Desktop Jaco Jockeys, your instrument awaits
Impact Soundworks Shreddage 3 Fretless
Desktop Jaco Jockeys, your instrument awaits.
I’ve been a fan of Impact Soundworks libraries since Sitar Nation, well over a decade ago. It’s playable and realistic without adding unnecessary complications to the user interface.
That trend continues with their Shreddage titles and Pedal Steel Guitar library. Their new release, Shreddage 3 Fretless, continues in the company’s tradition of faithfully reproduced instruments whose thoughtful articulations are right under your fingertips.
There have been tons of fretless basses reproduced in sampled libraries. This one is among the few that nails the appealing expressiveness of the fretless bass, while successfully avoiding the static, snapshot-like effect that often plagues these sounds.
The library captures the sound of a five-string Ibanez fretless bass, whose overall tone is mellower than a Fender fretless Jazz Bass. That difference is more pronounced in the lower ranges of the instrument, in which the Ibanez attack sounds a bit smoother.
A Bite control that follows MIDI CCs lets you approximate that gnarly, toward-the-bridge, Jazz-bass tone, but it’s not quite as growly. Nevertheless, Impact Soundworks provides plenty of tools to create a more aggressive instrument.
The UI divides into two main areas: Shreddage Engine, which offers a Main page and three sub-pages of tweaks for performance, articulations, and the like , and Console, in which you can set up mixing and effects-processing options.
For instance, the Bite knob uses EQ to “scoop” the lower-mids to provide a more forceful tone. You can also modulate the sample start time to alter the attack. A 3-way switch goes between mic and DI setups.
Shreddage Fretless, which works in the Native Instruments Kontakt Player for those who don’t own the full paid version of Kontakt, is not RAM-intensive – around 6GB. The library comes in two versions: a “lite” version for lower memory usage, and another library weighing in at another tenth of a gigabyte more.
Because every string has been sampled over its full range, identical pitches played on different strings will not sound the same. The Shreddage engine can extrapolate where a previous neighboring tone was played and select the most logical string for position for the next note. You can override that behavior and force your own choice of notes to play on a different virtual string; the virtual fingerboard displays which notes are played on which strings.
I especially appreciate the MIDI guitar radio button. One click and each string of your guitar controller is treated as a separate MIDI input. Of course, MIDI guitar being what it is, there are several more clicks to MIDI guitar nirvana; you’ll need to put the Kontakt patch into Omni mode, match pitch-bend ranges with the controller, and maybe (as I did) boost the velocity output of your guitar.
Those additional steps aren’t a flaw in Shreddage; that is the way of MIDI guitar. Still, not having to create six individual instances of Kontakt (and/or Shreddage) removes a serious load of muse-crushing drudgery.
As a replica of fretless bass, the legato performance and vibrato sound smooth and realistic, and you can tailor the legato response as well as the rate and depth of vibrato. All controls map freely to MIDI Control Changes. Switching between the Mod wheel to Aftertouch for vibrato is easier to control in real time, a more tactile approach to the instrument’s expressive capabilities.
There’s a lot going on beneath the simple surface of the console . Three channels emulate DI, an amp and e902 mic, and an amp and SM57 mic. These feed a Master channel by default, but you can use any or all channels and configure them differently.
Each channel offers eight effects slots arranged in series, including dynamics processors and modulation effects. Here is where you can choose the cabinet you’d like to model. You can use any and all channels at once, and some patches use all three bass channels plus the master for a wide image – excellent for emulating that Jaco Pastorius “singing bridge cable” effect, as he used in Weather Report’s “Punk Jazz.”
I’ve merely scratched the surface of the library with hardly a mention of the subjective sound of the collection. This is the most expressive and realistic fretless I’ve played, with the disclaimer that my bias runs toward that singing “Jaco” tone.
Here, Impact Soundworks knocks the ball out of the park. The sound is alive, with a sweet, human-sounding vibrato – and unlike fretless bass sampled with vibrato, you can control it dynamically with your fingertips or the Mod wheel. It’s particularly effective for ballads, but it’s fully capable of up-tempo notefests too.
I’m not especially fond of distorted bass; distortion tends to sacrifice the nuance inherent in fretless instruments – but the Fretless Djent Bass patch reminds me of Jack Bruce’s overdriven sound in Cream.
Nonetheless, there’s plenty here to please just about any fretless bass fan, and the included sound-shaping amenities make it remarkably easy to home in on any sound you need. I recommend Impact Soundworks Shreddage 3 Fretless without reservation.
Click here for more info