Hans Zimmer Percussion Bundle for Kontakt has been around for a while, I certainly used it quite a bit on several occasions and that’s what led me to think, a review of the bundle as a whole might be helpful. Think back a few years.
Arm yourself with some patience because this review is really comprehensive and you will find many interesting things. So, let’ begin!
Think back a few years…
If you think back a few years to 2013, every film and game composer was waiting for Spitfire Audio’s HZ01 Kontakt percussion library. “…Recorded at Lyndhurst Hall (Air Studios) using the best gear, the best instruments and the best percussion players in the business…“ – by Spitfire Audio, will probably give you an idea about how this library has become what it is known for today.
Paul Clarvis, Stephen Henderson, Gary Kettel, and Frank Ricotti who performed this library are all names we soundtrack fanatics know and revere, and so what you get with this library is something beyond a great percussion sound. It is also the experience of these world-class players who did not only perform but also gave their input on what works best to create the sound Hans is after. Experience is something that normally means spending many years, one more reason why this bundle has some significant value that not many others can provide.
Showing Zimmer’s love of “taking recordings of quiet things and making them unusually loud”, a great deal of attention has gone to the “softer” dynamics in this Library. Hans himself points out: “the subtle ‘bloom’ of a softly struck percussion instrument developing in an acoustic space is often lost in a live orchestral setting, and sampling is the perfect way of bringing out these subtle, often beautiful undertones.”
Understanding Zimmer’s approach the folks at Spitfire have built a new dynamic response control into the library that turns quiet samples up in level to match the volume of louder hits. This is a very cool feature and there is more behind it than just simply cranking the volume up. However, the real art is to use this wisely and subtly to enhance the color, not to splash it all over the tracks.
Something else to make note of is that HZ01’s articulation mapping system is, as far as possible, duplicated across all the different instruments, which makes it super easy to create a massive layered drum setup by just duplicating your MIDI clips.
Spitfire made a great tutorial video called “How to program epic drums” that demonstrates this quite well. I suggest you check it out later.
So, this was the first, the initial instance of this Library and it expanded over time, released in stages. Let’s have a look at that and what made it special.
It is easy to see from today’s standpoint that HZ01 became the new industry standard quite fast and certainly more quickly than I suspected back then. The mix of sound quality and flexibility of these libraries makes them “a must-have” tools for today’s producers and composers, and seeing that back then we didn’t have much else offering this sound it’s clear why it became a hit. Everyone wanted Zimmer’s “larger-than-life “sound, and this was the way to get it.
And what is inside?
Hans Zimmer Percussion Vol. 1 uses several larger patches. All of them let you switch between groups of similar drum hits. The patches being: “All in One”, “Bucket Hits”, “Exotic Hits”, “Low Hits”, “Metal Hits”, “Taiko Hits” and “Timpani Hits”, you can probably see why it makes sense to group them like this.
You’ll find all of these in the root folder of whatever mix or mic folder you open, along with an Individual Patches folder that lets you load each patch individually if you prefer that. The “Other Patches” folder contains the Punch COG patch versions that allow you to modify specific round-robin samples. This is another often overlook feature, that adds something you hardly ever find anywhere else but with Spitfire.
This second instantiation of HZP features an exclusive DW Vistalite drum kit, which is on its own a sound you might just want to have. It was recorded in 3 different, and well-known locations, and they each added their very distinctive character to the sound.
This library focuses mostly on everything that’s embracing the sound and playing styles of Jason Bonham.
However, the “Bonus Instruments” section contains one patch each for Bass Drum, Surdos, and Toms with a variety of mic positions. To top it off they added a Hans Zimmer modular synth percussion patch. Just load it up and play it, I bet I will not be the only one recognizing that sound.
The “Kickstarter Kits” in HZ02 caught me a little by surprise. The interface looks different than in the other patches, with a drum kit in the center. You can click on it, to modify the mapping which is great if you use any sort of midi drum kit as I do. Most of the normal controls are found in the lower left-hand corner.
Hans Zimmer Percussion Vol. 3 has a much more minimalistic patch organization: “Buckets”, “Crusher Solo”, “Darbucket”, “Darbuka”, “Dohl”, “Paper Djun”, “Snare Solo”, “Surdo Solo” and “Tombek”.
You might wonder what the point is of something so similar to Vol. 1 right?
These patches give away a more detailed, individual take on most of the drums covered in an “ensemble” fashion in HZ01. This is probably the most specific-use library in the bundle but viewed as a whole it adds an incredible amount of flexibility to HZ01, and today I can barely think of not having it at my fingertips. Yes, you can think of it as an expansion of Vol. 1 if you want but once you use it it really doesn’t quite feel like that anymore.
With HZ01 and HZ03, the biggest sound comes out of the library when you use a lot of tracks and you can have 20 more tracks running at the same time on a regular basis.
The “All In One” patches allow you to switch between all the different instruments in the patch, one at a time, which can be handy for quick sketching and finding the right color for your track. Their mapping as it is has a point and there are big advantages to having separate midi channels for each instrument.
HZ02 works a little differently than the other two, given that it’s a rock drum kit that was to be expected. You’ll probably just need a few tracks and some additional ones for layering in the bonus content. The library is bigger than it looks though, containing extended percussion elements, that I usually never find in other libraries.
My personal highlight is the abundance of different mix options available. It could very well happen that know the instruments inside out by the time you get the hang of the mixing possibilities for all the instruments. For sound design addicts like me, this is close to nirvana.
Mixes and Mic-positions
I cannot make too big a deal of the mix options and how great they are, even from a composer’s perspective. Learning to control mic positions is essential to building a sophisticated color pallet, and while more people start ignoring it, the ones that don’t stand out even more. To this day I’m still occasionally discovering new sonic colors, after having used the library for a long time.
For those of you that are not up to experimentation, the mix folders provide instantly usable sound and a variety of tones and colors. Four different stereo mixes are included, coming from four different people. One for each patch in the percussion ensemble. Each one emphasizes very different parts of the percussion section, underlines different characters, and encourages different movements. Definitely, a great point to start, and switching mix folders out can completely change the feel of your composition.
What’s not to like?
So some users will be disappointed that they can’t “just play” a patch with a lot of different instruments mapped to different key ranges, and that’s fair. I some people might have wished to see some pre-made “master hits”, sounds already layered together into one gigantic impact, so you can just fire them at the press of a “button”.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting that, but that’s just not what these three libraries are for. There are others for that sort of thing, while these focus more on creative work than quick-fire solutions.
I would say that giving users the choice to layer sounds as they see fit, may help to steer us away from tracks using the exact same “mega-hit” over and over, and helping each user sound a bit more creative and, individual. Some, however, might also feel overwhelmed by freedom in which they don’t know how to bloom creatively. It is a known fact that limitation can be a great way to force yourself to be creative, and if nothing else, the limitation is something these libraries certainly don’t have.
To anyone feeling overwhelmed with this library bundle, I would suggest that you pick a single Stereo Mix, and just work with a hat for a while. It makes it a lot easier to learn.
If you’re looking for the big cinematic percussion or just want a Hans Zimmer’s percussion sound, the “Hans Zimmer Percussion” line should be the first thing you get. The recording quality, mic, and mix options are insanely powerful, and able to cater to a variety of users. I haven’t seen anything similar before this came out, and even now it’s rare to find anything matching it in terms of the mics and mixes. If you need a dry, up-front percussion library, this is not your friend though. It’s big bombastic sounding in gigantic spaces. And it’s the best I know for that.
All three libraries have a fantastic sound and provide almost any type of big percussive sound a composer could want. I’d say if you making music for TV, Games or Film this is definitely something you’ll make good use of, especially if you pair it with another, more traditional percussion library. It doesn’t claim to do absolutely everything, but what it does offer, it does very well indeed!