A trap kit, some Latin percussion, and a minimal sprinkling of instruments from other countries were once an adequate collection for a drummer. Today's electronic musicians have access to an ever-expanding selection of percussion from virtually any imaginable source. A recent addition to the increasingly diverse library of virtual percussion is FlyingHand Percussion (FHP, $259), which encompasses a wide selection of hand-percussion instruments for Native Instruments' Kontakt 2 sampler. Although it includes a few multitimbral percussion ensembles with a useful variety of instruments, the sample content focuses on individual instrument sets. The benefit of the FHP approach is its remarkable attention to detail for each instrument type; that includes multiple samples, articulations, and use of Kontakt 2 programming and scripting to re-create realistic performances.
FlyingHand Percussion is a massive 24-bit, 44.1 kHz sample library for Kontakt 2, focusing on hand drums and handheld percussion.
Each set of four DVDs comes in a unique and eye-catching handmade hexagonal box, foreshadowing the attention to detail lavished on the collection. To install FHP, you simply drag a folder from the first DVD to the drive of your choice, and then copy folders from the other three DVDs to the first folder. All told, you get nearly 16 GB of content, with any single instrument ranging from well under 100 MB to about 750 MB in size.
There's ample justification for the relatively large file sizes: the instruments are captured with a generous variety of articulations, including samples of different fingers striking the same instrument in multiple takes. Patches make effective use of Kontakt 2's round-robin programming techniques; alternating hit variations (one for every Velocity layer) ensure that no two strikes sound exactly alike. That technique can impart your performance with realistic, human dimension. Furthermore, you get close-, top-, bottom-, and ambient-mic samples of every instrument, so you can mix and match them if you choose. If you need to free up RAM, most instruments are available in smaller-size maps that omit the alternate samples.
The instruments employ numerous sampling techniques to extend their realism. For example, the release samples provide resonance and the sort of sonic artifacts that result from rapidly muting a drum. Depending on the hit, the effect ranges from subtle to obvious. Likewise, the Legato Drumming technique uses a separate set of release samples that trigger in response to how quickly a key is released, and every instrument patch offers a knob and MIDI Control Change assignment for adjusting the release sample's amplitude. To further the realistic response, different Note On Velocities trigger different release samples; it's hard to think of a hand-drumming artifact or technique that has been overlooked.
Sometimes it's difficult (especially if you're not a master percussionist) to grasp the layout of an instrument across the keyboard. FHP's keyboard mapping proved very musical, with slight performance variations adjacently arrayed and smooth Velocity switches under each hit. Some patches are arranged in keyboard splits to separate instruments that have distinct right- and left-hand components, such as congas. If you use a Zendrum percussion controller, you can download SysEx data containing custom maps for it. You also get a dedicated, noneditable version of PSPaudioware's Nitro filter plug-in with custom presets. FHP supplies impulse responses created by Voxengo for Kontakt 2's built-in convolution reverb. Be warned, however: the Kontakt 2 convolution reverb can impose a sizable tax on your CPU, as it did on my older dual-processor 1.42 GHz Mac G4.
Bang for the Buck
Instruments range from traditional Latin percussion such as congas, timbales, and bongos to djembe and udu from Africa and naal from India. FHP also supplies less conventional instruments such as a boomwhacker and a Morphosis trap kit made from found objects, noise shaping, and FM synthesis. The instruments sound natural and resonant, with beautiful, natural decays.
Independent of knobs and sliders, FHP delivers lots of real-time sonic control, as you'd expect from a hand-percussion instrument. Transitions between Velocity layers feel smooth and continuous, adding a realistic playing experience to FHP's sonic authenticity. The PDF manual does a terrific job of describing each instrument family and its playing technique. It provides a detailed view and description of each instrument's keymap and assigned controllers, even suggesting playing techniques.
FlyingHand Percussion is one of the most detailed, lifelike collections of sampled hand-percussion instruments I've found. Innovative and thoughtful application of Kontakt 2's features breathes a remarkable amount of life into performances. FHP gets my highest recommendation, but you don't need to take my word for it — listen to the demos and download a couple of free samples and patches from www.flyinghandpercussion.com.
Value (1 through 5): 5
HandHeld Sound/SoniVox (distributor)