It’s fair to say that the instruments we most commonly associate with scoring-to-picture are now well covered, if you’re seeking sample libraries to compose in this field. Western scoring often continue to see the orchestra as the central collection of voices to underpin soundtrack tradition writing. Whilst the last few years has seen a huge divergence in terms of what the sample orchestral palette can ‘sound like’ (chamber enembles, solo instruments, extended playing techniques and pattern grids of rhythmical orchestral ‘sequences’ among other variations), composers seeking out new timbres and textures for their scores might prick up their ears at the release of Andea. It’s the second collaboration between Orchestral Tools and highly esteemed composer Richard Harvey, following The Phoenix Orchestra, and it offers a broad selection of instruments from Central and South America.
Harvey is, first and foremost, a wind player; Whilst his soundtrack work both alone and in collaboration with luminaries including Hans Zimmer is extensive, it’s his experience as a player which is as relevant to Andea, as it sparked an interest in collecting instruments from all corners of the globe. This collection runs to more than 700 instruments and the selection captured for Andea has been intimately recorded in Harvey’s own London studio.
Like all Orchestral Tools libraries, download and authorisation is handled by the proprietary Sine Player software, into which instruments are then loaded. Certain conventions are common throughout Andea (and OT libraries more broadly), with key switching used by default to move between articulations, CC1 assignments to control the intensity of the recorded sounds and Expression mapping to control output volume. All of these things can be modified if you prefer alternative controllers. Andea’s sounds are organized into three categories – Plucked Strings, Winds and Percussion – in that order. First up is the Ronroco. This might be a name with which you’re unfamiliar, but you won’t be with the sound itself. It’s a small guitar-like instrument, with an immediacy and intimacy which speaks from the heart itself. It’s a staple of composers such as Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel) and trust us when we say that you’ll load this instrument, add your reverb of choice and lose the next few minutes of your life to a quality of playing which will surprise and delight.
Charango and 8-string Ukelele instruments come next, keeping us in a similar emotional space, with bends, tremolos, strums, chords and other playing variations available at the click of a key switch. The Steel-stringed Cavaquinho offers a brighter, tinnier sound, whilst the Cuatro, beloved of Venezuela and Puerto Rico, is more muted and delicate in tone. The Tiple, most closely associated with Columbia, is a chordophone, with notes in the middle of its range triggering an upper octave as well as the pitch played. The Très offering a Cuban variation on a similar theme. The Guitarra, as its name suggests, is one of the fullest pitch-range instruments in the collection. Its upstroke and downstroke chords are particularly useful, with Velocity controlling the strumming speed across major and minor voicings. Another highlight here is the Paraguayan harp which, on first playing in the upper register, has a thin, almost toy-like quality. But its lower, deeper tones are lush and, as with every instrument in the Plucked Strings folder, what’s extraordinary is how these smaller-sounding instruments manage to penetrate almost any depth of mix you put around them. Blend them with electronics, synths, orchestral arrangements; they are, floating atop everything else with a richness which is as delightful as it is surprising.
Soaring air and intimate percussion
The Winds folder contains instruments in Flutes, Panpipes and Ocarina subfolders with the Aztec Flower Flutes particularly noteworthy. There’s a driven quality to the lower frequency content of these sounds which offers the perfect platform for emotive writing, with a yearning, fierce quality which belies the air and magic of the upper frequencies. Here, the Modulation wheel’s control over dynamics comes to the fore, with vibrato and intensity changing as CC1 opens up, offering a chance to add extra layers of dynamism to performances. The Pan Pipe is perhaps the instrument most readily associated with Central and South America and four varieties are provided; Chuli Sikus, Malta Sikus, Toyos and Contratoyos. The Ocarina is a hollow vessel into which air can be blown. Then, finger holes allow you to ‘stop’ the air, changing the pitch of the instrument in the process (much like a recorder). 6 variations are provided, included a couple of rare bass instruments. The sonic group which will perhaps be most familiar is the assortment of percussion, with many of the instruments here having found their way into multi-genre compositions and productions.
In the Drums folder you’ll find Bongos, Snares, Congas (high, mid and low), as well as the less well known Cajita Coplera, Bombo and Bombo Compacto instruments. All of these are deeper drums, with long, tone-like decays which are particularly impactful and double beautifully if you’re looking to layer sounds for extra weight. There are eight Shaker variations in total – Maracas, Small Shakers, Metal Shakers and the Shekere are among the more familiar variations – joined by Chajchas, Basket, Flame Tree and Stick Nut shaker options. These possess an urgency and vitality which is beautifully captured by the proximity with which they’ve been recorded. It really does sound like the player is right next to you.
The Wooden percussion folder provides Claves, Guiros and Cajons, the latter of which are a particular highlight with playing variations (hits, flams, rolls) organised across consecutive keys, and ‘pitch depth’ organised into adjacent octaves, to let you program patterns with genuine variation in a single pass. There are three flavors of Log Drum – Ashwood, Rosewood and Giant Oakwood – as well as a Special folder containing a Berimbau specialist Kultrun, Cajita Ritmica and Angara instruments, all of which were new to us. There are two obvious strengths to the Percussion instruments. Firstly, by themselves, they offer a beautifully recorded and instantly ‘playable’ collection of instruments from the region. But used in combination with other percussion libraries, they provide a transparent ‘front end’ with an immediacy and punch which doubles beautifully with larger, more cacophonous collections.
As you’ll hear from the audio examples accompanying this review, this library is a player’s joy. Switch off the metronome, add a little choice reverb (note that some FabFilter Pro-R has been added to all of the clips) and just play, learning the intricacies of each instrument as you go. There are few airs and graces here, with no attempt to smooth out the pointed, the resonant or the piercing; These instruments have a ruggedness which is wonderful and untamed.
- 11 plucked strings, 18 winds and 32 percussion instruments from Central and South America
- Articulations offered per-instrument, available via key switches or the MIDI controllers of your choice
- Instruments set to their natural ranges, for increased authenticity
- Instruments curated from Richard Harvey’s personal collection and recorded at his London studio
- Sounds work beautifully in contexts beyond their origins, including EDM
- Beautifully and intimately recorded with Close and Room microphones, which you can freely blend
- Each instrument can be purchased separately through the Sine Player/Orchestral Tools store if you don’t need the entire collection
- Contact Orchestral Tools
- Buy: Orchestral Tools