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Software Review: DISCOVERY SERIES: CUBA from Native Instruments

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DISCOVERY SERIES: CUBA provides you with a selection of sampled percussion and melodic instruments based on Afro-Cuban music styles that integrate into the latest versions of KONTAKT 5 or the free KONTAKT PLAYER. The instruments contained here were built to sound authentic and be easy to use. They let you provide an atmosphere of a Cuban ensemble even if you are not fully familiar with the style.



Like its DISCOVERY SERIES predecessors WEST AFRICA and BALINESE GAMELAN, CUBA is a collection of multi-sampled instruments from a particular region. Based on traditional techniques, this library is designed to add authentic Cuban flavors to your musical productions. The goal of this set of instruments is to offer you an incredibly accurate, easy-to-navigate way to find the styles you need, and to show you how the various styles relate to one another in real life, while capturing the essence of each instrument and its individual grooves.

The CUBA library is divided into four sections. The percussion ensembles have Cajon, Hand Percussion, Rumba, and Salsa patterns. The single percussion selection includes bongos, Cajon, conga set, conga single, and timbales. The melodic ensembles have a full backing band with a selection of pre-programmed patterns, as well as a lead trumpet that you can play on top.

All of the instruments have two control pages accessible from the tabs at the bottom of the instrument interface: the instrument/ensemble page that contains the options and pattern controls, and the mixer controls and effects page. At the top of the instrument are two preset areas, one for loading and saving mixer presets and the other for loading and saving the instrument settings.



When you first open an instrument you will see the instrument/ensemble page. What it looks like will depend on which instrument you have loaded. There are four main areas. I described the presets above. Then you have the instruments themselves, designated by pictures of the instruments. Most of these have options accessible by clicking on the picture. There are up to three controls on an instrument; for example, on the piano you have the choice of a grand or upright; controls also may include tuning, and tap volume for hand percussion instruments. There are also key-maps which show the layout of the keyboard, and pattern controls where you can load and edit patterns for playback.

The mixer page is where you can mix the different instruments to get the exact balance and sound you want. On the left side of the mixer you will have up to six instrument channels. Here you have a send level to the reverb effect, a pan to control the position of the stereo field, a solo to mute all other channels, a mute to silence the current channel, a level fader to control the output level, and channel select for additional options and effects for that channel.



On the right side of the mixer are the reverb and master channels. The reverb channel lacks the send or pan controls that the instrument channels have, but other than that, it works the same way. On the master channel, instead of a pan control, you have a width control which affects the width of the master channel – how far to the left or right an instrument can be panned. In place of the Solo and Mute buttons is a stereo field inverter. This switches the left and right channels, effectively changing the listener position.

The area at the bottom of the mixer is where you will find effect controls and additional options. The contents will change depending on the channel selection: EQ, which allows you to alter the tonality of a sound; and Instrument Effects to control the width, drive, and output if your KONTAKT has multiple outputs set up, or if you want an instrument to bypass the master channel.

There are also controls on the master channel to handle compression and tape saturation. The reverb channel has a convolution-based reverb effect which accurately simulates real spaces (or equipment) by using an impulse response sample, which is kind of like a sonic fingerprint. CUBA includes “Club,” “Room,” “Stage,” “Studio,” and “Plate.”

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.