Review of East-West Symphonic Choirs
Choirs is a
sample library by East West/Quantum
Leap. Its is one of the many large sample libraries East West distributes which
include Rare Instruments, or RA, Colossus, and of course, the Symphonic Orchestra, with its
Silver, Gold and Platinum editions (and the newer "XP" upgrades of these).
I call these "The Big Four" of the East West/Quantum Leap Collection.
You may have seen them referred to by their initials, which can be
confusing. The Symphonic Choirs collection is sometimes referred to as
EWQLSC, for, yep, you got it, East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Choirs.
We're just going to call it SC here.
SC comes on DVDs. Like many large
libraries, the samples are installed in protected containers on your hard
drive, 27 to be exact, and each holds directories of samples, which the
presets and word builder call up as needed. SC comes with a special
version of Kompakt by Native Instruments, which has several directories
Multis (multichannel setups) and presets. It also comes with a
separate application called the Word Builder. The Word Builder also comes in
the form of a MIDI type plugin for sequencers that support it.
The Basic Preset Choirs
The basic presets of the choir are, as you would
expect, top notch. They were recorded in the same concert hall as the
Symphonic Orchestra collection. Each choir comes recorded from 3
microphone positions, close, stage and hall. You can blend
these instances to locate your choir in sonic space. There are 5
choirs total: Boys, Alto, Soprano, Basses and Tenors. There are
also solo singers. Many presets implement "key switching". For
example, pressing C1 on the keyboard will give you one articulation of the
choir, C#1 will call up another and so on. This makes it so you can
change the dynamics and modulation of the choir for every note if you wish,
starting with a pure solo note and changing to a louder note with vibrato.
With care, and usually some editing of these switches in the sequencer, you
can achieve realistic, even emotive, results.
I have had SC for about a year and have
used it in many songs, but still I don't claim to have it mastered. So
take that into consideration in what follows.
The Word Builder
If they had stopped there, we would have a
nice collection of choirs and that would be it. But the programmers
went further and took on an incredible initiative. What if you could
make the choir sing the words you input? That is what the Word Builder
does. It allows you to type in words, which are translated into MIDI
commands which call up consonants and vowels as they are needed, assembles
them into words at the required pitch and sends them to your sequencer.
This is nothing less than revolutionary. Its also a lot of midi
controller and sample manipulation behind the curtain, and yes, it takes a
big bite out of your CPU. Those interested in SC should carefully
consider whether you have a strong enough computer for it. On my Mac
G5 1.8 GHz with 6GB of Ram, it works acceptably, but my G5 clearly feels the
strain when the Word Builder is running.
It takes a little while to wrap one's head
around the Word Builder, but once you understand the signal flow it becomes
easier. Basically, the midi data from your keyboard goes in the
Word Builder first, and then it is sent to the Symphonic Choir application
(or plugin, if you are in a sequencer). As an example, lets talk about
how the Word Builder is used in Logic.
has no MIDI plugin facility, so you have to run the Word Builder outside of
Logic as a separate application. The Word Builder will create four
virtual in and out MIDI ports on the Mac which Logic will see. In the
environment you route the input object directly to these ports so they send
all your keyboard controller's data to the Word Builder. That's right, when
using the word builder this way you can't use your other instruments in
Logic. The data exits the word builder and comes back into Logic via virtual
ports as well, get directed back to the plugin and you hear sound and can
record MIDI. Once you get your choir midi tracks done you can restore
Logic to normal operation and access the rest of your instruments. Those who
are comfortable with re-routing the virtual cables in Logic's
environment will not have trouble. You probably could try to run SC as a
standalone application outside of Logic as if it were an external synth, or
on a second computer and send out the MIDI and stream in the audio.
Cubase, things are not as convoluted. The Word Builder runs as a MIDI
plugin in Symphonic Choir's MIDI chain. I only tried this once to verify it
works and it does. I think Cubase is a much better application for
running the Word Builder. Note that you can use SC without the Word
Builder, but you won't be doing any custom phrases.
But once you have this setup, then the fun
begins. In the Word Builder you can choose from a list of Latin
phrases, or you can type in your own (in English, phonetically, or in Votox)
The program will convert English phrases to either, so if you don't get the
results you want you can edit in a language that better controls the vowels
and consonants. Of course you can have a lot of fun making the choir
sing stuff no real choir would let you get away with. Indeed those
angelic voices can be quite profane if you want them to be, lol! Just
make sure the kids are in bed first, OK?
Once you have your words setup you can play
the notes. Each note is a word (or syllable), and the next note is the
next word in the phrase. So you can adjust phrasing and speed by how
fast you play and dynamic by how hard you play (velocity). You can also
adjust the length of the notes in the Word Builder, and use the mouse to
adjust fades and more. In all, its quite ingenious.
The version of Kompakt supplied does not have a sample
browser, so ironically, you might own SC and never see how many
samples there actually are here. However, if you own Kontakt, or the
full version of Kompakt, you can get at the sample layer and use the samples
to create your own choirs. Personally, I think you are missing half
the fun of owning this collection if you don't have Kontakt . There are tons of
samples in the collection, and if you are like me, you will want to put them
together in strange harmonies, use them as percussive elements, and as parts
of vocal wash soundscapes. In Kontakt you can layer a few long
samples on top of a synth pad for example and create some excellent sounding
What kind of samples are there?
Ok, lets make sure you have this straight.
There are no rock or pop, blues or hip hop vocal sounds in this collection.
No ethnic voices (unless you consider Latin an ethnicity) no radio spot
hits, barbershop, do wops, scooby doos or scatty cats. This is a
classical choir we have here, like the kind that perform in churches.
It has a definite dramatic, operatic character. Its has its hues of
otherworldliness, a touch of intrigue, and a lean towards Gregorian chanters,
monks and nuns in exaltation. The Full choirs have Ah, MM, Oh, with
variations and the single choirs have a wide range. All the vowels,
consonants, and FX. Effects? You bet. Staccato, slurs, shouts,
and clusters. The soloists effects include more clusters, whisper
words, shouts, falls and more. There's plenty to play around with
without using the Word Builder. Sometimes you just want straight ahead
choir samples doing ahhs and oohs and yes, they are here to be racked,
stacked, transposed and harmonized.
The samples sound excellent and with care
assembling your choir track, breathtaking results are possible. For
me, it's definitely the first choice I go to when looking for a choir sound.
When you want your lyrics sung by a classical choir for your productions,
its the only game in town. It definitely not inexpensive as far as
sample collections go, but its cheaper than hiring a choir.
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