EASTWEST has grown into quite a juggernaut within the sample library and software instrument market. Originally formed in 1988, the company found success in 1989 when it teamed with Bob Clearmountain to release the Bob Clearmountain Drum CD, a library of drum samples that went on to become one of the biggest selling sample CDs ever marketed. The company has grown lockstep with the advances in computer power and today boasts a very robust catalogue of software and sample instruments. Things must be going very well for EASTWEST; in 2006 they bought u^ber-studio Cello (AKA Ocean Way and Western Recorders) and are using the studio-now renamed EASTWEST Studios-to develop content.
In fact, the first of two EASTWEST virtual instruments I checked out was recorded at the famed studio complex. Ministry of Rock is a comprehensive library of drums, basses, and guitars designed to cover just about any sonic and harmonic possibility within the modern Rock genre. The library is a hefty 20 GB in size, and the sonic options are plentiful. Multiple guitars, amps, drum kits, and basses were recorded along with a massive number of articulation variations. Once you dig deep into the library, you begin to see how quickly 20 GB can get filled out.
The library is accessed through EASTWEST's own sample playback plug-in that they call Play, and the sound of the 64-bit engine itself is exceptional. The Play architecture allows for numerous options when it comes to articulation control, and it also has a legato detection function built in that is quite responsive. There are chorus and delay effects, as well as the ability to play around with the stereo image. There is also a convolution reverb that is based on samples from throughout the EASTWEST studio complex.
EASTWEST calls Ministry Of Rock "a modern day rock toolkit", and the instrument indeed has everything you need to create rock songs in a variety of subgenres. The instrument is tailor-made for film, TV, and game composers. Once you wade through all of the sounds and check out the way they are all arranged, you understand the level of meticulous production that went into developing this instrument.
Over the years, I've amassed a very robust library for my EXS (Logic's software sampler) library that is extremely heavy on the rock content, primarily custom EXS instruments that I have developed over the years for use in game music. With this in mind, I was convinced that I had most of the bases covered within my rock palette. However, within an hour of going through the Ministry of Rock sounds, I found out just how much this instrument has to offer for even someone who already owns an already extensive library like mine.
The tonal options in the guitars range from very crunchy to very clean and everything in between. The guitars (and basses) were all recorded in dual-amp configurations, and users have the option to either pick one amp or blend both amps. There are a lot of lead and chordal options featuring the obligatory Les Paul, Stratocaster, and Telecaster guitars that are the foundation of rock music. There is also a seven-string Ibanez guitar that they put out as their "metal" option, as well as a meticulously-sampled acoustic guitar set that has numerous articulations and chord variations. There are plenty of "chugs" and other skronky rhythmic sounds to choose from as well.
The drums are based on four different kits, and elements from each kit can be mixed and matched, so for example, if you want one of the Ayotte snares along with one of the Ludwig kicks, this can very easily be changed on the front page of the interface in the articulation window. The bass section of the instrument has five different basses to choose from, with all but one of the basses having numerous articulations. The basses were recorded and programmed with the same meticulous attention to detail as the guitars. All of the sounds in Ministry of Rock sound very good, and you can hear why EASTWEST is hyping their recently-purchased world-renowned studio.
I used Ministry of Rock within a wide variety of musical scenarios, ranging from a pretty straight-ahead classic-rock tune I wrote for a client to a tweaked-out hyper-quantized pop song using only the strummed acoustic chords against an electro-pop groove. The guitars are especially good in terms of using the instrument in a way it is not designed... you know, stuff like cluster chords with sustain pedal with a Les Paul lead sound and similar types of things-lots of fun stuff here.
At $445 MSRP, it's a bit pricey, especially since it specifically aims for just one genre of music (albeit in a very thorough manner), but it definitely fills a need if you're using it to crank out paying work-and in this context, it's a bargain. The massive amount of sounds and the way they are organized makes for a lot of options and a rapid workflow. I pounded out the above-mentioned classic-rock 30-second intro and outro in about 15 minutes, and that was before I had really looked at the manual.
I also got to check out another instrument called Quantum Leap Gypsy, which features a collection of Gypsy-style virtual instruments. At $355 MSRP, this is also a bit pricey for people who aren't necessarily going to use it for paying work. However, within the context of a project that is looking for that "something special", it's well worth the money just based on the amount of content alone (11 GB).
What, I ask, are instruments that fall within the "Gypsy" style? Well, the instrument set includes solo violin; various guitars ranging from nylon string classical and Flamenco to Django Reinhardt style chordal material; various accordions; a trombone; and a cimbalon, which is an Eastern European hammered dulcimer. There are also a generous amount of percussive sounds that fall within the idiom, such as castanets and Flamenco dancer stomps, to name just a few.
As is the case with Ministry of Rock, the instrument elements in Gypsy are very meticulously recorded and assembled. There are numerous articulations for all of the non-percussive instruments, and the sound quality is exceptional across the board. The layout of the sample assignments and key switches for the various articulations is very well thought out.
EASTWEST is touting the violin in this instrument as "the new king of the sampled violins", and I have to say that the violin samples are amazing. There are many repetitions and articulations that add a serious number of tonal and dynamic variations to choose from. I used the violin within the context ofafewsongsIhadintheworks,anditwasgreat.Iownafew of the better-known string and violin sample instruments, and the Gypsy violin is definitely up in the top.
The guitars all sound great. I was skeptical about just how "real" EASTWEST could make a nylon-string classical guitar sound within a sampled instrument, but the results here are impressive. The articulations are what make it work with the guitar-and all of the other instruments for that matter. Other guitar highlights for me include the Django-style chordal material, which fit right into a tweaked-out swing song I was writing for a client.
Gypsy has numerous accordion options, and they cover the tonal spectrum for anything you might need. I know a film composer of note who recently bought Gypsy just for the accordions alone. For me, the accordions are probably the most useful outside of the Gypsy genre that EASTWEST is trying to hit with this plug-in. I have been working on an acoustic guitar-driven song with a singer-songwriter that has a stock (Logic instrument) sampled accordion that was just not quite sounding as good as it could within the song. However, after switching to one of the Gypsy accordions, all was well. EASTWEST is definitely targeting film, TV, and game composers with these two instruments, but anyone looking for some different options to fill out a tonal palette should check these out. The amount of content that you get in each instrument is massive, and the way the material is programmed within the Play plug-in is very intuitive. Couple this with the excellent sound quality, and you can see why EASTWEST is the big player it is today within the sampled instrument field. (Ministry of Rock $445 MSRP, Gypsy $355 MSRP; www.soundsonline.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.