SwarPlug Indian Instruments VSTi Click to print this page Send this article to a friend

The good: excellent library of patterns
The bad: range of sounds is perhaps a little limited

Introduction
Anyone interested in Indian music will know that swar are the seven notes of the Indian musical scale, so it comes as no surprise that SwarPlug, a new VSTi from Scandinavian software house Swar Systems, is a suite of virtual Indian instruments. More comprehensively than most VSTi however, SwarPlug also comes complete with librarian software providing not only midi loops of Indian rhythmic and melodic patterns, but also tutorials for those of us in the west not steeped in Eastern musical traditions. So, pukka major or bad karma? Harvey Alison adds some Asian flavour to his sequencer.

In use

SwarPlug is available as a download or as a boxed product for the broadband challenged, and runs on both PC and Mac platforms. The plugin installs and functions much like any other VSTi, with a nice simple GUI for setting up and controlling any of the 16 instruments on offer.  Midi assignable Gain, Pan and Pitch Bend Rate controls are available as well as the drop down patch selector. For those of you squinting at the screenshot below, the sounds on offer are Tabla, Pakhawaj, Dholak percussions, Bells, Low Range Tabla, Nagara, Tanpura (low, mid & high range) Drones, Sitar Strings, Sarod, Guitar, Santoor, Sarangi, Hamonium, Bansuri (including sharp & low range), Shehnai, Sudari, Tabla Bols voice, and Sargam voice.

In this respect it is little different from using a decent Indian instruments sample set in conjunction with a VSTi sampler (Swarplug is in fact based on the Cronox sample engine). The sounds on offer are well recorded and thoroughly usable in a mix context, although perhaps a little light on multisamples for solo instrument performances. But the crucial difference for those of us who are not trained in Indian classical music is the inclusion of the Librarian java application.

Librarian

The librarian lets you browse from a collection of over 500 midi loops and phrases which can be pasted into your VST host to trigger sounds from SwarPlug. This gives instant access to authentic melodic patterns and rhythms, which would be otherwise very difficult to replicate.

The librarian is in effect the main reason for buying SwarPlug, as it distils the in-depth knowledge and experience of the obviously dedicated Swar systems development team into a form where even novices to Indian music can easily have access to these musical forms for their own compositions. The timing and feel of these midi tracks is as good as I have heard, and although it will never be quite the same as performing alongside a skilled musician in real life, these patterns had me jamming along for hours on end very happily!

Conclusions

SwarPlug represents a great package for the sequencer user wanting to dip their toes into the vast and rich world of Indian music. Not only does the package include a dedicated software sampler and all the sounds you need to get started, but it also includes a library of patterns that can be used as a starting point for your own compositions and improvisations. At this price SwarPlug is a no-brainer for any computer based studio owner with the slightest interest in Indian music. Highly recommended!

Price: $225
Requirements: The following platforms are supported: Windows 95 or later, including XP. MacOS 9* or later, including OS X (*Librarian will only run on OS X).

Website: http://www.swarsystems.com/

Reviewed by Harvey Alison, December 2003
http://www.blackwatermusic.net/

Writer: Harvey Alison - Date: 21.05.2004   Click to print this page Send this article to a friend


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