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Tonehammer Epic Percussion

Multi-format By Dave Stewart
Published March 2010

Hans Zimmer's bright idea of adding large ethnic drums to the orchestra in film scores has proved popular in recent years, leading to the current spate of 'cinematic percussion' libraries. San Francisco‑based company Tonehammer have their own take on the subject: their Epic Tom Ensemble (1.5GB, formerly available in separate 'low' and 'high' volumes) consists of a five‑man percussion ensemble banging (and that is the operative word) variously sized toms and bass drums in a large hall. The room's bright, highly reflective sound generates masses of natural reverb, but if you push up the mod wheel the reverb decay magically disappears.

Tonehammer Epic Percussion


The Epic Tom samples are mainly loud, flamming ensemble hits ranging from thunderous low booms to high‑pitched rototoms, octabans and stick hits. A small selection of male vocal ensemble shouts is also included. I followed the makers' advice and played the layered 'Toms All' multi with palms rather than fingers. The resulting din would wake the dead.

Tonehammer's 1.8GB Epic Dhol Ensemble features three players whacking merry hell out of Punjabi dhol drums in the same hall used for Epic Toms. The samples share the latter's ambience, but offer a wider range of performances. As well as traditional bass and treble stick strikes on either end of the drum, there are equally forceful hand hits (including some cool crescendo rolls), brush strokes and ritualistic‑sounding mallet hits. In addition, there's a huge selection of impressive tempo‑matched loops, ranging from spacey, trip‑hoppish grooves to tribal rave‑ups.

Small Epic Percussion (1.6GB) is a useful and varied collection that shares the reverberant hall acoustic of its big brothers, Tom and Dhol. It comprises traditional orchestral hand percussion (tambourine, triangle, claves, shakers and vibraslap, for example) and ethnic items such as the monkey drum, native American hand drum and finger cymbals. This is augmented by a small but devastatingly effective set of non‑percussive bonus ambiences — eerie, mysterious, disquieting, other‑worldly soundscapes, which are worth the entry price alone.

These three titles can be bought separately, or collectively under the title of Tonehammer Composer Bundle 2. Also included in the bundle are Bongajon (a 1.26GB, 8000‑sample set that brackets three pairs of bongo drums sampled in every way imaginable with a pair of earthy, bonky Cuban cajon box drums) and the 220MB Bamboo Stick Ensemble, which is a collection of ambient clacks, scrapes and swooshes that exploits the hitherto unsuspected musical potential of a bunch of seven‑foot bamboo garden poles. These download‑only instruments come in Kontakt 2 and WAV format (Epic Toms also includes Logic EXS24 and SFZ instruments). Dave Stewart

Tonehammer Composer Bundle 2 $360 (only from Tonehammer web site); Epic Tom Ensemble $99; Epic Dhol Ensemble $79; Small Epic Percussion $39; Bongajon $59; Bamboo Stick Ensemble $39.

Big Fish Audio + 1 800 717 3474.