Session Horns Pro Review
Session Horns Pro Review – In the following article, Logic Pro Expert team member Eli Krantzberg takes a look at Native Instruments Session Horns Pro. Session Horns Pro was created in partnership with e-instruments – the specialists for intensely detailed sampled instruments.
Session Horns Pro – Introduction
I’ll never forget that ripple of excitement flowing through me the first time I laid in to the notes on my controller to switch articulations by velocity and trigger a brass rip on one of my old SampleCell ll instruments. “This is it” I remember thinking, “finally a realistic sounding brass patch”. Those twenty year old brass instruments are to eInstrument’s Session Horns Pro, what the Edsel is to a modern Porsche. Forget everything you thought you knew about brass instruments. This is not your grandfathers 32 mb multi sample library. eInstruments have built a whole new model and way of working with and creating brass parts with Session Horns Pro.
Session Horns Pro is a 30 BG library that includes not only multi samples of all the relevant articulations, including round robin and release samples, but an adaptable MIDI phrase player that allows you to impose your own chord progressions, and even chord voicings, on a ready to go library of musical phrases in a variety of horn section styles. And if you are creating your own parts but aren’t familiar with the nuances of voicing and arranging for a brass section, Session Horns Pro can take care of that for you as well.
Let’s start at the beginning. Session Horns Pro is hosted in Native Instrument’s Kontakt. Installation and authorization is a breeze. There are three types of instruments. The Performance version, Key Switch version, and solo instrument version. The Performance and Key Switch versions are designed to work with the brass ensemble as a whole. The section setup section of the Main Window is comprised of four slots. Each can host a single brass instrument. Two of the slots can optionally host a combination of two instruments for a maximum of a six piece brass section.
Things begin to get really interesting using the various voicing assistant modes. Polyphonic mode is the old fashion “every note you play triggers every instrument” paradigm we are used to with other romplers. Smart Voice Split realistically distributes the incoming MIDI notes among the instruments in the section, and it sounds fantastic. Check out this sample of a simple one note line played back in this mode. Not only are the notes played in the correct ranges on each instrument, it actually sounds like a brass section part!
Legato mode is also great for monophonic lines. It triggers all the instruments in the section and provides dedicated transition samples when the notes overlap. It delivers a beautiful subtle portamento style transition between notes that horn players naturally achieve as they jump between various intervals.
Chord+Legato mode allows for full voicings plus a melody in the upper register using the transition samples. This polyphonic legato functionality makes is a great vehicle for constructing brass section parts with melodic lines blended together.
If brass voicings aren’t your thing, enabling the Smart Chord function will automatically create and voice your chords appropriately for the instruments set up in the brass section you’ve created. Once you have defined the root note and chord map, the white notes are used to generate diatonic chord voicings. The black notes are used to create alternate voicings with various chord extensions and tension notes added on.
The Animator, available only in the Performance version of Session Horns Pro, offers a selection of authentic horn phrases in different musical genres. Each genre contains multiple “songs” that each contain six “phrases”. The layout of the phrases in the songs can be customized and saved with your DAW project. Phrases are triggered in the C-1 range of the keyboard, and so can be programmed in your DAW to change at specific locations in your project. The phrases can be played back as is, at double or half time speed, humanized, or swung; either in harmony, or in unison. One shot mode allows you to trigger the phrase, and then have it follow the chords you play in. Rhythm only mode give you the most flexibility in bending the phrases to fit exactly with what you play in.
Combining Smart Chords with the Animator allows you to customize the voicings of the song phrases to fit your own chord progression, simply by playing a single note on the keyboard.
Articulations and Key Switches
Articulation view is used to set a velocity cross over point where one of fourteen alternate articulation will be triggered. If additional articulations are needed, the Key Switch version of Session Horns Pro allows for custom assignments of up to nine of the sixteen total available articulations. Round robin and release samples are included and handled automatically; there is nothing to set other than optionally disabling them if desired.
Doits, which are quick ascending or descending glissandos, are always available via the pitch bend wheel. eInstruments added a really nice touch, allowing the doits to be triggered either with note on or note off info. This is great for sustained notes where you want the doit to happen only at the very end of the note. The range of the pitch bend movement effects the length of the doit – very nice!
For the real orchestrators among you, twelve individual instruments are available with key switching so that elaborate parts and arrangements can be constructed from scratch. Standard on-board effects, including reverb, delay, EQ, and compression, are very useful. Tape Saturation and amplifier style “Twang” are a nice touch; as is the ability to use MIDI CC 11 (Expression) to optionally control dynamics instead of velocity.
Session Horns Pro really does have something for everyone. For those needing a library of preset phrases and the ability to trigger them simply, to those looking for brass section style voicing of the chords they input (me!), to those who want ultimate control over complete section arrangements or solo horns , Session Horns Pro will deliver.
Finally a realistic sounding brass section instrument! 🙂
In terms of performance, my six year old Mac Pro tower did build up a bit of a sweat when I was charging full steam ahead with all of it’s features. But it shouldn’t pose any problem on a modern computer. For those interested in seeing detailed video instruction of Session Horns Pro in all it’s glory, check out my brand new groove3 series: