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electronic MUSICIAN

Download of the Month: Swar Systems

By Len Sasso | January 1, 2004

Swar Systems has developed a series of software products for learning and composing Indian classical and folk music based on the Raga (melody) and Tala (rhythm) systems. Available in various formats and combinations, the software has three basic elements: a sample library of 22 Indian instruments called Volume North 1, a collection of over 1,000 MIDI loops of authentically played phrases, and an extensive Flash tutorial with audio examples covering the history and structure of Hindustani music. By press time, Swar Systems will also have released Volume North 2, featuring additional North Indian instruments.

SwarShala 3.0 (Win, $140) packages all three elements in a single standalone application. SwarShala has three panes. The Learn pane offers a self-contained version of the tutorial. The Practice pane sets up parameters for virtual musicians you can accompany. The Compose pane is a multitrack sequencer for arranging the included Standard MIDI Files (SMFs), for creating your own, and for playing them using the Swar collection of sampled instruments.

SwarPlug (Mac/Win, $170) is a VSTi, developed in conjunction with LinPlug, containing the 22-instrument sound library. SwarTrax ($195) is a CD-ROM of the SwarPlug instrument library in popular sampler formats, including Akai, SampleCell, SoundFont, and others by request. Both packages include the SMF sequence library and standalone Swar Librarian software for auditioning the MIDI files.

SwarTutorial (Mac/Win, $50), which runs on your Internet browser, is the same tutorial as in SwarShala's Learn pane. (Because SwarShala runs just on Windows, this is the only way to run the tutorial on a Mac.) SwarTutorial is a standout presentation.

Operating SwarPlug is simple: it has knobs for Gain, Pan, and Pitch-Bend Range, and that's it. I had no problems using it in Steinberg Cubase SX and Emagic Logic 6 (after conversion with FXpansion VST to AudioUnit Adapter). I was also able to import the SoundFont sample libraries in Reason's NN-XT sampler and use them with the Swar MIDI-sequence library in Reason. SwarPlug is the easier method, but either way works. The MP3 example SwarSong combines Swar library files for tabla, sitar, tanpura, pakhawaj, and bansuri (see Web Clip 1).

The SMFs cover a wide range of Raga-based parts for all the instruments. The Librarian makes it extremely easy to audition the MIDI files on the instruments for which they were created. The files are classified by instrument and then by compositional element, making it easy to mix and match parts and then import the SMFs into your sequencing software. You'll find audio examples and software demos at Swar's Web site. Swar Systems; e-mail sales@swarsystems.com; Web www.swarsystems.com.

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