From Yamaha FM patches to pricey sample collections, I’ve never been satisfied with mallet percussion presets. Nothing quite duplicated the live sound of the real thing until I heard Scoring Mallets, a new Kontakt-compatible sample library from Editors’ Choice Award winners HandheldSound. Scoring Mallets comprises just over 15 GB of samples from three instruments—a Yamaha vibraphone, a Malletech xylophone, and a Marimba One marimba—played with mallets made of soft material surrounding a hard inner core for both warmth and bite. Approximately 39,000 individual samples were recorded in a scoring room using a variety of mic perspectives.
LOOKING TO SCORE
Scoring Mallets not only sounds convincing, but it also allows you to perform using techniques that sound as if an accomplished mallet percussionist were playing. To play Scoring Mallets, load it from Kontakt’s Files browser and select one of the instruments. You can’t access it from the Library tab because it’s incompatible with Kontakt’s Add Library feature.
The GUI’s top section has two tabs, Performance and Pattern, and you can toggle between them using keyswitches. The Performance panel controls the tempo of rolls, trills, and glisses and enables 4-mallet techniques such as ripple rolls. The Pattern tab reveals a 16-step sequencer.
The bottom has Mixer, Stage, and Settings tabs. Mixer and Stage are spatial positioning modes. In Mixer, you can toggle four mic perspectives: Loose, Stage, Wide, and either Tight or Tight Center. You can adjust the level and balance of each, plus the width and symmetry of the stereo field for all except Tight Center, which was recorded with a single mic. All knobs and sliders map to MIDI CCs.
The Stage tab reveals the Acoustic Positioner, which places the instrument on a virtual scoring stage. Sliders control stereo image and location in two dimensions. Settings reveals another pair of tabs: Velocity lets you tailor your playing preferences for velocity response, while Performances specifies parameters for rolls, trills, and glisses.
In basic performance mode, you play as you would most keyboard instruments. Every note has velocity layers, release samples, and round robin versions. When Auto is enabled in Performances, you can trigger glissandi and trills by pressing the keys hard enough to exceed an Aftertouch threshold. When Auto is off, you trigger the same articulations using keyswitches.
All three instruments are based on some of the most lifelike samples I’ve ever heard. It doesn’t take long to master the same articulations you’d hear an experienced mallet percussionist use, because triggering them with Aftertouch, keyswitches, or your sustain pedal are intuitive playing techniques. Rolls and trills sound especially convincing, partially because left-and right-hand sounds alternate, and you can control dynamics continuously by playing legato with the sustain pedal down.
Most of all, Scoring Mallets is fun to play. The only other features I might suggest—additional instruments and mallet types or the ability to load Scoring Mallets from the Library tab—would increase its cost and size. But I have no complaints just the way it is, especially considering its affordability. To my ears, recordings made with Scoring Mallets are indistinguishable from recordings made with real marimba, xylophone, and vibraphone, and that’s the ultimate test of any sample library.
Detailed, true-to-life sound. Intuitive real-time control of idiomatic articulations. Versatile and affordable.
Requires full version of Kontakt.