September 30, 2007

Soniccouture Hang Drum mini-review...

by Chris Randall

Got a copy of the Hang Drum library Soniccouture released a few days ago. For those of you not in the know, the hang drum is an instrument made by some Swiss hippies, sort of a cross between a steel drum and a tabla made of brass. YouTube has tons of grainy videos of people using hang drums. Aside from apparently being a fairly expedient way to earn money while sitting on a street corner in Amsterdam, the hang drum is a complex and sophisticated instrument, with a broad sonic palette, yet is basically quite simple to play.

Like a harmonica, hang drums come tuned for specific keys; they have a bass (base?) note made by whacking the central nub, and 7 or 8 harmonics, depending on the model. Watch one of the YouTube videos and you'll quickly get the idea. Since it is essentially impossible to buy one, a sample set like this is pretty much the only way you're gonna get the sound of the hang drum in to your music, unless you want to get out the brazing torch and go to work on your wife's cooking gear.

Soniccouture's library comes in two flavors, the Hang Mk1 (the 8-dimple variety), and the newer Hang Mk2, with 7 dimples. I'm loath to go in to great detail about what's provided, as we'll be here all day, and that's not really the purpose of this website. Suffice to say that if it's possible to make a particular sound with a hang drum, Soniccouture sampled it, at multiple velocity layers, and three samples of each. Literally every single possible sound has a round-robin layer, so you don't get the typical "I'm whackin' this key over and over again" vibe. At all. This is definitely the most sophisticated sample set I own, of any instrument.

Where Soniccouture really shines, as usual, is in the Kontakt skripts. The way they've set the initial patch up, you can literally make your settings (root key, note speed, and how much randomization you're in the mood for) and mash down a bunch of keys on your keyboard, and you have Cool Shit. It is so easy to get something interesting out of this, I'm a little worried that someone like me may be completely obviated. They'll come out with a "Chris Randall Programs Your Shit" script, and I'll be done for.

Anywho, there are several samples on the Soniccouture site, and you can read all about it here. I made a little ditty just fooling around with the automagic script stuff, which you can hear here. The drums are from Konkrete V2, and the bass is from Abstrakt Bass, so it's an all-Soniccouture demo. Effects used are Replicant, Reverence, and Dubstation, and Sonalksis TKB3 (my lil' one-knob buddy) on the drums and hang and SV-315 on the 2-buss.




Sep.30.2007 @ 3:47 PM
the first time i heard the hang drum (pronounced "hung", apparently) was on cliff martinez' score for the 2002 release of solaris. its bell-like sound against the tone clusters of strings was immediately hypnotic. i heard it again in bear mccreary's cylon theme on the new battlestar galactica. the fact that i can now play it so convincingly from my macbookpro is amazing.

not since the first time i played with the arpeggiator and chord memory on my korg poly six, have i been so engaged just sitting and playing and interacting with what the machine is doing. it's evocative, organic, ancient and strikingly futuristic all at the same time. the kontakt scripts are so well written you never end up with a machine gun repetition of notes, but instead a rhythmic, musical flow that is just mesmerizing. bravo!


Sep.30.2007 @ 4:58 PM
It's a steal compared to the real deal. Genuine Panart Hang drums are 4 or 5 grand on the used market!

Sep.30.2007 @ 5:35 PM
While I consider myself pretty much a sensible person and not interested in whatever fads that come around (and not having practically any cash to spare), I actually entertained the thought of sending the Panart people a letter and getting into the hang queue, so I could travel to Switzerland and get one at some point in a year or two. The instrument sounds pretty damn good and unique to me.

I guess I'll just have to settle with the Soniccouture lib though, already listened to the "official" demos earlier and some of them rocked. Thanks for the mini-review.


Oct.01.2007 @ 5:55 AM
Soniccoutre and AD are my two favorite independent digital audio production tools companies right now. Cool product, great customer support, great web store, slick site, and absolutely insanely well designed product.

Haven't installed my Hang Drums yet - but twice now SC has sorted out small ordering issues I've had almost as quickly as I've contacted them. And Konkrete2 is great not just because of the sounds but the great programming of the script. So I'm excited about this.

And I finally got Fluid the other day. Holy Crap, guys. I threw it on a synth pad for a remix I have been tinkering with and it sounded 10 times better. A chorus. Who knew?


Oct.01.2007 @ 7:03 AM
"And I finally got Fluid the other day. Holy Crap, guys. I threw it on a synth pad for a remix I have been tinkering with and it sounded 10 times better. A chorus. Who knew?"

After buying Fluid, I've been pretty much using Logic's ES1 as my "string synth" (the analog one has been at a friend's place for weeks / months)... Just feed a slightly filtered raw saw wave patch through a nice wide Fluid patch. Apparently, sometimes you CAN make a diamond out of a turd.


Oct.01.2007 @ 8:02 AM
Before Soniccouture's release I was unaware of anything Hang Drum. I instantly loved the unique sound of these instruments when I listened to the demos so I'm looking forward to using this library.
I guess the sounds of Hang Drum will become more mainstream soon enough...

Oct.01.2007 @ 1:21 PM
Cool demo track. License that.

Yeah, the only thing better than chorus on a pad synth is another chorus. I've piles four choruses on a synth and never got to the point where it sounded awful. (To me, in 1992.)


Oct.02.2007 @ 4:31 AM
I just d/l'd the HD from Sonicouture last night, and am so looking forward to setting this up with my HPD-15 :)

Jun.26.2009 @ 8:47 PM
Don't fall for the hippy sales pitch! If you don't want to travel to switerland, make one for yourself, or show this to a practical friend and bribe them with the offer of beer...

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