How to make Expressive Virtuoso your own

Get under the hood of ROLI's latest soundpack and unleash your inner virtuoso

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Expressive Virtuoso is the newest in ROLI’s wide range of soundpack offerings, and the 15th built through Equator2. While all such packs are compatible with ROLI Studio, these new dynamic sounds are specifically tuned to the Seaboard RISE 2 playing surface. However, if you are playing with another MPE-equipped surface, do not fret! Any such instrument will be able to harness the deep possibilities of these sounds, even without access to modulate the presets further.

During the soundpack’s development, Seaboard RISE 2 played an integral role in how the sounds were designed. However, all MPE-capable instruments, such as RISE 25, RISE 49, and LUMI Keys Studio Edition, can be used to experience the creative possibilities that Expressive Virtuoso has to offer. To illustrate the soundpack’s features, this article will largely be referring to RISE 2 or previously released Seaboard instruments.

About the pack

The exclusive, 40-preset soundpack was meticulously designed by Electric Himalaya with support from Yuli Yolo. These sounds bring you the most expressive and unique hybrid brass, woodwind and bow sounds out there. Though applying such familiar names do not really do the pack justice; while realistic sounds of traditional instruments are possible, the bulk of these sounds are those of completely reimagined or blended instrument concepts. The sounds are meant to be head-turning, challenging you as the listener to figure out what exactly you’re hearing. Why does this preset sound so familiar, yet I can’t quite pinpoint the core sound source? Where can I find and play an acoustic instrument like this?

By design, you might not be able to find instruments for these sounds in the physical world Through the pack’s hybrid construction – no sound is fully electronic or acoustic – meaning that distinct melodies and moving rhythm sections never before heard are just waiting to speak through you.

Think of Expressive Virtuoso as a sonic playground where enthusiastic Seaboard players can let their imaginations run wild, or perfect their soloing as well as ensemble-harnessing abilities. It pairs wonderfully with the 2022 release of Orchestral Ensembles, which empowered you to conduct your own symphonies, and the many voices of Choral Ensembles from early 2023.

A crucial difference: Expressive Virtuoso is built entirely of MPE presets. This is a first for ROLI, as previous packs were built to accommodate playing both with or without MIDI Polyphonic Expression.

Expressive Virtuoso’s MPE presets coupled with the Seaboard’s 5 Dimensions of Touch results in a seamless experience of fluid, dynamic sound creation and performance. The sounds are easy to control, and gestures like PRESS and SLIDE respond with exacting precision.

Sounds to get you started

In initial experimentation, here are some of our editorial picks across an array of styles to begin exploring the pack with —

Deep Earth Reed: "A mysterious reed…Or is it a bow? When played with strong vibrato gestures this sound can take on a string tonality, especially in the lower register"

In Between: "An imaginary oboe or similar woodwind instrument. Very sensitive to touch, so start gently."

Flutey: "Breathy flute with flutter on SLIDE: This sound is monophonic. The mono mode allows for playing techniques not possible in the ‘poly’ mode, which is used in the majority of MPE presets."

Embuch: "Imaginary Aerophone. This sound responds to velocity (STRIKE) very well. Higher octaves can be very bright as a result.

Air Tube: "A very dynamic imaginary brass/woodwind sound. Perfect for all manner of Jazz improv."

The above descriptions will pop up on the bottom left of ROLI Studio Player, or the bottom right of Equator2 when hovering over or selecting a preset. A number of these messages will inform you of which of the 5 Dimensions of Touch are most highly programmed. Like reading the manual of a new hardware product, these descriptions are crucial keys to unlocking the most of each preset, so be sure to read them as you experiment.

All Seaboard players will know that the Keywave2 surface is very responsive – you often need to exert less pressure and movement than you think, otherwise, the full expressiveness of the instrument could be missed. This is certainly the case in this pack, with some of the most responsive, dynamically vast sounds we’ve ever heard from any sound designer.

Macro control overview in Equator2

All Equator2 sounds come with five distinct macro controls provided by the sound designer. In this way, 40 presets can actually be looked at as 40 starting points for your sonic exploration. Here’s how you can navigate the macros within each preset:

Macro control overview in Expressive Virtuoso

These macros are powerful, carefully curated parameters which don’t require you to know exactly how the sound is built. Using them, along with layering additional plugins onto your tracks with an Expressive Virtuoso preset, is a common way that you might make a sound truly your own.

Marco Parisi, a true virtuoso with a Seaboard, showcased just how different a sound can become with a few macro tweaks.

Marco Parisi exploring Expressive Virtuoso

Studying sounds

Should you be so curious, so bold, so audio-obsessed as us, you might actually want to dissect the preset. Drawing back the curtain on how it was made is as simple as toggling a tab in Equator2. Moving into any of Synth, Routing, and Effects will enable you to study, and change as you wish, the exact way in which these unique sounds came together. So if you are a sound designer already, or strive to be one, studying how existing sounds were made is one of the best ways to train.

Sound design in Equator 2

In sound design with Equator2, a few decisions hold major influence on the resulting sound. Here are some of the ways we designed your newest sounds:

EFFECTS: 16 distinct effects can be chained together in combinations of up to 12, including multiple executions of the same effect. Expressive Virtuoso presets use as little as 2 and as many as 11 effects at a time, averaging 6.5 per sound.

FILTER TYPE: 15 distinct filter types may be added to your patch with up to two at a time. In particular, these sounds benefited greatly from the use of WAVEFOLDER, which can provide a distortion to open up some extra harmonics and density of the sounds, and COMB filter which can allow for the most realistic timbres to physical instrument bodies and human breath.

FILTER CONFIGURATION: One of four options (SERIAL, PARALLEL, SUMMED, MIXED) may be selected. While the difference in sound by filter configuration alone is more subtle than other adjustable parameters, it’s still one way where a sound can become more of your own. The majority of Expressive Virtuoso presets are set to SERIAL, with a few PARALLEL and MIXED.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, and poses quite the compelling challenge to us as players to take these sounds and experiment with all of the tools at our disposal. That challenge is: act as a collaborator with the sound designers, make new decisions to follow your feeling, and be sure to use the save function. Doing this in Equator2 will greatly expand this original set of 40 sounds, and any of the previously released packs with this sound engine, to ones that most sound like you.

Only you know your sound, and engaging with presets in this way is how you can better hone your control of that sound. If you dive deep enough into it, perhaps someday you can join the community of brilliant pack creators around the world and produce some of your own!

Why choose Expressive Virtuoso?

What makes considering preset packs so challenging is knowing where you’re getting the most from your money. Many sound libraries can be overstimulating, unclear to what you’re getting within a pack, or misleading in price. Further, MPE has not yet become a priority of so-called leaders in the space, which really does a disservice to the expressive playing surfaces which continue to grow more popular year-over-year.

The Expressive Virtuoso offer is clear: At a cost of just $1.00 per sound, before saving any customized versions, this pack was expertly tailored to your Seaboard instrument. That exclusive experience is unlike any of the thousands of packs you can find to pair your MPE instrument with, and we’re eager to hear how you connect with these sounds.

And once you dig in, please share the work you’re making with us and the community. You can also use this space to ask questions and suggest future packs – we’re all ears to continue enabling your creative spark.

Discover Expressive Virtuoso

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