Percussão Do Brasil contains all the main instruments of a typical Brazilian percussion ensemble and is capable of producing a true carnival atmosphere. Keith Gemmell gives it the thumbs up
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Minimum System Requirements NI Kontakt 5.1 and up
Anybody who has ever owned a General MIDI keyboard or a Roland Sound Canvas (remember those) will be familiar with the sounds of such exotic percussion instruments as the claves, surdo, agogo bell, cowbell, shaker, güiro, whistle and more. They were all crammed into the limited GM specification, along with just about every other instrument known to man. Quite a feat really. Of course, in most cases just a single drum hit was available and emulating fiery latin percussion ensembles wasn’t feasible.
These days, it’s a different story and 50 Euros will buy a fully sampled bateria with lots of round robins and velocities, such as Sonokinetic’s Percussão Do Brasil. Recorded with the assistance of a South American music expert, it features 16 Brazilian percussion instruments in 24-bit format and more than 2,200 samples.
A full version of Kontakt 5.1.0 is required. Note, it’s not compatible with the free Kontakt Player.
Open up the single Kontakt patch provided and we are greeted with a very colourful interface, the perimeter of which sports jungle-like fauna, a bright yellow parrot and a toucan. It’s all very jolly and creates just the right atmosphere and a sense of anticipation for what’s to come.
All the controls are displayed on a single page. Centre-stage are the 16 percussion instruments, each enclosed in its own box, along with a graphic display. Clicking on these turns them on, causing them to appear in the familiar Kontakt keyboard below. Small, high-percussion instruments are coloured blue, mid-size yellow and large bass instruments red.
All the articulations for a particular instrument are loaded onto consecutive keys, which is nice and handy playing-wise. However, the various articulations are not named which, if you are unfamiliar with the instrument and its playing techniques, is slightly confusing particularly when two or more instruments of the same type – mid-size yellow, for example – are loaded together. For playing one instrument at a time, though, an instrument can be replicated for two-handed playing – an excellent feature for playing fast passages and rolls.
Each articulation also includes a number of round robin samples that cycle through on playback, and because each one is designated a key, these can be
turned on or off at will.
Two microphone positions, close and far, are available for each individual instrument, along with volume and pan controls. All the settings here are
remembered, even when the keyboard mapping is altered.
Also available for individual instruments is a three-band EQ with hi, low and mid controls. A default convolution reverb, chosen for its suitability as a percussion environment, is loaded whenever an instance of Percussão Do Brasil is opened. Wetness and size controls are available in the main GUI but can be further adjusted in Kontakt. Impulses can be changed here, too.
Samba Drums from Wavesfactory (€19.95) is based on a Brazilian percussion ensemble and features 10 instruments, each with four velocity layers and six round robins. Carnival Drums: The Spirit Of Brazil from Zero-G (£76) features the main drums of the Brazilian samba baterias. In essence a loop library, with 14,000 of them, multi-layered hits of all the drums are available.
A real live Brazilian ‘bateria’ typically contains several players for each instrument and to achieve the same effect, Percussão Do Brasil provides an ‘Ensemblator’. Turn it on and multiple hits can be played, and the timing of the hits can be tightened or loosened with a Spread dial. It works brilliantly and provides a quick way to drum up a full-bodied carnival frenzy.
Each instrument can be adjusted independently, providing a good deal of control over the size of the full ensemble. Like the EQ controls, any settings made are remembered.
There are some wonderful-sounding instruments here, but there is no mention of them in the manual. Some information on their construction and typical playing techniques would be useful for the uninitiated. That being said, some glorious and exciting effects can be produced easily without having any in-depth knowledge of samba band performance techniques. In fact, they are great fun to play and a quick way to add some excitement and a steamy Brazilian atmosphere to various kinds of productions.
● 16 samba band instruments
● Multiple round robin and velocity samples
● Individual selectable round robin
● Two-handed keyboard layout
●‘Ensemblator’ – variable ensemble sizes
● Convolution reverb