Some of us love the idea of diving into a stack of vinyl from years past, in search of funky riffs and vintage sounds ripe for sampling, slicing, and adding to our projects. We love the idea, but many of us haven’t touched a vinyl album in years. Fear not. Native Instruments presents a powerful new bag of tricks in the form of George Duke Soul Treasures, a software instrument comprised of a plethora of phrases performed by the keyboard legend himself, on his favorite vintage gear. More than just a bank of loops, it’s truly an instrument, built to inspire. Let’s find out how.
The instrument has 503 total presets, each containing a sample of George Duke playing a unique phrase one on of his keyboards: acoustic piano, Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, and Clavinet. Each phrase is represented by a waveform display, and visually divided into its various “slices” such as chord changes, melodic bits, and so on. Specific MIDI notes are assigned to trigger the various slices of a given phrase. What this means is that you can either play the whole phrase through, or rearrange the parts of the phrase to create an entirely new phrase. You can also cause any slice of a phrase to play in reverse when triggered, not to mention define how each slice will respond to a MIDI note: loop, one-shot, polyphonic, or monophonic. Essentially, what we have here is a realtime remixing and reconstructing environment, in which you can attain phrases ranging from retro and realistic to more hypnotic, Daft Punk-esque cutting and repetition—all with the trademark George Duke funk.
Each preset has an arbitrary name that includes the tempo at which it was recorded. I would have preferred more practical information still, like the phrase’s original key, as opposed to song title-like names such as “Listen Close.” That said, the “pick a card, any card” approach to presets made things fun and unpredictable. It’s indicative of the instrument’s focus: This is more of an instrument that helps you generate new ideas based on Mr. Duke’s phrases, rather than a quick stock library of material to plug in to your existing tracks—though that is of course possible.
When it comes time to put phrases into your own work, it’s important to understand that you’re dealing with MIDI tracks, not audio. Unlike Apple Jam Packs or other loop libraries you’d dragand- drop into an audio track, Soul Treasures’ phrases are always “played” like on any software synth. You can drag a phrase into a MIDI track, which simply pastes the proper MIDI notes into the proper spots. The phrases can be time-stretched to different MIDI tempos, but you’ll get the best feel and groove when you stick close to the original tempos.
At first, I was skeptical: “Everybody who gets Soul Treasures will have the same stuff,” I reasoned, “so how useful could it be?” It took only minutes to dispel any doubts. George Duke Soul Treasures far exceeded my expectations of just how musical, original, and inspired you can get with ready-made phrases. It doesn’t hurt that they were played by George Duke himself, but there truly is plenty of room for your own “collaboration” with the maestro.
PROS Fantastic and useable musical phrases with trademark George Duke sound and feel. Inspiring interface turns loops into a genuine musical instrument.
CONS Preset names give no specifics other than tempo.
CONCEPT Funk, R&B, and soul MIDI loops played by George Duke.
FORMATS Included Kontakt 4 Player runs standalone or as AU, RTAS, or VST plug-in. Also works as library for full Kontakt soft sampler.
PRICE Direct: $119