Vir2 Instruments Electri6ity

Product: Electri6ity
Manufacturer: Vir2 Instruments
MSRP: $319.00

To trap Eric Clapton, John Mayer, that guy from The Ventures, and Dave Mustaine inside your computer and be able to summon this or that one whenever you- keyboardist and arranger extraordinaire- need a kick ass guitar part, wouldn’t that be a dream come true? Of course, high quality sampled guitar libraries have been on the market for several years and you do have to supply the parts yourself. Still, the hunger to own a bunch of classic electric guitars and all the articulations you need to create convincing performances is an itch waiting to be scratched. Vir2 claims that Electri6ity sports a feature set and interface that set this plug-in apart from its competitors. Are they right?

The Instruments

Before we take a look at the surfeit of samples and the multitude of controllers that are the heart of Electri6ity, let’s discuss the first major decision that Vir2 had to make- which guitars to sample. A thankless task, for sure, since no one, including me, is ever going to be 100% satisfied with the choices. Strat, Tele? No brainers; we can all agree that these two classics had to be included. Same for the Les Paul, though featuring two of them (a Les Paul P90 along with the standard), while justifiable, did come at the expense of other worthy contenders.

The line of Gibson ES335 champions stretches all the way back to B.B. King. Equally at home in jazz, blues and pop settings, the ES335 was a logical choice. Another Gibson guitar, the L4, awaits you. A great guitar, but if asked to choose between the L4 and say, the Gibson SG, what would your call be?

The Danelectro Lipstick was an inspired choice. You’ll use this baby to take your listeners to the beach the next time you need to invoke the classic surf sound of the ‘60’s. Selecting a Rickenbacker was also a good idea- you’ll note that these instruments were associated with the Beatles back in the day. I might have chosen a Rickenbacker 12 string model, however, to expand the overall sound set. My wish list would also include a Gibson Flying V… and that reminds me of the V’s greatest exponent, Albert King. Wouldn’t it be cool to sample a left-handed guitarist playing a right-handed instrument the way Albert and Jimi did?

The Interface

Electri6ity is a Kontakt format library; the Kontakt player is free and can be downloaded from the Native Instruments website. I own Kontakt 4, and all the demos I created were performed using it and Cubase 5. Standard operating procedures apply regarding setting up Electri6ity with your DAW, or as a standalone application.

Although tons of functionality lies under the hood, the Electri6ity interface itself is straightforward and easy to work with. Notice the three tabs at the bottom. We’ll get to the Fretboard in a few minutes. It’s important that you understand that the Performance and Settings pages are interactive. Using your mouse, play around with the three Vibrato settings (Type, Strength, Speed) on the Performance page.

Hit the Settings tab and select “Vibrato” from the Settings menu. Adjust the Maximum Strength setting to 4 semi-tones and strike any key within the guitar’s playable range. Hear that whacky sound? Roll back the vibrato range to 2 semi-tones and notice the difference.

Now go back to the Performance page. Altering some parameters on this page bring obvious changes- the pickup selection, for example. Manipulate other parameters and the effect on the sound ranges from subtle to negligible; give them all a spin and you’ve begun personalizing the instrument you’re working with.

Do you see the first two columns on the left, the ones labeled Morph AMT and Morph VMT? Articulation and Velocity Morphing Technology are at the root of what separates Electri6ity from other similar products. Vir2 tapped into Kontakt’s AET feature, which lets developers morph their products seamlessly between velocity layers. I don’t know the science, but my guess is that some algorithmic fudging around is taking place that blurs the gap between velocity layers. Other companies are working with the same concept but to my knowledge Electri6ity is the first guitar library to implement it and the result is a heightened sense of realism. If you’re playing a patch that’s tagged AMT velocity lets you morph between different attacks, mute to sustain for example. All you have to do is strike the B0 key between phrases, with a hard attack to play the notes that follow with sustain, or a soft attack for half-mute attacks. You can set the velocity cross point to suit your individual playing style.

The keyswitch/velocity concept is carried over to other playing techniques, including full mutes to sustain, muted to half-muted, and sustain to harmonics. This will be a staple in your Electri6ity technique.

Electri6ity defaults to a polyphonic state, but you can also place the plug-in in Solo mode by depressing the G#0 key, or Legato mode (a variant) by hitting the A#0 key. Legato mode actually comes in two flavors: hit A#0 softly and you’ll be playing in Legato Muted mode. To return to full polyphony, strike the F#0 key. Not surprisingly, Electri6ity’s multitude of articulations can eat up CPU cycles. My quad core i7 computer had no problem, but watch out- latency and clicks and pops can creep in, particularly on older computers.

For non-players, voicing guitar chords in ways that are characteristic to the instrument is often a mystery. MusicLab’s RealGuitar was, to the best of my knowledge, the first guitar plug-in to offer chord detection, and Electri6ity has this capability as well. Play a chord as you’re used to doing on the keyboard, and when you’re in detection mode Electri6ity will voice it as a guitarist would; the plug-in will also give you multiple voicings depending on the register you’re in. Once again, be advised that it takes time for Electri6ity to make these calculations and latency may be an issue to consider.

You can load up individual instruments, or multis that contain pairs of the same instrument. If you’ve called up two Strats, for example, you can set one of them to voice chords in first position and another in an upper position. The effect is that you have two guitarists playing harmonies in different ranges. Vir2 also utilized a facet of Kontakt 4’s scripting capability that allows for different samples to be called up randomly by each instance, which further enhances the sense that two different players are at work.

You can apply lots of changes to the basic Electri6ity settings- the speed of trills, the sympathetic resonance of strings other than the one you just played, and even the angle at which the plectrum strikes the strings. Yeah, I know: most of you will just load up a preset and get down to business, but Electri6ity really is an instrument, and taking the time to tweak the presets is an investment you should consider making if you want to fully reap its benefits.

Some of Electri6ity’s key switches- the aforementioned F#0, G#0 and A#0, for example- remain active until another is selected. Others- single keys in some cases, or combinations of pairs- are inline only as long as they’re held down.

You keyboard players can play block chords; guitarists who play with a plectrum (pick) can’t. But every guitarist varies the speed of his strum so that it relates to the tempo of the song he or she is playing. Vir2 understood this and gave you the ability to use a controller to affect the strum speed in real time, or as an afterthought by drawing speed changes into your MIDI editor. Using the strum settings on Electri6ity to match the tempo of your song and the effect you want simply sounds more “guitaristic” than rolling chords on a midi controller.

EFFECTS

Electri6ity comes with a serviceable set of effects, but most users will rely on one of the outstanding guitar effects packages currently on the market. All of the effects in my demos were built using Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 4.

CONCLUSION

As I said, there are many more aspects of this plug-in worth checking out (I’ve still got a ways to go). It’s also true that many, if not most Electri6ity owners will simply fire up a multi, add a screaming guitar cabinet and some blistering effects, and howl the night away. This is fine, but at the end of the day your best Yngwie Malmsteen solo may end up sounding alarmingly like everyone else’s. Electri6ity users, who understand the guitar and know that the best players, from Buddy Guy to Julian Bream, explore its tones and techniques, will be most inclined to get the most interesting results.

I’m hoping that the market supports this outstanding product to a degree that will allow for its continued development. Along with an expansion of the instruments offered, it would be great- given the number of players who rely on them (think Jack Johnson)- to include a script that produces open tuning chords.

But that’s just a thought. Electri6ity is a brilliantly conceived and well- executed product. Highest recommendations!

Gary Eskow
www.garyeskow.com

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