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Software Review: SESSION HORNS From Native Instruments

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SESSION HORNS is one of the newest products from Native Instruments. It creates the sound of a tight, four-piece horn section that was sampled in Native Instruments usual high quality methods that they use for when creating all of their instruments. It was created with realism of sound in mind and it features over 170 flexible phrases, and through the use many unique tools, you can create authentic arrangements automatically.

SESSION HORNS provides you with a highly expressive and versatile horn section that lets you quickly achieve great results. Woodwind and brass are among the most dynamic and expressive acoustic instruments and the interaction between the individual players of a horn section can be very complex both harmonically and rhythmically. SESSION HORNS combines great sound quality with an intuitive interface that provides you with not only a truly musical workflow, but also the ability to recreate the magic that a soulful Horn section can add to your music.

SESSION HORNS

 

The goal of SESSION HORNS is to provide to you the sound of a tight, modern brass section and is aimed at Soul and Pop producers. Brass found in genres such as R&B, Latin, Indie, Nu-Jazz and Reggae can also easily be created. If you are doing cinematic and sound work, SESSION HORNS can be used quite well to provide just the right atmosphere as well.

SESSION HORNS is powered by either the free KONTAKT player that comes with the package, or by using the full stand-alone KONTAKT 5 product which also comes with the Native Instruments KOMPLETE 8 packages.

SESSION HORNS is provided as two separate KONTAKT instruments – SESSION HORNS – Performance and SESSION HORNS – Single Articulation. The Performance instrument is designed for real time performance. It features pre-programmed but very flexible brass phrases using SESSION HORNS’ unique Animator function as well as a ‘standard’ keyboard mode, where different articulations are accessible via velocity switching and pitch wheel.

The SESSION HORNS engine can also intelligently split chord notes and assign them to individual section instruments if required. The Performance instrument also has three separate pages which you can access by simply clicking on the tabs on the bottom margin of the program window.

In Single Articulation is meant to be used for single articulations – ideal for production and sequencing work. All Articulations are available in the Single Articulation file. In order to provide a minimum RAM footprint, they are automatically loaded and unloaded depending on your selection. This instrument has two separate pages. These can be opened by clicking on the tabs on the bottom margin of the program window.

SESSION HORNS

 

As I said before, the Performance instrument has three separate pages. These are called Main, Sound, and Control. The Main page allows you to select instrument combinations for the horns that you want to use, determine a second articulation that is used when you press the keys harder, control how the individual voices are distributed the instruments in the horns section you have selected, lower the octave for individual instruments, and use the unique Animator to play back pre-programmed yet flexible phrases or just use the pre-programmed rhythm of the phrase with your own chords.

The Sound page gives you the ability to select presets in the sound section. You can select and activate master FX presets, use the Detune function in the Humanizes section to detune – either slightly or heavily, the instruments, and setup stereo width in the Stereo section or create a mono signal. You can also select and activate a reverb type and set the amount of reverb in the resulting output signal.

On the Control page you can set up a number of parameters that you can control using external MIDI controllers or by the way you play. This includes dynamic control where you can select one of two available methods (Velocity or Expression) to control the SESSION HORNS dynamics, Pitch wheel where you can select one of three available options and thereby define what happens when you use the Pitch Wheel on your controller keyboard, and sustain pedal where your choices are “Same Note Legato” for realistic note repetitions or Animator to where you can start the animator at any time.

 

SESSION HORNS

 

The Single instrument features only one articulation at a time and can be used for detailed composition and production work. This instrument has two different pages – Main and Sound. On the main page you can select instrument combinations for the horns section you want to use, select an articulation type, control how the individual voices are distributed among the instruments in the horns section you have selected, and lower the octave for individual instruments. The sound page for the Single instrument works just the same and has the same functionalities as it does on the Performance instrument.

There is a lot to like about SESSION HORNS. I really like the availability of the two different instruments. It gives you a lot of flexibility over what you are creating and when you combine that with the fact that you can rearrange your section – a complete section consists of two trumpets, a tenor sax, and a trombone, into a lot of different combinations.
The other thing I like is the Smart Voice Split that allows you to allocate each note of a chord to the corresponding brass instrument. In sampling a four horn section, each horn plays the same note. The problem becomes when you play two notes at the same time, you now get effectively eight horns. What Smart Voice Split does is to split the horns over the notes so that if you play four notes each horn plays one of the notes giving you a more balanced sound – essentially how a four horn ensemble would sound in real life. Now in the traditional polyphonic mode, you can still get the doubling sound, but I like the fact of the finer grain of control.

 

SESSION HORNS

 

I also like the Animator which turns chords into authentic brass phrases while maintaining real-time control-ability. This lets you use the Animator to play back pre-programmed yet flexible phrases or just use the pre-programmed rhythm of the phrase with your own chords.

As with all of the Native Instruments, SESSION HORNS is a lot of fun to play with and very easy to learn and work with. The sounds that it creates are very realistic and it provides you with a lot of powerful voicing capabilities. If you are in need of a powerful horns library then I can very highly recommend SESSION HORNS.

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About T. Michael Testi

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

    I made the mistake of buying it it after seeing many good reviews.
    If you want REAL horns don’t waste your money.