[REVIEW] Samplemodeling “The Saxophones”

Even if I am fond of “real” acoustic instruments,I have always been intrigued by “synthetic” wind instruments,be them sampled or synthesized. For example,I really like some flute patches that come with the Patchman Turbo VL upgrade chip for the Yamaha VL70-m,and I find them quite expressive and playable with my Akai EWI 4000s. Alas,I always failed at finding a decent implementation of a virtual sax.

Using a sampler rather than a synth – including synths that use physical modeling to replicate the sound characteristics of a real wind instrument,as is the case of the VL70-m – surely delivers a result closer to a natural sax sound,yet I have always been disappointed by the lack of playability and the inability of achieving the many timbre variations that only a real sax can offer.

When I decided to record music for sax quartet,the choice was between purchasing a real tenor and baritone (to be added to my alto and soprano) or trying again with a sampled instrument. This is how I got to Samplemodeling and its range of products,which includes brass (Trumpet,Trombone,and French Horn &Tuba) and woodwind instruments (Saxophones,Clarinets,Flutes,and Double Reeds).

Their list price ranges from 159 euros (about 200$) for products with two instruments (e.g. Trumpet,Trombone and Clarinets) up to 259 euros (330$) for packages with four instruments,such as Saxophones (which includes soprano,alto,tenor,and baritone) and Double Reeds (oboe,English horn,bassoon,and contrabassoon). These price tags make Samplemodeling products more expensive than libraries that offer hundreds instruments for a fraction of a dollar each,but this comparison is misleading,because none of the instruments in these libraries can really compete with Samplemodeling.

The company has been on the market for a while and gained a very high reputation among musicians,especially EWI players. The first line of their products is based on the Native Instruments’ Kontakt platform,and in fact they include the free Kontakt Player for users who don’t own the complete product. This holds true for brass instruments,but newer woodwind instruments – including The Saxophones – are based on a proprietary engine named SWAM (Synchronous Wavelength Acoustic Modeling). For more tech information about SWAM check this page,but for now it’s enough to say that this platform is a further step towards more realistic virtual woodwind instruments. SWAM instruments don’t require you to install the Kontakt player.

Installation,licensing and required hardware

The good news is Samplemodeling software needs no dongle key (e.g. the iLok dongle),which means you don’t have to give up to a USB port on your computer AND you don’t feel you are treated as a potential pirate. Instead,you get two license keys,which allow you to install their software on two different computers. If you buy a third computer you can have one key deactivated and reactivated on the new hardware. As is common with most vendors,a valid license gives you the ability to download future minor releases of the same product,without having to pay for a yearly subscription. My review is based on version 2.4,but I learned that version 2.5 is about to be made available (for free) to all registered users.

Samplemodeling instruments work on Windows XP and later and on Mac (OSX 10.6 and later). They are provided only as plug-ins in the VST2,AAX,and AudioUnit formats,therefore they require a plug-in host such as Cubase,Live,Logic,or ProTools. If you don’t have a host program,you can use a free one,such as Cantabile Lite. In all my tests I used the AudioUnit version loaded inside Apple MainStage 3.

Interestingly,Samplemodeling virtual instruments are built with the wind player in mind:unlike other software,you must use either a wind controller (such as the Akai EWI or Yamaha WX5),a MIDI keyboard with either a breath controller (such as the Yamaha BC3) or – at the very least – an expression pedal that emits CC11 messages. Without any of these MIDI controllers,SWAM instruments don’t sound at all!

Installing The Saxophones on my MacBook Pro was a breeze. I haven’t used by second serial key yet,therefore I don’t know how it works on a Windows system,but I don’t expect any trouble. I scanned the Samplemodeling forum before getting the software,and the satisfaction level among users is impressively high. This surely means something.

First impressions

Quite opportunely,Samplemodeling provides three configurations to start with:for keyboard players with an expression pedal,for keyboard players with breath controller,and for wind controller players. Each configuration correctly initializes the program’s parameters to work properly with the corresponding MIDI controller,and in fact all the four instruments of The Saxophones worked “well enough” as soon as I loaded them in MainStage.

But probably “well enough” isn’t enough for you,thus you need to read the manual to get the best out of these instruments;failing to do so means that you are leveraging a fraction of their potential. The documentation is short,clear and concise,and just takes a few minutes. Once I grasped the fundamental concepts,it took less than one hour to tweak the many available parameters until I got the sound and the responsiveness I expected. The parameters are grouped in three distinct sets:

  • basic sound parameters,in the main window
  • advanced sound parameters,in the Options window
  • MIDI CC mappings,also in the Options window

Let’s have a look at basic parameters first,even though they aren’t really “basic”,as you’ll see in a moment. In the top half of the window you can set the intonation (in Hertz or cents),the transposition (in semitones),the pitchbend up and down ranges,the volume,and the pan. You can also control reverb,even though I prefer MainStage’s own reverb plug-ins because they provide more options.

TheSaxophones main windowA rectangular area in the center of the main window shows a subset of the messages arriving from the MIDI controller,i.e. pitch bend,velocity,expression (CC11) or breach (CC2),and vibrato. It also provides a graph of the dynamic envelope and shows how the software is interpreting the way you articulate the phase (e.g. legato or staccato). These pieces of information are crucial,because The Saxophones – unlike traditional samplers – uses sophisticated algorithms to understand the musician’s intentions and generates slightly different sounds depending on the result of this analysis. If what you hear isn’t what you had in mind,you should keep an eye on these parameters to understand how the software is analyzing your playing style.

The quest for the perfect parameter value

In the bottom half of the main window you see more advanced controls that directly affect the resulting sound. Your first option is which instrument/microphone combination you want to use:each sax model (soprano,alto,tenor,and bari) provides between 8 and 10 variations,labeled with names such as “Sax 1 Dry” or “Sax 2 Bright”. Each variations results in a slightly different timbre,even though the differences aren’t always noticeable,at least to my ears. After some tests,I found myself focusing on two or three different variations for each sax model.

Except for a few sliders whose meaning is obvious – for example,the amount of growl,the compressor rate,and the release time – the controls in this area require a deep knowledge of acoustic principles and honestly I can’t really claim I could grasp the meaning of each of them. In some cases I managed to have interesting sound variations by moving a slider,in others I found no audible difference,probably because some controls must be adjusted in groups rather than individually.

For example,I found out that lowering the default value of the Dyn.Pitch parameter – which controls random pitch fluctuations in response to different breath intensity – allows me to articulate phases in a way that is closer to my playing style on the real instrument. Likewise,increasing the SubHarm value – which simulates the sub-harmonics that acoustic instruments create one octave below the played note – results in a “richer” sound.

Some parameters are meant to be controlled dynamically by sending CC messages from your MIDI controls. For example,the Growl and Flutter Tongue values should be set to zero because you don’t want these effects in all your phrases:by mapping them to specific CC messages you can enable them on-the-fly and add expressiveness to your phrases.

A couple of sliders affect the noise produced by breath and keys;when playing at low volume,these two parameters add realism to the sound. You can control them using CC messages,too,but in practice their default value is OK for most circumstances.

As if all these options weren’t enough,the Options button (near the bottom-left corner) brings up a window with additional advanced parameters (see right portion of following figure). Here you can set the way portamento and vibrato work,the expression curve,under which circumstances the virtual sax “overblows”,etc. I haven’t played much with these values,because I was already satisfied with their default value,but it’s good to know that you have so many options to tailor the virtual instrument to your taste and style.

TheSaxophones options window
The SWAM engine also supports microtones and non-tempered tuning. In the Options window you can select the detuning value (in cents) for each of the twelve semitones,but this operation alone doesn’t change the intonation. Instead,you have to activate the microtuning feature either in the main window or by sending a specific CC message. In either case,you can decide which notes use the alternate tuning. Notice that you can detune any note by the desired amount of cents,but you still have “only” 12 notes available:this means,for example,that you can play non-tempered Indian ragas and other Eastern scales but you still can’t perform any sort of quarter-tone compositions,which would require up to 24 different keys.

Optimal MIDI and EWI settings

The fields in the left portion of the Options window allow you to customize how MIDI CC messages map to most of the parameters just described. The default mappings are reasonable,yet they assume that you have a large number of CC controllers available,such as a MIDI keyboard with a lot of sliders and knobs or – if you are an EWI player – a foot MIDI controller such as Behringer FBC1010 or McMillen SoftStep. Even if I have both these foot controllers,my goal was to achieve good results with the EWI alone,thus I spent some time to configure the software and the EWI for the highest expressiveness. Here’s the configuration I came up with.

In the SWAM Engine:

Trasposition: +3 semitones for alto and baritone,-2 semitones for soprano and tenor – this means that a given fingering delivers the same note that would produce on the real instrument,so for example the low Bb generates more or less the same characteristic tone you get from the saxophone.
PitchBend Up: 0.0 semitones – this is necessary so that you can use the EWI pitchbend plate to send a specific CC message without affecting the pitch.
PitchBend Down: 1.0 semitones – with an acoustic sax you typically don’t “bend” a note for more than a semitone;besides,using a small value allows you to achieve a “pitch vibrato” by rapidly moving the thumb on the EWI pitchbend plate.
Expression: mapped to CC2 (breath controller),the standard setting if you select the wind instrument configuration.
Vibrato Rate: mapped to CC1 (default),to allow you to apply vibrato using the modulation wheel (on a keyboard) or the pitchbend up plate on the EWI (by using the configuration described below).
Portamento Time: mapped to CC5 (default)
Growl: mapped to CC4,so that you can add growl effect by pressing an auxiliary key on the EWI (see below).
Overblow: mapped to CC64,so that you can achieve this effect by pressing a key on the EWI (see below).

On the EWI:

You should configure the EWI to send note velocity and breath information (CC2) with each note,and not send volume (CC7) messages. Sending velocity doesn’t really change the note volume or timbre (which depends on CC2),but can affect other behaviors,for example the transition time from note to note during glissandos.

To match the SWAM settings described above,you should map pitchbend up values to the CC1 (modulation) message,which lets you easily have a variable degree of vibrato by simply sliding your right thumb up the pitchbend plate. The Glide plate should map to CC5,so that it controls the portamento in legato phrases.

The Hold key – i.e. the auxiliary key closer to the mouthpiece – should be mapped to CC64 and send the value 65 (or any value greater than 64) when pressed the first time,so that you can activate overblow mode by just pressing this EWI key. Pressing it again disables overblow.

The Octave auxiliary key should be mapped to CC4 so that you can achieve the growl effect by pressing a single key;in the setup you should specify a value between 30 and 127,depending on the amount of growl you desire. Unfortunately,the EWI can only send a single value,thus you can’t apply a varying degree of growl unless you use a MIDI foot controller. Pressing the key again returns to normal (non-growl) sound. Alternatively,you can give up to either overblow or growl,and instead use one of the EWI auxiliary keys to activate microtuning.

Finally,I strongly recommend that you reduce the delay that the EWI introduces between playing a fingered note;the default value for this parameter is 7 and you probably never edited it,but Samplemodeling tech support recommends adopting a lower value,say 3 or 4,to reduce the number of “ghost” MIDI notes that the instrument sometimes emits and that is sometimes responsible for spurious notes,clicks,etc.

Reality check

It’s time to answer the questions that always come up when speaking about virtual instruments:do these instruments sound as good as the “real” ones? Can “The Saxophones” replace real,acoustic saxes?

Unfortunately,the only answer I can provide is:it depends. More precisely,it depends on why you want to use a virtual instrument in the first place and what are your expectations.

Let’s start saying that the quality of sound is fully satisfactory:if you play single notes or slow musical phrases,the saxes in “The Saxophones” can be hardly distinguished from acoustic instruments. Same consideration applies if you want to record a big band section:to get the idea,listen to the demos in this page. In the hands of a good EWI player,a virtual sax can be also used to play ballads and medium-tempo songs,as this video demonstrates.

Samplemodeling instruments were accurately recorded in an anechoic room with expensive mics and using first-class instruments played by professional musicians,thus a recording session based on these sampled instruments can often deliver better results that those you typically obtain in your home studio. If you don’t have four saxophonists at hand,“The Saxophones” is your next better option.

The sound of all the instruments provided in the package is equally good,yet I have my preferences. In my opinion,the baritone and the soprano delivers slightly better results,then comes the tenor and finally the alto. But again,this is my personal opinion and it probably depends on me being an alto sax player,which means that have higher expectations for that specific model.

Playing these virtual instruments in live gigs can be challenging. The detail that makes the biggest difference between a virtual or real sax isn’t the sound itself,rather it’s the playability of the virtual instrument:a sampled instrument just cannot render the countless timbre and articulation variations that you can achieve with an acoustic instrument,such as alternate fingerings and different tonguing techniques;you can sing in the instrument,use multiphonics,produce vibrato by using either the breath or the jaw,and so forth. You can’t reasonably expect that a virtual instrument can implement all these techniques,even though Samplemodeling offer some interesting possibilities,for example in the way they implement growl and flutter tonguing.

Just remember that every single detail of how these instruments sound can be controlled via CC messages:if you really want to get the best results you should read the manual,learn how to tweak the most important parameters,and maybe use an EWI with a MIDI foot controller (or a master MIDI keyboard with a breath controller and a lot of sliders and knobs).

Free backing tracks for practicing!

Practicing can be quite boring,especially if you play sax,flute,trumpet,clarinet,or another monophonic wind instrument . Worse,practicing with your instrument alone can bring to some bad musical habits,including not being able to play “on the beat”and not being aware of the relationships between the notes/scales/arpeggios you play and the chords these notes were supposed to be playing upon.

Virtually all teachers recommend to use a metronome to prevent bad timing habits,but what about the inability to hear and “feel”the actual harmony implied by the scales you are playing?

Many players remedy to this issue by using play-along records (e.g. Aebersold,Hal Leonard). For example,Aebersold’s volumes 1,3,and 16 offer great backing tracks for practicing scales,II-V progressions,and turnarounds,respectively. Other musicians prefer making their own backing tracks with Band-in-a-Box (BIAB). However,both approaches have limitations.

Play-along CDs include realistic backing tracks,but limited choice of keys,chord sequences,and tempos. Most recording tracks are medium speed,which can be problematic for beginners,who should practice scales and arpeggios VERY slowly to master the subtleties of rhythm,such as playing “ahead”or “behind”the beat.

Band-in-a-Box and other similar programs far more flexible,in that you can enter any chord sequence as well as easily change the key and the tempo. Recent BIAB versions include features such as RealBand and RealTracks,which can produce natural-sounding tracks that are much more realistic than the computer-generated sounds of its earlier versions. However,all these additional features make BIAB quite a complex software to learn,so complex that BIAB maker PG Music had to produce many tutorial videos to let users learn how to master all these features.

Finally,both play-along CDs and BIAB surely don’t come for free. Aebersold CDs are 10-15$ each,whereas BIAB starts at 129$ and goes up to 669$ if you want all the RealTracks you might need. No pocket money,really…

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In a recent post I introduced ChordPulse,a simple yet useful Windows program that can generate backing tracks in a very easy manner.  Chord Pulse accompaniment styles are simplicistic –if compared to BIAB,at least  –yet they exactly what you need to practice rhythms over basic harmonies. More important,ChordPulse is so simple that it takes only a few minutes to discover all its features. Like BIAB,you can define chord sequences of (almost) any length,define loops inside the sequence,change the tempo,the accompaniment styles,and the key. You can even tune the software to frequencies other than the standard 440Hz.

What I overlooked in my review is that there are as many as THREE versions of ChordPulse,namely:ChordPulse (full version,$27.95 or 19.95 euros),ChordPulse Lite (freeware,has limited number of chord types and accompaniment styles),and ChordPulse Player (also freeware,can play songs created with the full version but can’t create new songs). The great thing about the Player version is that you are still able to change the tempo and the key,define loops,etc.  It was perfect for what we need!

Using the full version I created a few chord sequences that are specifically meant to be played while practicing with a wind instrument. You can download and play these files with ChordPulse Player at the speed you prefer,starting at lower tempos and going faster once you feel comfortable to do so. Most sequences are available in all keys,but you can change the key by pressing the Up/Down arrow keys.

You can download these sequences as a single ZIP file,which contains the following exercises:

Simple Chords -Major,minor,dominant 7th,augmented,diminished,and half-diminished chords,played by themselves or in simple sequences (e.g. Major to Minor). The first 12 sequences (or pages,according to ChordPulse terminology) only contain chords in C key,but you can easily transpose them using the Up/Down arrow keys. Pages from C to Z include sequences of chords of same type that raise or descend chromatically,whole tones,minor thirds,perfect fourths,etc. Great for practicing Brecker-like patterns!

II-V-I Sequences –The first 12 pages contain the basic II-V-I sequence in all keys. If you want to practice on the II-V sequence,you just create a loop that includes only the first two chords in each page. You can practice each page separatedly,until you feel confident in that key,or you can play these 12 pages as a loop (read later). The remaining 24 pages contain II-V or II-V-I sequences that raise or descend chromatically,by whole tones,minor thirds,major thrids,and perfect fourths.

II-V-I Sequences (Minor) – Same as previous exercises,except it contains IIm7/5b –V7+alt –Imin sequences. (Unfortunately,ChordPulse can’t easily generate complex chords such as dominant augmented chords,therefore the sound of the V7+alt chord isn’t perfect.

Turnarounds –Contains many variations of the common I- VIm7 –IIm7 –V7 turnaround,including variations with tritone substitutions. The first 10 pages contain only turnarounds in C key (use arrow keys to transpose),the remaining pages contain turnaround in all keys,in ascending or descending sequences. When creating these turnarounds I used this page as a reference.

A few tips for using ChordPulse and these chord sequences:

  • Use the File-Session Notes menu command (or just press the N key) to read a description of the contents of each file.
  • Use the Up and Down arrow keys or the commands near the bottom-right corner to transpose to different keys.
  • Use the Repeat All command to play the entire sequence,or the Repeat Page command to loop over the chords in current page. (You can alternate between these modes by clicking the third button from the right,near the top border.
  • You can loop over chords in the same page by clicking the mouse immediately under the first chord of the sequence,and then dragging the mouse to the last chord in the sequence.
  • You can loop over chords in different pages by right-clicking the first chord and selecting the “Loop from this Bar”menu command,then right-clicking on the last chord of the sequence and selecting the “Loop to this Bar”menu command.

ONE LAST WORD! If you find ChordPulse useful,consider purchasing the full version! Even if you don’t do it immediately,at least send its author Laszlo Oroszi an email saying how much you appreciate his work and his generousity (don’t forget that the Lite and Player editions are completely free!).

Wireless MIDI for just 8.99$

I recently bought the MIDI Jet Pro for my EWI,so that I send my melodies to my PC,my Yahama VL70-m or Roland SonicCell without a cable in between. I am quite satisfied with it,but admittedly I wasn’t very happy to pay $425 for the joy of wireless MIDI.

Now a cheaper alternative exists for whoever has an iPhone,iPad or iPod Touch. MidiBridge by Audeonic costs only 9 bucks and offers much more than any hardware MIDI wireless system. (I should add “theoretically”because I haven’t tested it yet…)

In short,MidiBridge works as a virtual MIDI patchbay:it takes the MIDI data entering the iPhone/iPad/iPod and sends it to a PC,Mac or another iOS device that sits on the same wireless network. This is where the similiarities with a hardware wireless MIDI device ends,though,because there is a lot more.

  • You can dispatch (clone) the MIDI data to multiple devices,withouth the need of dedicated hardware
  • You can analyze input MIDI data and send it to different devices depending on their MIDI channel
  • You can filter out MIDI data based on several attributes,such as Control Change values,aftertouch
  • …etc. etc.

The vendor claims that the latency is very low with hardware devices and is in the range 3-8 milliseconds with CoreMIDI networking (RTP). Of course,your iOS device needs to be equipped with a MIDI interface (e.g. Line6 MIDI Moblizer,IK Multimedia iRig,or the camera kit if you have an iPad),but if you are a musician and own an iPhone,odds are that you already have them.

As an EWI player,I guess the most natural use of MidiBridge is with the iPhone or iPod Touch,which can be connected to the EWI and still be carried in a pocket or arm band. The iPad is a bit too large and heavy for that. Also,if you want to connect your MIDI instrument to an expander instead of a computer you need another iOS device (including an iPad) that sits near the expander.

BTW,Audeonic has another interesting MIDI app named MidiVision,which allows you to monitor MIDI data flowing into your iOS device. Very useful if something doesn’t work as expected and you need to understand why.

Will we throw away our Aebersold’s play-alongs?

I started playing sax when I was sixteen,and that was some years before James Aebersold begun producing his wonderful play-along albums. (Yes,I am *that* old…even if we prefer the term “experienced”).

In those days,the only way to practice a solo on My Favorite Things or Impressions –short of having a very patient friend who could spend hours on the piano while you assimilate the subtle differences between Dorian and Phrygian modes –was to play over the actual Coltrane’s record,trying to ignore their immensely beautiful melodic lines and concentrating on piano,bass,and drums.

Aebersold changed all this,and since then virtually every jazz player on the planet has perfectioned his/her style thanks to these or similar play-along albums. It is great to “virtually”jam with professional studio musicians (in some cases,*great* musicians). After all,what can be more inspiring than a pianist comping behind you in the same style of McCoy Tyner?

Of course,that McCoy Tyner is far more inspiring than any other pianist who plays in his style,but –again –it’s hard to play over Coltrane’s solo and still preserve some sort of self-confidence about your playing 🙂

Today I read an announce from Roland that might change all this. The new R-MIX software promises to be the next new killer-app for improving your music skills. In short,this audio processing software allows to “visually”manipulate an audio track and do a few wonders such creating “minus-one” type karaoke files from existing songs by lowering the level of the pre-recorded vocal or any other instrument you select.

This appears to be much more sophisticated than any “vocal canceling”software seen so far,none of which works particular well. These programs simply remove sounds that are equally balanced between left and right channel,on the assumption that the vocal part appers at the center of the stereo image. This is seldom true for the voice and rarely true with sax,trumpet,guitar,and other jazz solo instruments.

Not only does R-MIX allow you to play with your favorite pianists,bassists and drummers,it only allows you to change the tempo and/or the pitch of the song. Now you can practice your favorite blues in all 12 keys and speed. That’s even better than Aebersold!

R-MIX can also perform sophisticated audio processing. For example,you can remove the noise from the amateur recording you made the last time you saw Michael Brecker on stage (something within reach of other similar software) or add reverb or delay to only your sax in the recording you made at your last rehersal (something no other software can do,as far as I know).

The great news is that R-MIX will be also available on the iPad,in a reduced (and less expensive,I guess) version that is still capable of producing the “minus-one”playing-along thing that I am so interested in.

R-MIX Tab (the iPad version) will be available in November 2011,whereas the full Mac and Windows versions will come in January 2012. Until then,it’s impossible to know whether it will keep its promises,even if this video is quite intriguing. In the meantime,I think I’ll keep my Aebersold collection under lock…just in case 🙂

EWITool,the “other”EWI 4000s editor

The Akai EWI 4000s comes with 100 presets which,quite frankly,don’t do justice to its internal synt. There are just a handful of patches that are really playable,and none of them vaguely resemble an acoustic instrument,including those that are relatively easy to reproduce with a synt (e.g. clarinet or recorder).

Short of using an external expanders or computer,for us EWiers the choice has always been between these two options:

1) purchase the fantastic Patchman Music EWI4000s collection of sounds by EWI guru Matt Traum
2) create your own sounds with the Vyzex UniQuest Editor that you can download from AKAI website,available for PC and Mac.

(Incidentally,if you don’t have the Patchman collection you are leveraging only a small fraction of the EWI 4000s potential,thus you should order a copy as soon as possible from Matt. At 90$ it’s a bargain.)

However,if you are looking for “that specific sound”and even the Patchman collection doesn’t have anything like it,your only option is to built the patch yourself with the Vyzex editor,which isn’t exactly fun. Or at least,I always found it a bit counterintuitive and unnecessary difficult to use.

Only recently I discovered a third option,in the form of an alternative,open-source EWI 4000s patch editor named EWITool,which you can download from here. Its author Steve Merrony did a great job,and the fact the the documentation is very concise is just another evidence of how simple the software is.

Obviously,to use it at its best you still need to understand how the EWI oscillators and filters work,but in general everyhting seems simpler than with the other editor. By the way,there are two versions,for PC and Debian (but I tested only the former).

EWITools has several neat features,including the ability to load and save all the 100 patches in the EWI,a clipboard where you can store as many patches as you wish (and the clipboard is preserved between sessions!),the creation of multiple libraries,and the ability to work with SYX and BNK files,including single-patch SYX files. Plus a few unique features,such as

  • the ability to create random patches,either from scratch or by randomizing some parameters of an existing patch
  • the ability to “merge”two patches,to create a sound that combines the characteristics of two patches
  • easy acccess to the EWI Patch Exchange.

EWI Patch Exchange was an attempt to create a “marketplace”for EWI players wishing to exchange (for free!) their favorite patches. Unfortunately this attempt should be considered as a failure,because after 3 years there are only about 20 patches in the marketplace,and there haven’t been any new items in the last year. But it’s there and it might resurrected when needed. If nothing else you can find a few new sounds for your EWI.

It seems that –like the EWI Patch Exchange –EWITool is a “dead”project that hasn’t been updated since 2008,which is a real pity because it was a very interesting project. At any rate,the source code is available and maybe not all is lost,because some other developer might pick it from there. Regardless,even in its “current”version 0.6,EWITool is an editor that all EWI players should have at hand.

 

 

Slow down playback for easy transcriptions

You can find many utilities for slowing down playback speed and let you easily transcribe a theme or a solo.

For example,if you own an iPhone,iPod Touch,or iPad you can download Slow Down Music Trainer:this app is free but has a few limitation. Buying the Unlimited Edition (in-app purchase) gives you the ability to change the song key and a few other minor features. For just $2.99 it is a bargain.

Most Windows software for slowing down playback charge more than 3 bucks,thus you will appreciate the following tip,based on a a relatively little known Windows Media Player feature.

To use this hidden feature you should first enable the Now Playing view (use File-View menu command or just press Ctrl+3 key). Next,right-click anywhere on WMM,select the Enhancements submenu and the Play Speed Settings command.

Yes,it’s that simple and –above all –it’s absolutely free!

Windows Media Playeer speed settings