Although there are numerous percussion libraries on the
market, EastWest StormDrum 3 deserves its place by deftly bridging the
world music and “cinematic: paradigms. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say
it’s one of the best-sounding percussion libraries anyone has created
PROS: Unique collection of ethnic drums, metals, and pitched
percussion. Individual instruments with round-robin hits, flams, and
rolls. New Play 4 engine provides 5 stereo multi-mic positions with
SSL-licensed EQ and dynamics. True-stereo convolution reverb from EW
Spaces included. Excellent recording and programming throughout.
CONS: Understanding how to play many of these exotic instruments
authentically could be a challenge. Levels can get hot on some patches
when playing hard velocities and/or mixing mic perspectives.
Bottom Line: An amazing assortment of ethnic world percussion that
sounds fantastic and complements StormDrum 2. Perfect for composers
working in film, TV, gaming and world music.
$395 on DVD | $479 shipped on hard drive | soundsonline.com
With a clear focus on ethnic and world music percussion,
StormDrum 3 (SD3) builds on its excellent predecessor, StormDrum 2.
There are no traditional drum kit or standard orchestral percussion
samples in SD3. The spotlight is on the exotic with a cinematic feel,
although many of these sounds could easily work themselves into pop
SD3 also explores the vast percussion collection of former
Grateful Dead drummer, Mickey Hart. Mickey was a proponent of world
music long before it became fashionable, and he has spent decades
collecting and studying exotic percussion instruments from all around
the globe. Additional instruments were provided by Remo Belli (founder
of Remo Inc.).
For those already familiar with EastWest’s “Play”
interface and sample engine, there are no immediate surprises. In
addition to the main parameters, SD3 features a simple delay and filter
section. The tuning section provides Play’s traditional tuning that
affects both pitch and playback speed (A) and a tuning mode that does
not affect speed (B), also with a high/normal quality switch. All of the
live loops folders can be tempo-synced to your DAW.
SD3 is divided into a Quickstart folder (an introduction
to the library), followed by seven categories: big drums (excluding
taikos); gongs, clocks and waterphones; metals; shakers; small drums;
taikos; and woods. A collection of tempo-synced “Mickey Hart Live Loops”
was derived from a multi-instrument jam session including Hart,
producer Nick Phoenix, and percussionists Greg Ellis and Chalo Eduardo.
There are too many great sounds to cover, but there are
audio demos online. A few standouts include the taiko drums, which cover
large to small in great detail. The “Dragon” hits are huge and the gong
collection is one of the best ever sampled. The metal collection can be
eerie or ethereal, and I love the “Chimes Burma.” The frame drums and
clockworks are exceptional. The live loops do feel very live. Throw a loop into your DAW, mess with the filter, and you’ve got an instant mood bed.
Many of the instruments feature an average of four
round-robin notes per key, with several having six, eight, or even 12
notes. There doesn’t seem to be much velocity switching between samples,
and the articulations are typically spread across the keys. However,
there is scripting for velocity affecting the volume, tone, and envelope
of the notes in a very musical way. The result is a very playable and
dynamic feel once you become familiar with how instruments are
Play 4 Engine
SD3 is the first library to be hosted in the new Play 4
engine. Play 4 includes a new Mixer view that allows the user to control
level, pan and effects. Each instrument can be expanded to five channel
strips for each virtual mic array: Close (up to eight mics near the
instrument for a dryer sound); Mid (a tree of mics 15 feet away); HiFi
(a slightly wider “super-clean” pair of mics 15 feet away); Main (a
Neumann M50 Decca tree array 20 to 25 feet away); and Ribbon (vintage
RCA ribbons 20 to 25 feet away). Clicking the channel strip name
automatically loads the associated samples.
All of the mic positions sound phenomenal. EastWest Studio
1 (formerly the vaunted United Western) has a room tone and decay that
is well known to be great for drums and percussion. Instruments open to a
default blend of Close and HiFi mics that’s immediately useful without
additional reverb, although you can most certainly dive in to loading
the other mic arrays. Blending the various mic positions gives you a
staggering amount of control over tone, and lets you dial in
professional depth well beyond what can normally be done with dry
samples and multiple reverbs. When even more ambiance is desired, the
included true-stereo convolution impulse responses are imported directly
from EastWest Spaces, one of my current favorite reverbs.
Play 4’s new effects are courtesy of SSL and sport a filter, EQ, compressor, gate/expander, and a transient shaper (see Figure 1 at left
Effects are available on each individual mic array and the master
output. In addition, a single SSL stereo bus compressor is available per
instrument. EQ and compression are certainly welcome additions;
however, the samples sound so great that I rarely felt the need for
effects. The new mixer and effects of Play 4 will be available in future
Play libraries. Older Play libraries can add the SSL effects for a
one-time upgrade fee of $99—which covers everything you own.
The transients are so well recorded in SD3 that in my
initial tests, some of the patches overloaded the mixer (in Play and/or
Logic) when played at the hardest velocities. You can work around this
by watching your levels, which you should do even moreso when combining
multiple mic perspectives. I told EastWest about this experience, and
they’re working on a fix.
Although I’ve had my issues with the Play engine in the
past, my experience with SD3 and Play 4 was pleasant. I experienced a
smooth workflow and was able to concentrate on the music and explore the
massive amount of cool sounds.
In practice, I generally had no idea what I was doing with
many of the instruments, which made for a lot of fun. I’d usually poke
around to get an idea of what an instrument could do, and then just
start playing until something sounded good. It’s a simple matter to move
notes to “better” articulations after the fact, and that’s what I did
if I was feeling picky. There’s both a lot of instant gratification for
those not obsessed with being convincingly authentic and plenty of meat
for those who are.
There are so many great sounds to choose from in SD3,
especially for composers working in film, TV, video games, and
multimedia. The recordings and playing are stellar, and blending the mic
arrays can make you sound like a Hollywood A-lister.