No longer a humble up/down device for stepping through the
notes of a chord, the arpeggiator has emerged as a slick and
sophisticated tool for modern music production. Arpeggiators have
swapped DNA with the step sequencer, producing a species of hybrid
designs in which a single step can be transposed, play a whole chord,
and much more. Grabbing an arpeggiated preset is
a quick way to add rhythmic inspiration to a mix. But in most software
instruments the arpeggiator just one module in a larger design. Some
manufacturers include many features, some only a few. Wouldn’t it be
great to have a software instrument that was all arpeggiator presets,
all the time, and that boasted the deepest, most inspiring arpeggiator
That’s the idea behind Sample Logic Arpology. Like other
Sample Logic products, Arpology is a sample library for Native
Instruments Kontakt (or the free Kontakt Player), but calling it a 5GB
sample library doesn’t explain anything. The arpeggiator patterns aren’t
sampled, they’re fully editable and playable in real time. Also
included in the package is a preset for TouchOSC, a controller app for
iPad and iPhone. (TouchOSC is a separate $5 purchase.)
At the top level, Arpology contains hundreds of instrument
presets in three categories: “Cinematic—Organic,” “Electronic,” and
“Percussive—Impacts.” Just drag one in from the Kontakt browser, lay
down a few keys, and enjoy . . . or drag in two or three and assign them
to the same MIDI input channel for massive layers. Also on offer are
two folders of multi presets: “Instrument Stacks” and “One Note Glory,”
totaling close to a hundred deeply layered items. The hardest part of
using Arpology will probably be keeping track of your favorites.
Each preset combines a multisample with an arpeggio
pattern that works well with it. Generalizing about so much great
material is perilous. It’s safe to say that most of the presets are well
suited to high-energy dance, pop, and soundtrack styles, but some are
more relaxed. If you’re going for mellow, don’t load “Angry Horse,” load
“A Gentle Journey” or “Mushroom Infection.”
If you like the sound but not the arpeggiation, you can
open the preset menu in the main panel and choose any of the other
arpeggiations without switching to a new sound. Naturally, you can also
save and load your own.
Less obvious, but quite useful, are the multi preset
presets. After loading a multi preset, you can use its internal Preset
menu to load configurations that will play one-finger chords, remap
single MIDI keys to other values, and so on. These are in the form of
Kontakt scripts, a programming language. The details of scripts are
esoteric, but tutorials are available online. You can add knobs to a
multi preset, assign them to whatever sound parameters you like, and
then record the knob moves.
The editing of the sound of a preset is adequate, but not
stellar. You can adjust the filter, the amplitude envelope attack and
release times, a four-band EQ, and a handful of effects. A synth tone
with its own ADSR envelope, transposition, and key range can be mixed
with the main multisample tone. The assumption seems to be that users
will be more interested in rhythm design than in shaping the tone. Given
the sheer size of the library, this may be a reasonable assumption.
The version 1.1 update adds two high-powered features.
First, you can drag and drop any arpeggio pattern from Arpology into a
MIDI track in your DAW, so that any software instrument can drive it.
The drag-and-drop function is intelligent: Arpology remembers the notes
in the chord you played most recently, and exports the pattern you were
hearing, not just a monophonic line. Stutters are exported, but not
glides (nor the additional transposition information coming from the
Pitch page). The second 1.1 addition is an arpeggiator on/off button.
Click this and you can play the Arpology sound library like any other
The PDF manual is terse and not too helpful. Try clicking
on everything you see, including things that are not obviously
clickable, and experiment with the results.
The arpeggiator has eight rows of controls, and a pattern
can have up to 128 steps. There are also global controls for swing
amount, speed (1/2x, 1x, or 2x), number of octaves, forward/reverse
direction, latching (so the arpeggio will continue after your fingers
leave the keys), and a few other things.
For each step, the step type can be set to off, note,
stutter, stutter alternating, glide, or free-play. Free-play is for
inserting manually played notes (presumably fills) into a latched
pattern. I didn’t find this too useful, because the notes played on the
keyboard will also change the arpeggio when it moves on to the next
step. Stutter alternating is sort of an arpeggiator within an
arpeggiator. Glide resembles the ever-popular Roland TB-303 glide
effect. There’s no glide rate control.
The velocity row has sliders rather than knobs. It also
has eight handy control widgets at the left end, some of which are also
found by the other rows, so let’s take a closer look. The R button
enables and disables randomization for the row. Randomization can be
applied either as a one-shot command (by clicking the Random button in
the upper area) or on every repetition of the sequence (by choosing
Random as the play mode). If you prefer a constantly changing pattern,
Arpology will be happy to deliver.
When the Out/In switch is in the Out position, the
velocity data from your keyboard is ignored, so the sliders control note
velocity directly. When it’s in the In position, the key velocity of
the notes you played is multiplied by the slider value. A random
variation in velocity can also be applied from a drop-down menu, for
more variety in the sound. Normally, the velocity data is applied to the
filter cutoff, but as you turn the To Vol knob, it will be applied to
note amplitude as well.
The pencil button opens a narrow graphic editor, which is a
nice editing shortcut, especially with long patterns, as you can drag
the pencil across multiple columns to draw a curve. The MW button
enables direct control of note velocity from the mod wheel. The chain
link icon (barely visible at the left edge) links all of the steps so
that when you edit any of them, the others change too. Eleven different
velocity row presets are available from a drop-down menu.
Step length can be set to more than a dozen values, from a
half-note down to a 96th-note, with some triplet and dotted values
included. There’s also a selection for input from the mod wheel. Getting
a precise rhythm value from the mod wheel is bound to be a bit finicky,
but real-time interaction is always welcome. When this row is
randomized, the results are somewhat constrained; sometimes you’ll get
the same (randomly chosen) value for all of the steps in the arpeggio,
which makes musical sense, and sometimes you’ll get a jumble.
The “arp type” can be set for each step. The options are
up, down, random, as played, and two chord types. Transposition can be
set for each step, up or down by up to 36 semitones. Panning per step is
also provided. Gate duration can be set for each step or controlled
from the mod wheel, but care is required when using the mod wheel, as a
duration of zero will cause notes not to sound.
The stutter rate is only active when stutter is selected
as the step type. The allowed values for each step are 16th, 32nd, 48th,
64th, 96th, and 182nd. One of the interactive features is a stutter
button that adds stuttering to all of the steps for as long as it’s held
Sound editing is tucked away in the Effects tab, at the
very bottom of the user interface. Across the top of the Effects panel
are easy control knobs for eight fixed effects: filter, lo-fi,
distortion, pitch alteration, wave (a secondary synth tone), delay, and
reverb. Technically, the filter isn’t an effect, as it’s a polyphonic
voice filter, not a monophonic output filter. Likewise, the pitch and
wave “effects” are something rather different.
The filter has both low-cut and high-cut knobs, a
resonance knob, and a velocity-to-high-cut (that is, lowpass) amount
knob. Above and to the left of some of the knobs is a tiny button. Click
this, and a step sequencer panel opens up, as shown at left. The
step sequencers are independent: Each can have up to 64 steps and its
own clock rate, which need not be the same as the arpeggiator length or
clock rate. Also, each step sequencer has its own set of eight presets,
which you can freely edit. It has no rhythm values, however: All of the
steps are the same length.
The pitch “effect” has only one knob. If its sequencer is
not active, it’s simply a transpose knob that shifts the MIDI notes up
or down. When the pitch sequencer is active, though, you have a second
set of transpositions that’s added to the transpose row in the
arpeggiator. Quite complex harmonic and melodic patterns are easy to set
up using the two transpositions at the same time.
The reverb has a drop-down menu with 14 different
selections (bedroom, church, parking garage, and so on). Each is
available in both conventional DSP and convolution versions. Both
versions have size and pre-delay knobs, as well as other parameters. The
convolution reverb has a reverse switch, which can produce some exotic
The wave “effect” is a simple synthesizer with standard
analog waveforms (sine, square, saw, and some mixtures). It has no
dedicated filter, but it does have a muscular three-band EQ for tone
control. It has transpose and detune knobs, its own volume knob, and
also its own volume envelope. The volume knob can be assigned to a step
sequencer—perfect for adding a sub-octave or a sparkling harmonic to
selected notes in the arpeggio.
Arpology has eight LFOs, one each for low-cut, high-cut,
resonance, sample rate (in the lo-fi effect), pitch, volume, panning,
and drive (in the distortion effect). The usual waveforms are provided.
Arpology comes with a template for TouchOSC, the control
surface app for the iPad and iPhone. If you have an iPad already, you
won’t want to miss this, as TouchOSC itself is only a $5 purchase. The
tricky bit is, your DAW probably doesn’t receive OSC messages, and
neither does Kontakt. TouchOSC can send MIDI, but you need to configure
your computer so that it sees the incoming stream of messages from
TouchOSC as a MIDI input port. The methods for doing this are different
on the Mac than on Windows, and Sample Logic’s documentation doesn’t
provide much guidance for Windows users, but after running around in
circles for a couple of hours I was able to get it working in Windows 7.
The TouchOSC template sends a variety of MIDI CC messages,
which you can use for realtime control or record into a MIDI track. The
template has three pages of controls. The first page has a slider for
the mod wheel, four X/Y surfaces (for filter, distortion, delay/low-cut,
and lo-fi), and some switches. With the switches, you can add glide or
stutter, randomize selected rows of the arpeggio, or step through to an
entirely different arpeggio preset. The second page is a two-octave
keyboard, and the third has six knobs and six buttons for controlling
If you need some rhythmic inspiration, either to start a
new project or to add spice to one that’s already under way, it’s hard
to see how you could go wrong with Arpology. It’s amazing, versatile,
state-of-the-art, and one-of-a-kind. Oh, and it sounds wonderful, too.
The price is a bit steep, but even so, Arpology is clearly a Key Buy.
PROS: Insanely powerful pattern generator. Tons of
great sounding presets. Interactive features for realtime playing. Smart
drag-and-drop pattern export.
CONS: Inadequate manual. Sound programming is limited.
Bottom Line: If your music relies on grooves, you won’t want to miss this.
$399.99 | samplelogic.com