UJAM target media composers with the latest addition to their Virtual Pianist instrument series.
UJAM have recently expanded their ‘virtual musician’ instrument range to include both synth and piano‑based options. The latest in the Virtual Pianist line is SCORE and, as the title suggests, the performance style under the spotlight is most likely to appeal to media composers. So, if film, TV, video or game soundtrack creation is your thing, could UJAM Virtual Pianist SCORE be a useful software‑based session musician to keep in your studio?
SCORE follows UJAM’s well‑established design ethos in that pretty much every control you need to access is contained within a single window. Over the years, this streamlined approach has been very cleverly refined to give the user additional options to ‘direct’ the various virtual performers. SCORE offers the latest iteration of that and, as such, it includes the ability to switch between two modes; Player (SCORE creates a performance based upon the notes or chords you play) or Instrument (it behaves as a conventional virtual piano instrument), giving you flexibility in how the final performance is created.
The underlying piano sounds are based upon a sampled Steinway D, but you also get multiple ways to adjust the sound via the five ‘character’ presets, the Dark‑Light slider, and via the Finisher and Ambience presets. These last two can introduce additional samples (for example, various string styles) and some impressive creative sound design, letting you go way beyond standard piano sounds when your cue requires it. Sonically, therefore, SCORE is suitably cinematic.
Embedded within the 175 global presets, SCORE offers some 40 performance preset styles in Player mode. Each of the latter contains six performance ‘intensity’ options plus additional keys for triggering low/high chords and add‑on, style‑specific, note fills for an extra flourish, all available via trigger keys. You also get velocity/dynamic control (via the pitch‑bend wheel) and ‘Busyness’ (via the mod wheel), with the latter influencing the number of notes triggered. Finally, the three chord voicing modes — Simple, Universal and Complex – also influence how the virtual pianist performs.
You then simply trigger MIDI notes — either single notes or multiple notes (SCORE’s chord recognition converts note combinations into chords within your chosen key) and let the performance happen. Essentially, SCORE will adapt its in‑built performance styles to suit your chord sequence, and you can adjust the intensity and dynamics via the various trigger switches and mod/pitch wheel options. You can also guide the left‑/right‑hand note range using sliders on the coloured mini‑keyboard display.
Stylistically, SCORE covers quite a lot of ground with performance presets that go from relatively simple to more specialised. However, they all do exactly what most media composers are looking for; they create a musical mood. It is breathtakingly easy to build the core of a cue that targets a specific emotion with just a few notes and/or chord changes.
It’s also worth noting that you can drag and drop MIDI from SCORE to your host and build a performance from that if you prefer. SCORE can then be switched to Instrument mode for playback. And, added in an update that appeared as I was writing this review, you can now also send MIDI out from SCORE to another virtual instrument. This worked perfectly in Cubase Pro 12 on my test system and opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities, although I don’t think it is currently supported within Logic.
It’s difficult not to be impressed with the workflow, sounds or creative possibilities.
SCORE is the first of the UJAM Virtual Pianist plug‑ins that I’ve had the chance to fully explore. It’s difficult not to be impressed with the workflow, sounds or creative possibilities. I’ll be more than happy to keep SCORE within my music‑making toolkit and I’ll now be keen to try the other two currently available titles; Vogue and Vibe. You can too, because UJAM have free 30‑day trials of all three — and a tempting bundle price — available on their website. SCORE scores on all fronts; go check it out.
SCORE sounds great, is easy to use, and can create some fabulous performances. Aspiring or busy media composers will love the inspiration it can offer.