Sonokinetic might not be as much of a household name as
some other sample developers currently are, but this relative newcomer
to the market has a distinct and innovative line of products that pushes
the limits of what we can expect from sample-based products, both
musically and technically. With their latest release, Grosso, they’ve
managed to take orchestral sample libraries in a new direction and to
new heights that I suspect will have more established developers rushing
to catch up. So what’s all the fuss about?
Grosso comprises sampled loops for four orchestral
instrument families—strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion—plus
choir. There are no separate sections for violins, celli, trumpets,
flutes and so on. Instead, a single patch for each instrument family
contains all the related samples. The library is presented in 16- and
24-bit formats, and with “lite” versions for each instrument patch that
offer one multi-miked perspective, making these patches less CPU- and
RAM-intensive. There’s also a Transition Builder preset, which I’ll get
Four microphone perspectives are available with the “full”
patches: close, wide, Decca tree, and far. However, you can only mix
between two mic positions within a patch. Fortunately, the perspectives
are user-selectable—for example, you could mix close and Decca, or Decca
and Wide. While control freaks might prefer to create a mix of all four
mic positions, I found I had all the mix control I needed with only
Sonokinetic describes Grosso as a phrase-based instrument.
If you’re familiar with other “phrase sample” products you might
interpret this to mean a construction kit-style library with phrases
presented in multitrack fashion, allowing you to assemble a
credible-sounding track by layering various samples. It’s true that
Grosso contains an impressive range of orchestral phrases that can be
layered and combined to good effect. But Sonokinetic has taken the
phrase-based sample library concept to a whole new level.
Indeed, the “instrument” moniker is well deserved, as
Grosso is much more than a collection of related sampled loops that can
be minimally time-stretched and pitch-shifted beyond their original
tempi and key signatures. Because the phrases were recorded in multiple
keys (both major and minor), and thanks to the quality of Kontakt’s
built-in time-stretching engine and sophisticated scripting
capabilities, the phrases can be played across an extreme range of
tempos and in all keys without noticeable artifacts. There’s a high
degree of musicality and musical flexibility to Grosso that I haven’t
seen in any other phrase-based software instrument to date.
Matrices and Phrases
While a bit of a head-scratcher at first, the user
interface is actually quite clever, allowing you to load loops into
cells within a 2x4 or 3x4 matrix, and then use key-switches to mute and
switch among them on the fly. With strings, for example, Grosso provides
a 3x4 matrix that, by default, contains high, mid, and low frequency
material (roughly translating to violins playing in their high register,
violin II and viola in their lower register, and celli/bass below
this). The Woodwind and Brass presets offer 2x3 matrices with phrases
organized by low and high. You’re free to mix frequency material as you
like, however. For example, you could combine multiple low-frequency
brass performances to create an intense and muscular passage.
One of the aspects that puts Grosso more in the
“instrument” category is that in order to produce any sound, you need to
play major or minor triads, which will produce the appropriate
tonality. This is made possible through a combination of intelligent
composition and orchestration prior to the sampling sessions to ensure
musically related parts that will work together when layered, and
Kontakt scripting that allows Grosso to interpret chord qualities,
including inversions, and dynamically choose samples to produce the
The performances were played at 135 bpm with a 12/8 feel,
which I initially found somewhat limiting for more punctuated
4/4-feeling cues, until I discovered that it is possible to
achieve 4/4-feeling results by adjusting the time signature in your DAW
to 8/8 (Gross offers intelligent tempo syncing features, including the
ability to adjust to different time signatures).
Stylistically the phrases are designed for media composers
to create “epic, action and chase scenes,” according to the developer.
To my ear, that’s a spot-on characterization. Musically, there are many
phrases and variations that easily work together across all instrument
families, which is a testament to Sonokinetic’s compositional expertise.
On the whole, there’s a treasure trove of driving, dramatic, uplifting
and menacing material to be mined, which I’m sure will make its way onto
hordes of reality and action-documentary TV shows in no time (if it
User Interface Features
While perhaps unconventional, Grosso’s user interface
offers a lot of functionality without having to dive into any menus or
sort through lists of samples. Instead, phrases are presented as
“graphic notation,” which are shapes that represent the musical score of
each phrase. Since there are no descriptive names or specific musical
references used to describe the sample material, there’s a higher level
of experimentation that the user interface encourages, which I found
refreshing and creatively stimulating.
However, you can also view the actual notation (see Fig.
1), so if you read music, you can easily recreate the sampled phrases
using other multisampled libraries. I was able to sequence the same
phrases with my go-to multisampled strings to create a more cohesive
sound, for example. Also, since Grosso’s phrases are primarily a mix of
ostinatos and repetitive accompaniment (there’s very little melodic
material), you’ll likely need to employ other sources if you want to
create original melodies.
Pressing the Info button (lower RH corner of the UI)
toggles a help view that shows an overlay of descriptions for all the
different sections of the interface, as shown in our main screenshot.
This was very handy as I was getting to grips with Grosso and I suspect
many users will rely on it ongoing to help them keep track of all the
functionality available from the interface. (You won’t get very far
without reading the manual, either.)
Now for that Transition Builder I mentioned earlier. This
is a separate patch that uses scripting to let you build brass and
woodwind crescendos, complete with percussion fills and accompaniment,
based on various chords. The results are impressive and I’m sure I’ll be
putting this to use in future cues when I need cinematic trailer-type
There’s a lot to love about Grosso. It offers a
royalty-free and copyright-free license, so you can use it for most
music writing projects without every worrying about legal limitations.
Its interface encourages creative exploration. The phrase material from
the different instrument families combines well to create extremely
convincing orchestral passages (after all, the samples are recordings of
real performances), and there’s a level of playability that no other orchestral phrase library can match.
Flexible and musical collection of orchestral phrases that
can easily be mixed and matched to create complete orchestral passages
quickly. Includes all orchestral instrument families, plus choir and
Taiko drums. Affordable.
Some minor version 1 bugs (Kontakt would lose the library each time I closed a session). A few performances had suspect timing.
If you write orchestral cues for deadline-driven media
projects and you’re okay submitting music that’s not entirely original,
Grosso is definitely worth the investment.
€299.90 direct | sonokinetic.net