QUICK PICKS: NEMESYS GigaHarp and Upright Acoustic Bass (GigaSampler)

NemeSys's GigaHarp and Upright Acoustic Bass ($299 each) are CD-ROMs in GigaSampler format that faithfully reproduce the natural sound of the harp and

NemeSys's GigaHarp and Upright Acoustic Bass ($299 each) are CD-ROMs in GigaSampler format that faithfully reproduce the natural sound of the harp and upright acoustic bass. The company accomplished this by sampling each instrument's individual notes in 24-bit stereo at multiple dynamic levels for the entire length of their natural decay. Extensive use of keyboard mapping and MIDI Control Change messages generates expressive real-time nuances for each instrument. The accompanying help files detail each program's parameters and how they relate to real performance techniques.

Zing Went the StringsGigaHarp contains samples of every string of a pedal harp at four dynamic levels (soft, medium-soft, medium, and loud finger plucks); open-string harmonics at two dynamic levels; and fingernail-picked samples at one dynamic level. (The four levels of finger plucks are Velocity switched; the mod wheel accesses and controls the harmonics and fingernail-picked notes.) These samples are mapped to five patches. Harp 1 and Harp 2 differ only in their Velocity sensitivity: Harp 1 requires a wider Velocity range to affect patch dynamics; Harp 2 is more sensitive. Damped Melodic Harp has shorter programmed release times, allowing you to damp notes with Note Off and Sustain Pedal messages.

The other two patches (Glissando Harp 1 and 2) make it possible to play realistic harp glissandos in tempo and in the proper key signature by performing thumb and finger slides on the keyboard's white keys. On a real harp, which is a diatonically tuned instrument, you change the key by depressing and locking combinations of seven pedals-one for each note in the diatonic scale-with each pedal combination lowering or raising the natural notes a half step. GigaHarp emulates this technique by using Data Entry sliders as virtual harp pedals. For more creative possibilities, the disc offers a virtual pedal position (double sharp) not found on real harps.

Upright and UpstandingUpright Acoustic Bass is a plucked-bass library, so it has no bowed samples. However, it does offer multilevel samples of picked notes, slides, muted string sounds (x-notes), and picked harmonics. These samples are mapped out over an 88-note keyboard, and in some patches the unassigned keys toggle between different sampled articulations. The disc also features body-resonance samples that play as the notes release. You can control the amount of body resonance in real time using the mod wheel.

Foot Controller messages (MIDI CC 04) toggle between ascending and descending slide samples; Breath Controller messages (MIDI CC 02) switch between fast and slow slide samples and their target notes. Within the keymap of B1 to E4, the sustain pedal switches between sustained note samples and resonant muted notes; from F4 to D5 it switches between sustained notes and harmonic slides.

There are seven different patches, each with its own set of samples. The first patch, Optimal Upright Bass, employs carefully selected sustain samples that are equalized to better cut through a mix. The 12-Position Bass patch uses unprocessed and naturally decayed samples that are mapped chromatically according to position for a darker, more mellow sound.

Few bassists choose to play entire lines on one string, and the same note played on different strings will vary in timbre. With this in mind, the Switchable Position Bass patch plays notes from the proper individual string to emulate the string choices favored by bass players. Keys F, G, A, and B1 have no assigned samples; playing these keys bypasses the switch to the new string and extends the range of the current string. The last four patches contain multisamples of every note on each string, and individual strings are assigned to separate MIDI channels for use with MIDI guitar and bass controllers.

Do One Thing RightWith roughly half a gigabyte of samples apiece, GigaHarp and Upright Acoustic Bass have everything you need to faithfully reproduce the sounds of their namesake instruments. Control parameters are well thought out, making real-time control uncomplicated. Considering the quality of these CD-ROMs, each is well worth the price. When it comes to creating realistic harp and bass performances, GigaHarp and Upright Acoustic Bass are as good as it gets.

Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 5