Feeling the need to make an instrument, but the lack of space to do so, I decided to pull out a couple tongue drums and make something of them. A 6” and a 12”. Mini is a version of this instrument that is reduced to only 2 round robins and does not include the separate instruments for the 2 drums.
The tongue drums themselves have no real story to them, I bought them cheap on Amazon. But when I made the samples, I wanted to get something extremely dynamic and natural. So there are imperfect hits, as I am a fan of some of that imperfection, as well as an extreme range from lowest to highest velocity. The quietest samples playing on the very edge of silence. I preserved the volume of each hit relative to each other so that it would behave as it would in a live recording. I feel like the dynamic range adds another dimension to these.
I also wanted to experiment with reverb and created a second set of reverb samples. Setting a dual mono reverb. Each side has the same length, but one is built from a natural reverb IR and the other is completely digital and built in Pro R. Adding some additional space both into the tail sound of the instrument, but also into the stereo field.
I hope these samples can bring their players some joy and inspiration.
Reviews for Tongues Mini
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I love experiments!
Experimentation! Love it. My sort of thing. And beware - you might be fooled by the simple User Interface of this virtual instrument and assume that it is just a capture of a tongue drum...
Actually, what you have here is slightly different, in many ways. Let's start with round robins - there are two, which might sometimes be seen as too few, but with this type of percussion then there isn't very much scope for huge amounts of variation in timbre, and so two seems fine to me. Now I know that it is possible to go 'off piste' and force other sounds out of a tongue drum (water is one of my fave 'don't do this at home'/'do at your own risk' techniques - also good with other percussion instruments, and also very good at ruining things! 'Hey! what have you done to my Bodran?'), but here it seems to be just the classic sticks/beaters/mallets (whatever word I use here is going to be wrong!) rather than the more meditative hand approach. From what it says in the story then there's a strong hint at a commercial version, which is confirmed by a quick search of the Interweb. So 5 of your pounds sterling will get you the full version, which is nowhere near as much as I was expecting! There's more percussion, and more, as well.
But back to the free mini version. If you were thinking that two round robins could be used as an indication of the quality of the product, then you might be in for a shock, because there are a few dynamic layers used: between 9 and 13 different dynamic layers, if I counted correctly, so not all the same, and there's a lot of dynamic range available. The samples are 32-bit float WAVs, so there's plenty of room! The story doesn't mention noise reduction, and the samples aren't in an 'NR' directory/folder, but they sounded pretty clean to my well-worn ears.
OK, so dynamic range gets a big tick for 'attention to detail', but what about intervals? Semi-chromatic is the word I'm going to use for when 7 of the 12 semitones in an octave are recorded separately. So you get either 1 note per sample, or two - except for the lowest notes, where the G2 sample is used all the way down to C2. That's what I call an interesting anomaly... It isn't clear how the samples are derived from the two tongue drums (6 inch and 12 inch), but I could hear a transition below C4, and above C3, but I'm not going to be answering questions on tongue drum transition choices as my 'specialist subject' on the BBC's 'Mastermind' quiz programme any time soon! But, overall, there are a mere 740 samples in the 'Samples' folder, which is a lot of samples.
So depth in velocity layers and small in sample intervals!
Looking at the user interface, you are probably going to assume, as I did at first, that there is a blend control that determines the mix between a Close mic and a far mic, and a separate Wet Level Reverb volume control, just like every other Decent Sampler virtual instrument (I'm looking at the DS version, not the Contact version...). And we would both be totally wrong.
This isn't like that at all. The 'Close' rotary control is just a volume control for the close mic'ed sound, but the 'Reverb' rotary control is actually a volume control for the sound processed through two different mono reverbs: one from an IR convolution reverb, the other a digital Pro R from FabFilter. So if you turn the 'Close' rotary control all the way down, then you get the 'verbed sound if you turn the Reverb rotary control up. This caught me out at first, because I've always been a 'read the manual last' type of person. But once you've got your head around it, then you can blend nicely between the natural release sound of the steel oval, and the slightly unusual reverb that is an interesting change from the usual DS stock reverb. As I said, there's a lot of experimentation (and depth) being shown here.
Overall then, a sampled steel ovoid sourced from a company that I may have only vaguely heard of (! I do forget things...) who presumably are based on the banks of a big river in South America. From the name, the samplists would seem to be based near the real North Pole, and not the magnetic version that moves around, but these days, they could just as easily be based in the UK somewhere. But I'm wandering around here myself, so let's get back to the review... Lots of sampling depth: dynamics and tight intervals, and an experimental reverb setup. Oh, and it sounds exactly like a tongue drum! Nice to play, and nice to listen to. You could use this yourself...