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EZkeys Hybrid Harp is one of Toontrack's most unusual and utterly inspirational EZkeys to date. With five individual instruments, all layered, textured and saturated in various capacities to form unique and never-before-heard hybrids of sounds, Hybrid Harp will deliver ideas in abundance, especially for ambient soundscapes, scores and sound design.
Welcome to one of the most multifaceted EZkeys titles yet – one that will trigger parts of your creative mind you didn’t know existed. These are sounds ideal for anything you can imagine. Literally.
The undisputed star of the group is an iconic Style 23 harp. In addition to this, a traditional Swedish nyckelharpa (or “keyed fiddle”), two harmoniums, a bowed glockenspiel and a set of ocarinas were sampled. Combined, this seemingly odd group of instruments – that in logical terms have no earthly business sharing the same sonic space – culminate in what must be described as a vastly puzzling audio universe of plucking, percussive, soaring, airy, beautiful and ever-so-slightly dissonant sounds.
Even though the laws of thermodynamics long ago ruled out the possibility of a perpetual motion machine, EZkeys Hybrid Harp comes very close. The laws of physics may still apply, but the fact remains that this peculiar ‘machine’ has an inherent mojo that seems to make sure you’re never short of ideas. It literally runs and feeds off of you and your own imagination.
- Five types of individually captured instrument types: a harp, a nyckelharpa, two harmoniums, ocarinas and a bowed glockenspiel.
- Each instrument can be called up individually using the ‘Raw Tweaks’ presets.
- In excess of 40 mix-ready presets, offering creative instrument blends of never-before-heard hybrids of sounds.
- For any type of music or production – ideally ambient soundscapes, scores and sound design.
The Components of EZkeys Hybrid Harp
Although the overall idea and inherent strength of the Hybrid Harp lies in how the different audio components are layered in the presets, you can call up unprocessed versions of the instruments by selecting one of the ‘Raw Tweaks’ presets.
The harp is a Style 23 by Lyon & Healy, a classic brand out of Chicago, IL, with more than 130 years of harpmaking history to its name. This specific instrument model, which dates back to the late 1800s, has become iconic and is likely the most recognized harp in the world. It was sampled by harpist Pia Rosengren, who, on a side note, named her instrument Inez!
The nyckelharpa (or “keyed fiddle”) is a traditional Swedish string instrument with a long history. It’s played with a bow and has its keys attached to buttons which serve as frets to change the pitch of the string. In many ways, it can easily be described as a mix between a violin and an accordion. This specific nyckelharpa was built by Swedish craftsman Enar Magnusson and sampled by Torbjörn Näsbom.
EZkeys Hybrid Harp includes two different harmoniums. These instruments are pump, or free-reed, organs that generate sound as one pushes its pedals up and down and air is allowed to flow past vibrating pieces of thin metal in a frame. They are possibly best described as portable pipe organs. Harmoniums have a long history and became very popular for use in smaller churches, chapels and schools all through the 20th century. In addition to the instruments themselves, organic sounds like squeaking wood and other textures were recorded. These are seamlessly added onto the samples for an extra rustic feel.
Ocarinas, which are a type of vessel flutes, belong to a family of instruments that are believed to date back at least 12,000 years. Although many variations exist, the typical ocarina is ceramic and has four to twelve finger holes. For the Hybrid Harp, three different ocarinas were captured.
Although this classic tonal percussion instrument traditionally is played with mallets, a soaring and very rich tone can be produced by striking the edges of each of its metal plates with a bow. This is the method that was used for the Hybrid Harp.
- 32- and 64-bit AAX, VST, AU and RTAS instrument as well as a low latency stand-alone application
- Drag and drop the included MIDI straight to the built-in song track
- Drag and drop support for your own or third party MIDI straight into EZkeys
- Drag and drop MIDI from the song track or directly from the song browser to your DAW or to your desktop
- EZkeys will analyze and chord-separate any MIDI on the fly
- Record or overdub MIDI directly in EZkeys
- Use your own, the included or any third party MIDI/chord progressions and transform with playing styles found in other MIDI files
- Quickly add basic chords to the timeline or drag and drop any chord from the Chord Wheel
- Real-time chord display that enables you to instantly see what chords you are playing
- Chord selector, based upon the circle of fifths, allowing you to change chords instantly
- Presets for the most commonly used chord types
- Customize the coloration of any chord by opening up the detailed view
- Alter the voicing of a chord on the fly by clicking the – or + buttons in the Chord Wheel
- “Humanize” any pre-quantized MIDI upon import in EZkeys
- Transpose individual song blocks or full songs
- Export songs or files as wave files straight from the EZkeys interface
- Comes with an easy to understand music theory document including MIDI examples
- Possibility to tune the piano by octave, semitone or cents
- Dynamics controls that let you adjust the velocity response to match your keyboard or playing style
- Three pedals: sustain, sostenuto and damping
- MIDI-learn and automation
- Ready-made presets utilizing high-quality effects from Overloud. The presets range from raw and unprocessed to heavily distorted and tweaked
EZkeys MIDI Overview
- Extensive MIDI library played by a professional session pianist
- All major styles covered (Pop/Rock, Soul/RnB, Country, Gospel, Jazz, Blues, Boogie, Funk)
- All songs performed in full 8 bar or longer blocks
- All songs performed with increasing intensity as intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus and bridge variations
- Single, rhythmical and broken chords in different variations as well as FX and endings
- Straight/swing variations in 4/4 and 6/8
- Intuitive browser that lets you add you own favourites and arrange them in folders
To make it easy for you to navigate your way to the type of sound you’re looking for, the presets are organized in five different folders: ‘Atmospheric,’ ‘Distorted,’ ‘Organic,’ ‘Percussive’ and ‘Raw Tweaks.’
A warm, big sound which combines the harp with the harmonics from the harp. Effects include chorus, tape delays and plate reverb.
A big sound focused around the amazing Nyckelharpa with some low pass filter fed into a chorus, plate reverb and delay.
The strings from the harp evolves into a flowing emotional soundscape with the help of the ocarina, glockenspiel and nyckelharpa – all with awesome surrounding space.
A Little Strange
A soft smaller type of ambience made up of harps and ocarina with wah-wahs, vibrato, pitch shifters, distortion, hall reverb and reversed tape delays.
Harps with bowed and staccato nyckelharpas through filters, saturation, distortion, vibratos, delays and big hall reverbs – making this beautiful preset sound almost like a moving picture.
Bouncing fast and warm delays coming from the strings of the harp with the combination of an ocarina, making it sing with the help of a vintage tape echo, chorus and hall reverbs.
The harmonics from the harp blended with what sounds like whispering wind from the ocarina and the dark vibes from one of the harmoniums creates an eerie and melancholic vibe. Reversed reverbs vibrato effects, hall reverbs, vintage tape echo, spring reverb, room reverb and chorus, a very powerful sound.
A small but effective ambient sound derived from the harmonics of the harp as well as the ocarinas run through a chain of reversed reverb and vibrato into a small room.
Harp Harmonics with Swells
A medieval distant choir-like sound with a harmonics of the harp in the focal point blended with the ambience of the nyckelharpa, ocarina and the bowed glockenspiel – all saturated with vintage tape echoes, chorus and big reverbs.
Harmonics and Movement
The close proximity of a squeaking chair and the harmonics from the harp blended with the bowed glockenspiel distance as well as the nyckelharpa run through filters, pitch shifters, chorus, tape delays and a hall reverb.
Lights In the Sky
This is what happens when a harmonium meets an ocarina and bowed glockenspiel and the tone is run through a chain of bit-crushed and distorted filters and pitch shifters, tape delays and hall reverbs.
A lo-fi and almost whistling-like sound from the ocarinas blended with the harp, harmonium and bowed glockenspiel into a bit-crusher, filters, delays and flanger.
Ocarina and bowed glockenspiel through tube saturation, pitch shifter, vibrato, tape delays and hall reverbs. This one has an obvious lo-fi vibe and is amazing to play soft chords in the low register with. Suits any grainy documentary footage!
Exciter, hall reverb, a vintage chorus modulation, distortion through a room and a panner effect from the sounds of a harmonium, nyckelharpa, ocarina and bowed glockenspiel.
A breath-like and truly open sound. Use the controls to seamlessly add in the ocarinas and bowed glockenspiel to give it even more texture.
This preset features the perfect marriage of a harmonium and a nyckelharpa. The tone is run through tube saturation, room reverb and tape delays and finally passing through some delicate filters.
This one sounds almost like a horn, making it great for a melodic instrument – especially if played softly. It contains a chain of distortion, compression, chorus, room reverb, and a hall reverb.
Distorted Nyckelharpa Echoes
The nyckelharpa running through some distortion, chorus, vintage tape echo, hall reverb and compression is the foundation of this eerie sound.
Harmonium and nyckelharpa running into very, very heavy distortion.
Bass String and Harmonium
A varm filtered harmonium and the nyckelharpa running through a room reverb and some compression. Simple but very effective.
A squeaking chair and the sound of a combined instrument featuring nyckelharpa, ocarina and bowed glockenspiel accompanied by the key noise of a harmonium. A confined and kind of creepy cabin fever feel.
By allowing the delays to be in the focal point, this preset – featuring the harp harmonics, ocarina, bowed glockenspiel and harmonium key noise – is the perfect choice for long and swelling chords.
Smooth String Filters
This preset uses an LFO controlling a low-pass filter, hall reverbs, pitch filters, tape delays, inverse reverbs and a plate reverb.
Second Home Harmonium
Named after the studio in which it was recorded. The preset, which has some ambience from the studio room, makes it feel like your truly right there in the studio. Very close and intimate.
Second Home Octave Harmonium
A harmonium with all pipes turned on. Same as the above – the goal was to transport you to that very room.
The harp to the left and the harmonics of the harp to the right – both running through some chorus, room reverb and tape delay. Simple but big and truly stunning.
Some squeaky ambience noise with an ocarina through distortion, compression, widener and inverse reverb.
A little bit of everything – a blend of a harmonium, harp, nyckelharpa, ocarina and bowed glockenspiel into a small room reverb.
The harmonium recorded at Farkosten Studio. Some squeaky ambience from that room was added, making you feel like you’re right there at the keys.
Glockenbow Harmonium Pad
Harp, harmonium, ocarina and bowed glockenspiel through some filters, vintage modulation, vintage tape echo, hall reverb, plate reverb, more chorus and a saturated tube into a vintage compressor. The sound is close yet distant.
Melancholy Pads 2
A soft and warm filtered sound from a harp, harmonium, ocarina and bowed glockenspiel running into a pitch shifter, vintage compressor, room reverb, vibrato and a 12-bit bit crusher with some additional saturation.
A harp, harmonium, ocarina and bowed glockenspiel through some saturated tube effects.
Nyckelharpa into a tape simulator running at 15 inch/sec and a lot of drive, then into a stereo widener and some vintage compression exciters and finally a room reverb.
Nyckelharpa through a chain of EQ, compression, room reverb, stereo widener, hall reverb and tape delay. And some vinyl noise to top it off!
The main instrument here is the harp, but if you keep your notes hanging you will hear some nyckelharpa in the background. The chain is built of some filters, pitch shifters, chorus, tape delay and plate reverb.
Harps, nyckelharpa and ocarina is the base of this beautiful sound. The instrument mix goes through a vibrato, filter, tape delay and a hall reverb. Optimal to strum some chords with this one!
Harps, nyckelharpa and delays are what make this one truly sing. The instrument blend goes through chorus, panner, plate reverb and tape delays.
A low-pass filtered sound through some high frequency reverbs and ambiences. Harp, nyckelharpa and bowed glockenspiel through filters, chorus, compression, pitch shifter, tape delays and hall reverb.
A combination of sounds that have a fast attack, mainly nyckelharpa but the subtle use of harmonium, ocarina and bowed glockenspiel make the decay very intriguing. The blend goes through compression, EQs, chorus, room reverb and digital delay.
Harps and a little nyckelharpa through some panner effect, chorus, plate reverb and filter delays.
This is the percussive part of the nyckelharpa making its way through some 14-bit bit crusher and saturation through a digital ‘80s delay.
Harps, harmonium, nyckelharpa and ocarina through some vintage modulation, tape delay, phaser, vintage tape echo and an ‘80s reverb.
Distorted Verb Staccato
A staccato sound built on of a combination of harps and nyckelharpa through compressor, EQ, tube saturation, ‘80s reverb, vintage Otto compression and a tape simulator.
A warm-sounding harp blended with a little nyckelharpa and key noise of a harmonium into chorus, room reverb, plate reverb and a tape delay.
A harp, nyckelharpa and some harmonium key noise through filters, ‘80s reverb, chorus, stereo widener, tape delays, room reverb and a 12-bit bit crusher with some saturation.
Nyckelharpa Harmonium Blend
A nice ambient sound where the harp meets the nyckelharpa and a harmonium with some added ambient noise through a chain of filters, tape delays and plate reverb.
Harps and nyckelharpa through a chain of compression, EQ, vintage modulation, ‘80s reverb, vintage Otto compression, tape simulator and a stereo widener.
‘Raw Tweaks’ presets
Control over volumes and panning of the unprocessed harp as well as the harmonic harp.
Control over volume of the bowed long notes, percussive elements, staccato, key noise and environment of the nyckelharpa.
Ocarina and Glockenbow
Control over volume and panning of Ocarina and bowed glockenspiel.
Control over volume of harmonium, ambience noise and key noise of the harmonium recorded at Farkosten.
Second Home Harmonium
Control over volume of harmonium, ambience noise and key noise of the harmonium recorded at Second Home.
Second Home Octave Harmonium
Control over volume of Harmonium, ambience noise and key noise of the harmonium recorded at Second Home.
The Man with the Plan...
Toontrack's Head of Sound Design Mattias Eklund explains the idea behind Hybrid Harp and the creative process...
Where did the idea for this, quite frankly, unusual instrument come from?
I’ve always loved the harp. Before I started this project, I was listening to some electronic music in which a harp was used. This sparked the idea of multi-sampling one for EZkeys. I wanted it to be more than ‘just’ a harp, though. For a recording I did with my own band Johannes & Farkosten, we used a harmonium. It’s a very warm-sounding instrument that has a rustic and folky feel to it. In Sweden, we were pretty much raised on it – it was in every school and small church, especially in the countryside. This made me go further down this ‘Nordic’ path and, I figured, a traditional Swedish nyckelharpa would blend in well and add another dimension of just that. When recording it, it came up that the engineer (Henrik Oja) had used ocarinas and a bowed glockenspiel for the soundtrack he did for a game called Unravel 2. I loved that game on all levels, especially the melancholic vibe the music had, so we went ahead and recorded them as well. These instruments were really the missing components and truly add to the melancholic vibe I was after.
You also recorded ambient sounds and foley like squeaking chairs, wood and other things that are layered in with the final sounds. What was the idea behind this?
This is an idea I’ve had for a while that now finally came to fruition. The thought was to reproduce the natural ambience of physically being in a room or sitting at the instrument while it was played as opposed to hearing an ambience being played back. You know, you hear the chair squeak, the floor boards creak or you feel the room breathe. I wanted to create a tangible human element and an almost eerie proximity. Important to add is that these ambient textures are not printed in the actual samples, they’re added on top of each sound and layered in based on a given set of rules that we assigned to our engine.
A big portion of the immense audio experience and end result comes with the different presets ad how the components are layered and saturated. What was the thought process like when you created these?
I wanted it to feel unpredictable – like each preset was its own out-of-this-world sound that came when you pressed an invisible button on this weird steampunk-looking machine. You can’t really plan for anything besides that – you just have to go with the flow and let your creative self take you where it takes you. It’s a real fun process, though. We have a huge toolbox of effects we can use when designing how these presets sound, so it’s literally like building Lego – but with a given pool of audio components and an almost endless well of processing options. In the end, I think the entire spectrum was covered – from really intimate and ‘acoustic’-sounding presets to those that literally bathe in saturation. Inspiration works in funny ways!
On a more personal level, the products you do often end up very experimental and take audio paths that seem pretty unconventional. Why, do you think?
I guess I am a sound designer at heart. To me, a sound can be just as much a tool for making music as a physical instrument. I often find myself writing and creating music with sound as a source for tonality and structure. It’s just part of my musical narrative. In addition, I’ve always loved the ambient and more ‘cinematic’ vibe of sounds – especially those that have a trace of something ‘real.’ Like, you can hear what a sound may resemble but you can’t put your finger on what it really is. To me, that’s intriguing.
What do you hope users take away from these sounds and presets?
Inspiration is always the end goal, so I hope these sounds give birth to boatloads of new songs around the world! And, as a tip, use the raw or some of the less saturated sounds and slap EZmix 2 on them and some of the presets from the Ambient Delays, Ambient Reverbs or Lo-Fi EZmix packs. Mix, match, create – you will get a tidal wave of sounds and new ideas, that’s a promise!
Please click on the link below to view the download and install guide for this product.