic’s previous collection Grosso. That library’s phrases are all in 12/8, Capriccio’s are in 4/4 — take your pick!
- High 25
- Mid 31
- Low 24
- Woodwinds (49)
- High 17
- Mid 19
- Low 13
- Brass (61)
- High 20
- Mid 19
- Low 22
- Pitched Percussion (41)
- Iron 15
- Wood 11
- Piano 15
- Untuned Percussion (144)
- High 39
- Mid 49
- Low 56
- Runs (21)
- Strings 8
- Woodwinds 13
Numbers refer to basic phrase and run types, of which there are 396 in total.
The 252 pitched phrases will play in all 12 keys.
- A large collection of tempo-sync’ed orchestral section phrases recorded in a great-sounding concert hall.
- Recorded from four mic positions.
- The phrases are varied, dynamic and well orchestrated.
- A handy preview function facilitates speedy auditioning.
- Identifying phrases via a menu of graphic symbols can be confusing.
Combining pre-recorded phrases from different orchestral sections is a quick and enjoyable way of making music. By providing separate strings, woodwinds, brass and tuned percussion sections, and adding a set of powerful percussion multisamples, Capriccio gives you the means to quickly create big-sounding, flexible orchestral scores which automatically follow key changes and sync to your project tempo. For those that want to dig deeper, built-in mini-scores are an invaluable educational tool that show how instruments can be blended to create effective musical results.