Around 2014 in an Italian pizza restaurant an idea for a new type of piano with only one string per note sprung into the minds of piano builder David Klavins and musician Nils Frahm both thought this was such an intriguing idea that they decided it should be built and after only a few months the Una Corda was born.
The Una Corda unlike regular pianos is a completely naked piano with a thin custom soundboard which gives the instrument unique overtones and resonance and with an interesting way to change the tonality of the instrument by placing any kind of fabric between the hammers and the strings to soften or harshen the piano’s tone this lets it sit somewhere in between a clavichord a harp and a guitar quite a unique and new instrument then.
A unique instrument like the Una Corda then needed a unique and great sounding room to record it in, and the Funkhaus in Berlin (the famous broadcasting studios in eastern Germany) was the perfect venue to collect all of its sounds and turn it into the virtual instrument that Native Instruments have created for us to play within Kontakt today.
When you open up Una Corda in Kontakt you get three choices of the type of fabric used in between the hammers and the strings.
Cotton: This gives the instrument a more percussive type of sound.
Felt: This makes the instrument sound mellower and fragile.
Pure: This is the instrument in its purest form utilizing no fabrics between the hammers.
The main page of Una Corda is really neat and simple with the three main controls in a row along the bottom and three extra buttons in the top left to get deeper into the settings of the instrument.
Colour: this changes the timbre of the instrument from soft and warm to a more hard and crisp by utilising more or less attack to the notes played.
Dynamic range: This control Compresses or expands the dynamic range of the instrument but does not harm the tonality of the instrument.
Space: This control gives more volume to the convolution reverb and the other effects used to convey a type of space the piano is playing in.
The first page of the instruments internal settings gives us the controls for the tones of the instrument and the noises of the piano and piano player.
Main: This is the main volume of the notes which can be switched off to only play the harmonics, reverse or tonal depth of the piano.
Harmonics: This is the volume of harmonics that are created by a type of playing style that divides the strings at a certain spot with the player’s finger.
Reverse: This adds reversed versions of the notes played this can be set to sync at a certain interval from 1/1 to 1/8d or can be set to free with a slider to control the time at which the reversed notes are sounded.
Tonal Depth: This adds additional resonance to give the instrument deeper and richer sound quality.
The noises area lets you add different noises like that of the pianist or a variance of different ambiances for the piano to play in these settings help with making the instrument sound like you are actually there at a live performance.
Fabric: Gives you the choice between six different types of fabric that is placed between the hammers and the strings Cotton, Silk, Curtain, Felt, Leather and Pleather this changes the tonality of the piano from soft and mellow to a more percussive sound.
Ambiance: Here we have thirty types of ambiances to choose from these are all hisses recorded in different rooms like “Saal Drei” at the Funkhaus or a silent room or a vintage tape hiss.
Pianist: these two sliders control the volume and intensity of the noises a pianist would make during a performance like rumbles, breaths, and squeaks.
Mechanical: This adds the noises that the piano itself would make when played like the key presses. The ratio of noises of the keypresses can be adjusted to sound more on note on or note off depending on the position of the slider. A low cut filter slider is also there to filter out the low end of the mechanical noises.
Pedal: Lets you control the volume of the noises made by pressing the sustain pedal like the volume of the string vibrations or the noise created by dampers when the press or release on the strings.
The “response page” is where we can adjust how the instrument responds to the notes being played and can turn the piano from a percussive string instrument to almost a bowed string instrument with just a few adjustments to the attack this allows you to make some nice pad sounds with this instrument as well.
Releases: this controls the volumes of the dying strings as the hammer is released from the strings .
Attack: this controls the attack speed of the notes being played turn this slider up to get more pad type sounds.
Low keys: this allows you to adjust the volume of the notes that are played below middle c in a linear type curve where the lowest note gets more affected.
Overtones: This adjust something known as sympathetic string resonance where a string might resonate at its fundamental or its overtones after a different note is pressed this can add some more energy to a piece of music.
Resonance: this allows you to adjust the volume of sympathetic resonance when the sustain pedal is pressed and releases all the strings to resonate of one and other this can give a particular note allot of presence in a piece of music.
Pedal: here we get two choices of pedaling techniques “Repedaling” and half pedal.
“Repedaling” means that when the sustain pedal is depressed during a note release the remaining sounds remain. Half pedal means that you can control how far the dampers are lifted from the strings affecting the release times and the amount of resonance of the piano.
Velocity curve: here we have nine different velocity curves to choose from this allows you to customize your keyboard to your style of playing.
Tuning: allows you to adjust the basic tuning of the piano.
On the “Finish page” is where we find the FX for the Una Corda like the equalizer, convolution reverb, transient, compression and stereo imaging.
EQ: Una Corda comes with a three band equalizer with some extra settings to give the piano more body, punch or presence you can also route the noises into the eq to keep everything eq’ed the same.
Transients: This control is where you can accentuate the attack or sustain of a note even further.
Compression/Tape: Here we can set the amount of compression used and we have seventeen different settings pertaining to the type of compression used on the piano from super soft compression to super slam!
Stereo image: This controls the stereo image of the Una Corda making it mono or super wide.
Style: The twenty-four different presets in the style section activate some complex effects chains in the background ranging from timbre changing to LFO based effects or even convolution sustain creating effects.
Space: Una Corda comes with over 100 different presets pertaining to creating a sense of space with convolution reverb and delay type of effects creating natural sounding room or Hall effects can be achieved with ease.
The Una Corda is a beautiful sounding piano with lots of controls under the bonnet to be able to change the tone of the piano in just a few clicks it can sound really percussive or super mellow to even pad like with ease.
This library that Native instruments have created for us to use in Kontakt is really a work of art and just sounds great it’s a nice new take on a piano and is really versatile in its sounds.
- Super easy to use.
- Sounds wonderful.
- Not CPU heavy at all.
- None at all.
Find more details for UNA CORDA on the official website of the instrument (link below). A very interesting photo gallery is waiting for you, be sure to take a look.
You can use UNA CORDA instrument with the Free KONTAKT 5 PLAYER (included in free KOMPLETE PLAYERS), or with the KONTAKT 5.
More Details: Una Corda