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EastWest MIDI Guitar Instrument Series Volumes 1-5
EastWest partners with Fishman on a library designed specifically for TriplePlay

 


by Phil O'Keefe



Guitarists have ridden a roller-coaster for years when it comes to the promise of MIDI and guitar synths. First we hear about a new release that promises to take MIDI guitar to a whole new level of usability, only to have our hopes shattered when we finally get our hands on the product itself and discover it suffers from poor tracking, or that you have to use their controller instead of your favorite guitar… or if it works with your guitar, you have to make extensive modifications to add their special pickup and electronics. But all of that has been changed dramatically with the introduction of the Fishman TriplePlay wireless MIDI guitar controller. But a controller is only part of the equation - you need great sounds to use along with the controller, and that's where the EastWest MIDI Guitar collection comes in. A collaborative effort between Fishman and sample and virtual instrument (V.I.) titans EastWest, it promises to provide an extensive collection of sounds that are optimized for use with the Fishman TriplePlay. Let's see if it lives up to the promises.





What You Need To Know

  • The Fishman TriplePlay uses a hardware unit that attaches to your guitar - but it doesn't require pro installation or any permanent modifications. The pickup itself attaches near the bridge with double-sided tape, while the control unit and transmitter attaches magnetically to a provided bracket that is held on to the guitar with just the strap button. The wireless transmitter is built into the control unit and is powered with an onboard lithium ion battery that is good for abut 20 hours of use, and that you can recharge with an included micro USB cable and adapter. At the other end, a small thumb drive-sized USB receiver attaches to the host computer and provides wireless reception - no more bulky cables between your guitar and computer!

                                        

                               

 

  • Regardless of which EastWest MIDI Guitar Volume(s) you have, there are three main components to the software side of things - Fishman's TriplePlay app, EastWest's Play app, and the sound library itself.

  • The Fishman TriplePlay app and EastWest Play application are compatible with Macs and PCs. 

  • System requirements are an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.7 GHz processor or faster, 8 GB of RAM and OS X 10.7 or later for Macs and an Intel Core 2 Duo, or AMD Dual Core 2.7 GHz processor or higher, 8 GB Ram, ASIO sound card and Windows 7 or later for PCs. With either, you'll also need a 7,200 RPM or faster HDD (or a SSD) for sample streaming.

  • For plug-in use, a 64 bit DAW host is recommended - you'll need to run an older version (version 4) of the EastWest Play application if you're using a 32 bit DAW.

  • I tested the EastWest MIDI Guitar libraries with Fishman TriplePlay version 1.4 software running on my trusty quad core i7 MacBook Pro.

  • Fishman's TriplePlay  is both a standalone and plugin application that is the heart of that system. Various virtual instruments can be loaded into TriplePlay and the sounds loaded into them are then accessible and playable using the TriplePlay-equipped guitar. TriplePlay has a built-in tuner app, which is quite handy, and it can map different virtual instruments and sounds to different strings and fretboard regions, allowing you to cover a lot of sonic territory with your TriplePlay equipped guitar. You can also adjust the controller's sensitivity and other parameters from inside the app, which is easy to do but important for getting it to respond optimally to your playing touch.

 

  • EastWest's Play application (currently at version 5.0.4), like the TriplePlay app, can run standalone or as a plugin, and it's been optimized for use with TriplePlay, allowing you to load everything into it in a very guitar-friendly way. Play allows you to make various adjustments to the loaded samples too, such as transposing them and changing their attack, hold, decay, sustain and release envelope. An onboard high and low-pass filter allows for further processing, and you can add effects like amp simulation, delay and reverb here too.

  • The EastWest instruments must be loaded from the Fishman Triple Play preset browser, not from the PLAY browser to benefit from the all the special programming for the series. The browser is simple and intuitive to use.



  • The sounds and various instruments themselves are also optimized for use with the TriplePlay MIDI guitar controller, having been re-programmed and adjusted specifically for use with MIDI guitar. Many of these sounds have been ported over from other EastWest sample packages and virtual instruments. I recognized some of the sounds from their excellent Fab Four Beatles-inspired V.I. among the sounds in the various volumes.

  • Installation was fairly straightforward, although since the libraries are pretty large, it takes a while. At first I did run into issues getting the EastWest libraries to load into the Fishman TriplePlay app, and although I tried a few times to figure it out, I was unable to do so. Fortunately Fishman has some of the world's best customer service. I can't emphasize enough just how knowledgeable and helpful they were - literally spending a few hours with me on the phone and remotely accessing my computer and repairing my configuration. I should mention the issues that I was having were related to my SampleTank installation (TriplePlay uses SampleTank sounds as some of their factory bundled stock sounds), and not really EastWest's or Fishman's fault, but Fishman's tech support figured it all out and got it all working anyway.

  • All of the EastWest MIDI Guitar Volumes use 16 bit, 44.1 kHz samples.

  • The size is considerable - for all five volumes, it amounted to roughly 108 GB total. The downloads are then automatically unpacked by the EW installation Center app. Like downloading, the unpacking process takes a while, so you should set aside sufficient time to get everything done, along with at least 108 GB of fast (7,200 RPM or SSD recommended) hard drive space.  

  • The sizes for the individual volumes are Vol. 1 = 18.32 GB post installation, Vol. 2 = 17.34 GB post installation, Vol. 3 = 11.36 GB post installation, Vol. 4 = 30.4 GB post installation, and Vol. 5 = 30.4 GB post installation.  

  • Volume 1 Orchestra, as you probably guessed is a collection of Orchestral instruments. These are organized into  Strings, Brass, Percussion and Woodwinds categories, with a range of Trumpets, Trombones, Solo and ensemble French Horns, Tuba, and even Piccolo Trumpet sounds in the Brass category. Strings are fairly well represented with large String Ensembles, a very nice Harpsichord, section Cellos, Violins, Violas and Double Basses, as well as solo versions of the four main string instruments. You also get a good selection of Orchestral Woodwinds, including Flute, Clarinets and Oboes, as well as a variety of solo Woodwinds, from Contrabasson to Solo English Horn to Solo Alto and Piccolo Flutes, and Clarinet. Of course an Orchestra needs a good Percussion section and EastWest gives you Cymbals, Gongs, Bass Drum, Timpani Hits, killer Orchestral Chimes, Triangle, a fun Vibraphone, Castanets, Marimbas, Wood Blocks and more.   

  • Volume 2 gives you a collection of Ethnic Instruments and Voices, including Bowed, Plucked, Wind and Voices categories. Bowed includes a 30 Piece String Section, Electric Cello, Kemenche, Sarangi, and Zhong Hu. In the plucked category you'll find things like Banjos, Kora, Koto, Mandolin, Santoor, Sarod, Sitar, and Tambura. In the Voices category is a Boys Chorus, Full Chorus, as well as various male and female Oohs and Aahs with ambient, breathy, and filtered variations. There's also a couple of sung ethnic phrase collections, including Syria Elements and Indian Elements. The Wind category has a variety of ethnic winds, including some really good accordions (I really like Camp Double Reed), Bagpipe Ensembles, Bansuri, a Lowery organ doing "that sound" from the opening riff of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Lucy In The Lowery), Pan Flute, Shakuhachi, and Xiao.     

  • Volume 3 is dedicated to Soundscapes. Many of these sounds are atmospheric, processed-sounding and / or a little spacey, but there are some percussive sounds too, like Stone Therapy, Old Bombay and Proc Bells Spacey. I really liked the Leslie Choir and Men From Manilla Pad, which sounds like a layering of slow strings and deep horns. Fallen is a nice layering of plucked acoustic bass with arco strings behind it. There's even some nice E-Bow guitars. If you're doing film scores, this volume is a must-have.

  • Volume 4 focuses on Guitar and Bass. While being able to play various bass sounds from your guitar has obvious advantages, you might think that the guitar side of the equation would be less interesting - after all, you already play guitar, right? But the variety of sounds here is definitely useful - imagine being able to fingerpick an acoustic guitar straight from your MIDI-equipped electric, or playing a bass line with a J-Bass, P-Bass or Rickenbacker sound without having to swap instruments. Other models are also included - Lakland, Musicman, Spector - there are even some processed and synth bass patches like Fuzz Bass, Nuclear Bass, Destroyer Bass, and Radioactive. Other guitars include some nice Baritones, Leslie Guitars, Flamenco, Les Pauls and Jaguars, Martin Acoustics, Seven String Guitars, Lo-Fi Guitars - it's a nice variety of different tones.

  • Volume 5 consists of Keyboard and Percussion Instruments - here's your chance to get some of those sounds that have kept MIDI keyboardists so in demand. The collection leans more towards the traditional here, with various B3's, Clavolines, a very nice  (and rare) Baldwin Electric Harpsichord, Celeste, Farfisas, Acoustic Upright and Grand Pianos, a really nice CP-80 and Rhodes Electric Pianos, dead-on Mellotron flutes and strings, Harmonium, Xylophone and Vibraphones. There are a few processed type sounds here too, but they comprise a relatively small percentage of the collection, and there's really no "synths" to speak of. The Percussion in this collection is far less orchestral in nature, with Bowl Gongs, a Dirt Kit, Tom Ensemble, Earthquake Ensemble - it definitely isn't duplicating the percussion found in the Orchestra volume.  

  • 25 instrument teaser package is available for free for all TriplePlay users so you can get an idea of what the whole package offers you first hand.

 


Limitations

  • There are some issues for those who are still using Pro Tools 10, especially if you're using Windows. Fortunately there are work-arounds. Since it's a 32 bit application, you'll need to run version 4 of the EastWest Play application instead of the current version 5. Windows users will need to open the standalone version of TriplePlay before running Pro Tools.

  • While the TriplePlay plugin itself won't run in Pro Tools (any version) on a Windows PC, the TriplePlay hardware can still be used as a controller in Pro Tools for Windows to drive whatever virtual instrument plugins you want, including EastWest Play.
  • I wish there were more vintage synth and modern EDM / electronica-style sounds available. Maybe those would be good candidates for Volume 6 and 7? With its ability to map out multiple sounds and its wireless freedom, TriplePlay could be an excellent alternative controller for live EDM performances. It just needs the right sounds to go with it.



Conclusions

This is a monsterous collection of sounds! The five volumes cover a huge range - not to mention a pretty good chunk of drive space. Installation should be straightforward for most users, but trust me - if you ever run into a brick wall, Fishman's customer service is outstanding and they'll get things sorted out for you.


Fishman's TriplePlay is the least intrusive and most hassle-free MIDI guitar system I've tried yet. No wires, no custom installation needed and no irreversible mods to your guitar. With over 20 hours of run time, the battery lasts longer than you will, unless you're used to putting in 24 hour non-stop days. Playing a cello solo from your guitar is a blast, and for people who are more comfortable on guitars than keyboards, it's nothing short of a game-changer - most guitarists will have no problem using TriplePlay, and you will probably feel very comfortable with it in no time


I wish that it worked better with Pro Tools 10, but that's the price I pay for using an older version of that software and it can't really be blamed on either Fishman or EastWest… and if you're using Pro Tools 11 or later on a Mac, you shouldn't have any problem using the Fishman TriplePlay plugin. Windows users will have to deal with some work-arounds, but it's still a very useable system.


I would like to see more electronic / EDM type sounds offered in a future volume, but outside of that, the collection covers a lot of sonic territory. EastWest and Fishman have come up with a real winner here. The concept is sound and the implementation impressive; everything by and large works as it should. The sounds are of great quality - well recorded and sampled. Best of all, the system of TriplePlay controller and EastWest sounds is easy to play from a guitarist's perspective, using techniques that guitarists are comfortable with, although as always, the more you think, phrase, and play in a manner similar to what the original instrumentalist would do (when playing a Cello or Woodwind patch, for example), the more authentic and convincing the results will sound.


Fishman and EastWest's partnership has proven to be quite fruitful, giving guitarists easy access to a lot of very high quality sounds that work great with the TriplePlay system, and making them very comfortable for guitarists to use. Composers, arrangers, film scorers, producers, stage and studio musicians - anyone who plays guitar as their primary instrument who wants access to MIDI and modern sounds with the familiar interfacing of the guitar really needs to check out both the TriplePlay and the EastWest MIDI Guitar Volumes designed to work with it. The two make a great pair!  -HC-

 

Have questions about this review? Want to share your experiences with the EastWest MIDI Guitar Instrument Series or the Fishman TriplePlay? Then be sure to head over to this thread in the Electric Guitar forum right here on Harmony Central and join the conversation!



Resources

EastWest MIDI Guitar Volumes 1- 5 ($240.00 MSRP per downloadable volume, $179.00 per each volume "street")

All five volumes are also available as part of EastWest's ComposerCloud subscription service.    

Fishman TriplePlay   ($633.99 MSRP, $399.95 "street")


EastWest's product web page    

EastWest MIDI Guitar Instruments Series Manual (PDF file)    

Fishman's product web page (EastWest MIDI Guitar Collection)   

Fishman's product web page (TriplePlay controller)    



You can purchase the Fishman TriplePlay and the EastWest MIDI Guitar Volumes 1-5 from:

Sweetwater   

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4 

Volume 5 

Fishman TriplePlay

 
Guitar Center

Volume 1 

Volume 2 

Volume 3 

Volume 4 

Volume 5 

Fishman TriplePlay


B&H Photo Video

Volume 1 

Volume 2

Volume 3 

Volume 4

Volume 5 

Fishman TriplePlay


Musician's Friend

Volume 1 

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Volume 5

Fishman TriplePlay




Volume 1 - Orchestra




Volume 2 - Ethnic and Voices




Volume 3 - Soundscapes




Volume 4 -  Guitar and Bass




Volume 5 -  Keyboards and Percussion










__________________________________________________

 




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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