Oneof the greatest challenges of sequencing is playing realistic guitarparts with a MIDI keyboard. Last year, Steinberg introduced VirtualGuitarist, an innovative pair of VST Instrument plug-ins that rathereffectively substitute for a rhythm guitarist when you're sequencingtracks. Like the original edition, Virtual Guitarist Electric Edition(VG EE; $249.99) provides real-time guitar parts for nonguitarists bycombining a MIDI playback and processing engine with a large collectionof samples. VG EE is a collaborative effort between programmers inSweden, Germany, and the U.K., and it actually encompasses two separateplug-ins: a VST Instrument and a VST effects processor called VirtualGuitarist Electric FX.
Turn On and Tune Up
Like itspredecessor, VG EE provides sampled rhythm patterns called Players. ThePlayers follow the tempo and meter of the host sequencer, changingwhenever the sequence changes. You control what chords they play byplaying them on your MIDI keyboard. (I suppose you could also triggerthem from a MIDI guitar, but that would be a bit twisted.)
After you select one of the 29 Players, you must wait a few secondswhile it loads from disk. Once they're loaded, each Player is dividedinto eight variations called Parts, which load instantly when you clicka selection arrow, send a MIDI Program Change, or play a particularnote you've specified on your keyboard. The variety of Players isimpressive — everything from 70ties Funk and White Soul toMonster Heavy and Classic Rock. I especially like the Player called RnB— Rock'n'Roll, which sounds very much like the RollingStones.
Whereas the first Virtual Guitarist featured samples of acoustic andelectric guitars, the Electric Edition concentrates on an amazingcollection of vintage electric guitars and amplifiers belonging toGerman axe man Thomas Blug. The Fender guitars include a 1953 Esquireand 1956 Stratocaster, and the Gibsons include a 1958 Les Paul and 1963ES-335. The amplifiers feature a 1963 Vox AC30, 1964 Fender SuperReverb, and three 1968 Marshall stacks, as well as a recent-modelMesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier. They all sound quite good, but you can'tdirectly select a specific guitar or amp; instead, you select Playersthat were recorded with a particular combination. Still, you never knowexactly what that combination is. Each Player's guitar is depictedonscreen, but the amp is never identified.
Pause for Effects
In most respects, the Electric Edition is identical to VirtualGuitarist. Its user interface and most of the included manual arealmost exactly the same. The most significant difference, other thanits selection of Players, is an onscreen multi-effects pedalboardcomprising eight stompboxes: AutoFilter, chorus, delay, flanger,phaser, reverb, tremolo, and wah pedal. Some Players make extensive useof the effects, and others have only one or two Parts in which they'reobvious. You can use the separate VG Electric FX plug-in to process anyDAW track or audio input, including a real electric guitar.
Why would a guitarist want VG EE? It's great for developing ideasand comping parts you might never think of otherwise. In addition, VGElectric FX is specifically tailored for electric guitar sounds.Although I play guitar, I use Virtual Guitarist frequently, and thepedalboard plug-in is a nice bonus. Its effects are handy when I wantto load them as a group, but I do wish it offered a distortion effect.I suppose that because the guitars were sampled with the optimumdistortion for each style, there's little need for a separatedistortion effect.
Despite their similarities, I had some technical problems with theElectric Edition that weren't an issue with Virtual Guitarist. When Iinstalled VG EE on my dual-processor, 1 GHz Power Mac G4, it simplyrefused to run in Cubase SX under Mac OS X 10.2.6. No matter how manytimes I reinstalled, a message read, “Sorry, but the plug-infailed to install.” Almost ironically, VG EE ran perfectly wellin MOTU Digital Performer 3.11 using Audio Ease VST Wrapper on a G4/400running Mac OS 9.2.2. After numerous requests for technical support,Steinberg eventually told me that VG EE has a problem running ondual-processor Macs; the development team is working with Apple on asolution.
I like Virtual Guitarist Electric Edition and recommend it. Itsounds outstanding, and the CPU load is perfectly acceptable. I'dcertainly have rated it higher if it had worked on my dual-processorMac, though. Unfortunately, there's no downloadable demo to ensure thatVG EE works on your computer.