If pop and sampled new age solo voices don’t suit your production, why not consider classical? Keith Gemmell raises his voice…
Price Standard Library: £295; Extended Library £490
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Minimum System Requirements PC Windows 7 (32/64-bit) Mac OS X 10.8 2GB RAM (4GB recommended)
Several virtual instruments have been released lately featuring solo voices. Most, though, are only suitable for pop or new age styles. Classical voices are much harder to source – so where do we look? First call has to be the Vienna Symphonic Library. Vienna Choir was released five years ago and it’s been a long wait for the Vienna Solo Voices, which went on sale at the beginning of this year.
The product is sold in two parts: a Standard Library and an Extended Library. Whether you buy the Standard Library or both together (Full Library), the entire content of the Full Library will be installed. Depending on the licence you buy, the Activation Code unlocks the corresponding portion of your library.
The vowel sounds AA (aah) are in the Standard Library, and probably the most useful. The articulations are aa, pa, ra, sa and ta. UU (ooh) sounds are contained in the Extended Library, which costs extra. Articulations here are uu, tu, pu, ru, and su. The package includes the Vienna Instrument player, both plug-in and standalone versions.
There are four female voices: coloratura soprano, soprano, mezzo soprano and alto. They all sound good and are subtly distinctive from each other in tone and range. Perhaps the best is the coloratura soprano, which in the real world is typically chosen for operatic roles where melodic embellishment and much agility is required.
The coloratura here is certainly agile and responds to fast runs and leaps beautifully. She’s dynamically responsive, too, with glass shattering capabilities at her highest and loudest, but soft enough – when required – for cooing a gentle lullaby. This is due, no doubt, to the careful adjustment of loudness within each articulation’s velocity layers so that low notes sound softer than the higher ones at the same velocity level. There are three male voices too: tenor, baritone and bass – which round up the main vocal content. Each one of them proved every bit as good as the female contributions.
Huge cinematic choirs are very much in vogue at present. Their use is restricted mainly to background pad work or chanting and therefore avoid the scrutiny of upfront listening. It is a brave developer, then, that dares to compile a sample library of solo classical voices where every syllable will be clearly heard. VSL, though, has pulled it off here for sure. The results are really very impressive.
That said, achieving convincing results requires a lot of work on your part: extensive user control and careful editing within the Vienna Instrument player gets the best sounds. Fortunately, there are plenty of controls for editing the individual samples and delicately shaping the overall performance of the voices.
Of course, a sampled vocal set is never going to sound totally realistic, no matter how good, because of the lack of words. Some developers go some way to improving this with word builders but they rarely sound convincing unless they’re set way back in the mix.
This is never going to be a massively popular library but is sure to sell well to composers of classical music, and will certainly enhance VSL’s existing high reputation. Solo voices along with a good choir library can make an impressive combination, and cinematic composers who might at first pass this library by would be wise to give it a second listen. Incidentally, if you already own Vienna Choir and like it, you’ll not be disappointed with Vienna Solo Voices. Both libraries operate similarly and blend very well.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning VSL’s other new vocal product, Vienna Whistler (€55). During a recording session, VSL discovered that one of their blowers, horn player Marcus Schmidinger, was a virtuoso whistler. So they recorded him performing a wide range of articulations. The result is a brilliant little virtual instrument that’s great fun to work with and sure to bring a smile to many a composer’s face.