Ever since there were computerised virtual instruments piano players have wanted virtual guitarists. In fact even before virtual instruments Oberheim’s Strummer and Charlie Lab’s Digitar were attempting to make MIDI notes sound strumable. Steinberg introduced the first aptly named “Virtual Guitarist” in 2002 which was essentially a cleverly accessed bunch of sliced loops. MusicLab followed in 2004 with RealGuitar which was a much deeper bit of software using single note multi-samples that were played by a MIDI engine along the lines of the Digitar. The RealGuitar was fully focused on acoustic sounds and it wasn’t until 2008 did the RealStrat first appear. Guitarists like to know the history of their instrument.
RealStrat, as the name suggests, is a sample-based virtual Fender Stratocaster designed to sound and feel as real as possible when played from a MIDI keyboard or sequence. The samples are taken direct from the pickups, and every fret from all 6 strings along with “Floating Fret Position” technology which emulates the movement of the guitarist’s hand when changing frets. It can imitate all styles of playing – strumming, plucking, sliding, bending, muting and probably some I don’t know about. There’s a whole pattern library built in for creating accompaniment tracks, all you have to do is play the chords on your keyboard. The output is completely dry so all you have to do is drop in your favourite amp modelling plugin to create the tone you’re after.
So what’s new in version 4? There’s a song mode for stringing together patterns within the instrument and then let’s you export it as a MIDI file. The pattern library now has a style filter to make it easier to find what you’re after. There’s a new double tracking feature, harmonics have been added to bass and pick modes, and the fret noise has been upgraded to sound less repetitive. They’ve also added some humanisation parameters make those sequences sound more real. I’ve always thought that the interface could be more pleasing to look at – it is supposed to be a bit rock ‘n’ roll after all.
RealStrat is generally regarded as being the one virtual guitar that doesn’t sound embarrassing in a mix. I confess that I’ve used some loop based virtual guitars in tracks before – simply because I couldn’t be bothered to plug my guitar in and do it myself. But RealStrat is something different to that. It’s a performance tool that can offer the keyboard player the chance to sound exactly like the annoying guitarist who’s always standing in front of them at a gig taking all the glory – that glory will be mine!
RealStrat is available now for OSX and Windows in VST, AU and AAX formats for $199. Upgrade to existing users for USD $49.
Find more information at Music Lab’s ReatStrat product page.