Exotic Instrument Timbres From Electric Grand
In XLN Audio's Addictive Keys, one of the features of the Electric Grand module is that you can blend its acoustic sound, it's electric sound, and its re-amped electric sound. Of these three elements, though, my favourite is the acoustic sound (as captured by the Acoustic Tube option in the Microphone Selection panel), which blends each note's harmonic series with a judicious dose of clangorous inharmonic frequencies. However, the exotic sonic scope of this isn't immediately apparent from surfing the presets, so I'd like to suggest a few of my favourite Edit Page hacks for tapping into this timbral potential.
The first critical control is Sample Shift, in the Sample Playback settings, which dramatically alters the sound's harmonic balance. Give this a good crank clockwise and the tone becomes more metallic, closer to a hammered dulcimer. Anti-clockwise control positions, on the other hand, yield more mellow facets, notes which resemble the personality of fingered harmonics on a harp. The exact nature of the timbre will change by default according to how hard you play the notes, so another setting I find very useful here is ‘Vel>Sample’ in the Instrument Settings. This allows you to keep the timbre within a more controlled range. You don't lose the ability to create loud/soft dynamic variation by doing this — you just stop the timbre from moving too far away from your chosen sweet spot while you play. For my money, high-velocity samples work best with high Sample Shift settings, while low-velocity samples sound better with low-velocity samples.
You can move even further away from the piano realm by flipping to the Sample Playback Section's Volume tab. The first thing to try is disengaging the Release Samples, and then reconstituting the note decay tails by extending the Volume Envelope's release time instead — any value above about five seconds should do. Try also disguising Electric Grand's attack signature by extending the Volume Envelope's attack time to 30ms or so, since this suggests alternate playing implements such as soft felt mallets or even brushes, depending on your Sample Shift and ‘Vel>Sample’ combination.
Further intriguing harmonic colorations can be discovered by adding Addictive Keys's Plate reverb algorithm into the mix. Just turn up the FX1 control on your Acoustic Tube channel, and then open the FX Section controls to configure FX1's ‘Delerb’ engine. (Delerb is XLN Audio’s portmanteau for a delay that’s fed into a reverb.) In this case, try starting off with the Delerb Crossfader all the way to the right, dial up the Plate Reverb Algorithm, and then set the Damp control to its minimum, thereby ensuring lots of characterful metallic resonances. By all means wallow in this enveloping reverb effect by turning the Decay control all the way up (heck, you can even mute the Acoustic Tube channel itself so you hear only the reverb effect, if you like), but don't feel that you absolutely have to be drowning in reverberation to benefit from the Plate's tonal flavour. All you have to do to make the Plate less audible as a separate effect is bring the Decay control right down and narrow the FX1 return channel's stereo width control so that it sits behind the dry Acoustic Tube signal.
Words: Mike Senior