Wednesday , April 17 2024
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Software Review: ACTION STRINGS From Native Instruments

ACTION STRINGS is the latest virtual instrument from Native Instruments. ACTION STRINGS is an instrument that can be used for creating epic, cinematic sounds as well as adding atmosphere to just about any audio recording. ACTION STRINGS gives you the ability to create orchestral arrangements through the use of simple playable phrases. These high quality sampled, natural sounds comprise over 14 GB of live-recorded string that are ready to add suspense and drama to your audio performance.

ACTION STRINGS is powered by either the free KONTAKT player, or by using the full stand-alone KONTAKT 5 product which also comes with the Native Instruments KOMPLETE 8 packages. ACTION STRINGS lets you create dramatic sequences quickly and easily.


As I said, ACTION STRINGS is a cinematic string phrase library that is meant to make the creation of musical productions much easier. Patterns can be triggered at a select pitch from the respective key on your MIDI keyboard and then modified while staying in sync with your host project. ACTION STRINGS gives you two microphone positions and a selection of easy-to-use audio effects.

ACTION STRINGS comes with 154 phrases that were performed and recorded live by a full 60-piece string orchestra – the FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague, which consisted of 22 violins, 18 violas, 14 cellos, and 6 basses – broken into upper and lower ensembles. During the recording they used two microphone settings – a stage one (close) and a second one – a far one. ACTION STRINGS also comes with 62 themes each of which is a group of 5 phrases that work together.

ACTION STRINGS is an instrument that is meant to be played with a MIDI keyboard to get the proper effect. The loops are triggered through MIDI and make it much easier for orchestral scoring. The phrases will automatically sync to the master or the host tempo. It is through the time stretching algorithm in KONTAKT 5 that the phrases can be played at any tempo between 100bpm and 250bpm with no noticeable artifacts. They can be played outside this range, but there may be some audio quality issues.

To play, you select one of the key-switches that are shown in red on the interface keyboard – these can be selected from either the interface or the corresponding key on your MIDI keyboard, and then you select a trigger from the blue keys which correspond to C2-C5 on your MIDI keyboard.


Effectively, you choose phrases with your left hand and choose pitches with your right – in the video included below demonstrates you how this works. You can switch between phrases in a legato manner which allows you to easily change a pattern half way through a bar without missing a beat. Since ACTION STRINGS is polyphonic, you can play multiple pitches at once.

If you want to control the dynamics of the phrases in real-time you can use the modulation wheel of your MIDI keyboard or use the one on the KONTAKT on-screen keyboard. If you want to set the dynamics to a fixed value you can use the Expression slider to the top left of the ACTION STRINGS user interface.

As can be seen in the images, the user interface allows you to set up phrases, load preset themes, and alter the sound of the instrument in many ways. You have the normal KONTAKT instrument header controls at the top, and below that come the ACTION STRINGS controls.

The first two at the top of the screen are the Expression box (on the left side) which displays the current Mod Wheel value – and in as much the current dynamic level. The second (on the right side) shows the current or most recently played phrase as well as the current velocity mode.


At the bottom of the screen are four tabs that allow you to change the contents of the central area. They include the Sound tab – that displays the controls that affect the sound if the instrument, Slots 1-5 and Slots 6-10 – that display the patterns that are associated with the respective-key switches, and Playback – that shows the controls that are used to alter the pattern playback behavior.

I found that ACTION STRINGS is very easy to work with and like all of the Native Instrument virtual instruments, there is a lot of flexibility and control over the sounds you get from the modules. The sound quality of the phrases is also excellent. They are clearly quality recordings and really bring the ability to create dramatic sounds.


Through the use of the live orchestra, ACTION STRINGS brings a richness that cannot be matched. What they have created here is really a dynamic phrase instrument that makes it really easy to convert a concept into reality through string arrangement.

If you are looking for an instrument that will make your life easier to create and record blockbuster style orchestration for movies, broadcast, games, or other creative audio endeavors, then I can very highly recommend ACTION STRINGS.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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