This is not my usual track release. This time, you’ll see and hear how this somewhat funky mixture of instruments is all about the sounds they make. “Orange U Glad“.
Orange Tree Samples
So, if you’re not a musician or musical gear geek, you may prefer to just press play, close your eyes, and listen. But for those who are interested, I’ll give a brief review of their Passion Flute and Evolution Mandolin. The bass, harp, vibes, and 12-string guitar are also all by Orange Tree. Be sure to check out the video at the end of this post to fill in any gaps in my wordiness. (To skip to the Passion Flute review, click here. To skip to the video, click here.)
This virtual instrument (VI) is my favorite one for mandolin. As you hear (and see) in this piece, it provides both an excellent rhythm or backing mandolin as well as a great solo instrument. In bluegrass and other Americana bands, the mandolin often provides a sort of drum kit. Using a variety of muting techniques, the player can contribute to both pitched and percussive sounds to build up rhythms.
The “chop” is one way that a mandolin can emulate a drum. I’ve used the VI to create this technique on the backbeats at the beginning of this audio example. This is the raw sound of Evolution Mandolin without any reverb, etc., which allows you to hear the excellence of the sampling.
At the beginning of the track, “Orange U Glad”, you hear the rhythm mandolin enter right after the bass. The video displays the automation in the VI that creates a more natural and realistic sound to the instrument. Watch the speaker emblem switching between articulations on the VI screen. The portion of the screen dedicated to the 12-string VI also demonstrates how the fret position can be automated. This capability is built into all of the Orange Tree “Evolution” series VIs. In this brief example, you can hear how changing the fret position makes a huge difference in the character of the sound just as it would on a real guitar.
At 01:42 in the full video, you hear the mandolin improvised solo. This is another place that the Evolution Mandolin really shines. I only had to perform the slightest bit of editing to maximize the VI sound after improvising this. That’s the sign of a very useful and well-programed VI.
Note the hammer-ons, harmonics, and misfrets. These are all automatically included based on MIDI velocity (or can be controlled by other MIDI triggers if you prefer). You can see this happening in real-time in the video. (Scroll to the end of this post to view it.)
Additional features can be tweaked in this VI. In fact, there are so many tweakable parameters that I cannot cover them all in this short review. You can scan through some of them in this video of one page of the mandolin VI.
But wait! There’s more.
As the track continues to build you first hear Orange Tree’s CoreBass Pear. This instrument is simple and effective as a jazz or bluegrass (or a mixture of the two) upright bass. The other backing instrument is the Evolution Jumbo 12 (12-string guitar). It’s featured in the video since many of the “Evolution” features are the same across the entire line. The Angelic Harp also makes an early, yet subtle appearance in this track. (Read on for another example of this harp.)
Pure Jazz Vibes is the other featured instrument on this track. You’ll recognize this sound easily on the track. It’s a fine set of samples and easy to use.
Finally, we get to Passion Flute. This VI starts with superbly recorded samples. I’m honored to know Mac Ritchey who was the recording engineer for this project. Mac is an excellent producer, recordist, and a virtuoso musician — notably on oud. The samples he recorded for this VI are a crucial part of why it is so good. Mattan Klein was the professional flutist who performed for these recordings.
Next, the Kontakt instrument has very musical features. Though it’s not the most-tweakable VI, the playability and refined choices make it a fabulous addition to any real instrument sound collection. Here’s a track with only Angelic Harp and Passion Flute as the instrumentation.
One notable feature that is immediately apparent are the overblown notes. These are not desirable for every style of music. Fortunately, Orange Tree provides a keyswitch (F#1) to turn off the overblown articulations. The track just above is an example of the use of this switch.
Alternatively, since the overblown notes are high velocities (approximately 115-127), you can modify the MIDI data to limit or remove this characteristic. In the track here — “Orange U Glad” — the overblowing is completely appropriate.
To make the playback more realistic, Passion Flute includes the in-breath of the player between phrases. Initially, the VI does its best to determine when these breaths would be best added. If you don’t agree, you can always add one of these (round-robin so you don’t get bored with the same breath sound) by triggering them on keyswitch Bb1. Hear the automated breathing just after halfway through this example.
As is common, the VI provides a page where you can modify which of the four microphone positions that were used to record the flute are in your mix. This is also where you modify the effects (EQ and a variety of inserts like reverb) on the sound. Each microphone has its own effect chain. The last page — “Settings” — covers a variety of characteristics of the flute sound, but frankly, the “factory settings” are usually just fine.
Orange Flute Heaven
As you can tell, I’m quite impressed with Orange Tree Samples’ Passion Flute. I’ve already used it on four projects and can’t imagine a more convincing or useful flute VI. It shines most brightly in blues, rock (think Jethro Tull), and jazz. But with the overblowing limited or turned off, this can also be an excellent classical, pop, and new age flute as well.
Please listen to “Orange U Glad” and if you’re a musician, check out this video. Truly, I think you’ll be glad you did.