While a harmonica may seem like a dated instrument, it’s still wildly popular in many parts of the world, and the sound it produces is unlike anything you may have heard before, and far different to the sound that many other instruments can produce.
Adding harmonica sounds can create a Blues/Jazz-like feel that it’s simply impossible to create with another instrument. While the harmonica may be easy to learn, to be able to play it professionally can take many years of practice, and you’ll need the right harmonica for the job.
Today, we’re going to be taking a detailed look at the Chris Hein Chromatic Harmonica. This is a powerful harmonica virtual instrument plugin to use in your virtual production workspace.
If you’re looking to produce those beautiful harmonica sounds, without having to spend years learning how to play the actual instrument professionally, this is for you. However, without giving too much away early, let’s jump straight into it.
In a Rush?
• Over 7,000 samples available for you to play with
• Many of the sounds are designed with a Stevie Wonder-style in mind
• Up to 8 dynamic layers available
• Four unique and exclusive dynamic modes
• 26 pre-programmed switch presets
• Compatible with Kontakt systems
Chris Hein’s Chromatic Harmonica weighs in with just over 3.5GB of samples available for you to download, install and start using. This translates into around 7,000 unique samples, along with a ton of features to customizable and manipulate these sounds, but we’ll get into that below.
However, you will want to note that you’ll need the full version of Kontakt in order to run this virtual instrument. Otherwise, you’re going to need to purchase it in order for it to work. After you first load up the software, many producers may find themselves feeling slightly overwhelmed.
This is because the interface is not the cleanest one in the world, and everything does come across a bit bunched together and somewhat messy. While this may be off-putting for first-time users to this plugin, it’s something you’ll be able to overcome by simply using the product and getting to know it.
The Sounds & Effects
With Chris Hein’s Chromatic Harmonica, you are only purchasing a single instrument, but this is available with a complete four-octave range and an additional capability of operating with up to eight dynamic layers.
We found this layer feature is extremely well-produced and they seem to blend together really well and really seamlessly. Additionally, there are also four dynamic modes that you can choose from. Although these settings come pre-assigned, we later figured out that you can customize and reassign them as you please.
We were also surprised to find that you can also control the behaviors of each of these settings. For example, you can change whether the articulation is held until you press another key switch, remain on while the key remains pressed, or changes when you change note.
This ultimately helps you to produce faster and save time while you’re using the instruments to make your sounds. We also discovered a range of integrated DSP effects that you have at your disposal. This range includes two surprisingly powerful reverb effects, each with a full collection of presets.
Of course, you can also shut off these effects and use your own as you normally would, but we do like how these built-in one’s sound. There’s also phaser, chorus, compressor, filter, EQ and delay settings that you can play with till your heart’s content.
There’s no point in forking out for a plugin if you’re not going to be able to use it, but after a few hours of playing around, we were happy to have finally got into the way the instrument works. In fact, it was more than a pleasure to play.
As you would expect, the plugin is fully controllable through a MIDI controller, and there is a ton of options available to help you customize the way you want to play. For example, you can set up in Legato mode, which means you can hold a note and play another to seamlessly blend the two together, just like a real harmonica.
Likewise, in Polyphonic mode, you can turn off this Legato feature, which allows you to play chords. There’s even a Glide mode which creates multi-note passage based on the key that you decide. You can also choose the number of steps, the scale, and the overall key! You can even trigger this mode using a sustain pedal!
In fact, we were shocked to see that the deeper we dove into the plugin, the more we saw amazing features that were available. The libraries are easy to navigate, there are many patches that can be explored and played here, such as adding Noise, Sustain Expressive and Mouth and Hand articulations.
There’s even a full Articulation Overview control window that means you can customize every single setting, ensuring this instrument is capable of producing the exact sounds you want it to
From reading our experience, this does sound like a somewhat flawless product, so are there are downsides to it?
In short, yes. Like we mentioned originally, this plugin can seem very overwhelming at first, and may take some time for you to get used to where everything is, and what everything does. This will almost certainly be the case if you’ve never used a virtual instrument like this before.
It’s also a bit of a downer than it requires Kontakt to run. This can cost several hundred dollars in itself, so if you don’t have it, this can be an expensive purchase.
However, it’s understandable that this is required, and there are many features that would be impossible otherwise.
All in all, it seems as though Chris Hein’s Chromatic Harmonica is one of those plugins that you’ve always wanted by never knew existed. It’s hard to compare the plugin to anything else, simply because it has no competition, and that alone gives you everything you need to have it in your own production inventory.