Review: Rhodope Ethnic Bulgarian Choir Complete

Just how complete is the Rhodope Bulgarian Choir Complete? Lynda Arnold finds out.  

Strezov Sampling recently released the updated version of their signature Rhodope Bulgarian Choir. The complete edition features both the Core module and Expansion A, providing the most comprehensive and unique Bulgarian Choir sample instrument on the market. In fact, this library is truly one of a kind, featuring the authentic Bulgarian choirs ‘Cosmic Voices’ in Expansion A and ‘Filip Koutev’ in the Rhodope Core Instrument. Like many successful sample library companies, Strezov Sampling set themselves apart from others by providing unique content coupled with innovative instrument builds. In this review, I am exploring the main library with some key upgrades and the newly released ‘Expansion A’ update that features innovative Legato and FX features and the Cosmic Voice Choir. Strezov Sampling has worked tirelessly to bring this new edition to film/TV and game composers with fantastic results. Let’s Dive In!

 

The Bulgarian Singing Style

Figure 1—Cosmic Voices Bulgarian Choir

Figure 1—Cosmic Voices Bulgarian Choir

 

Bulgarian Choirs are traditionally female and their unique sound is attributed to a special kind of throat singing passed down through generations in the Balkan region. Singers using Bulgarian vocal technique sustain the voice by using the neck muscles instead of the diaphragm. It takes years of training to sing with this technique and can be compared to Tuvan throat singing style in complexity. In terms of polyphonic arrangement, traditional Bulgarian choir music is full of diaphonic or parallel harmonies. The use of modal scales and dissonant harmonies like 2nds, 7ths and 9ths is also common. The sound almost cuts like a knife through the air and therefore will add intensity to any emotionally charged moment in a composition. Of course, as with any sample library, composers are free to use the choir in any way they choose, but I often find it helpful to know a bit about how music is written for this type of ensemble in order to achieve a more realistic sounding result. I would suggest poking around YouTube and listening to this magical sound at work. The Rhodope Bulgarian Choir is the only Bulgarian sample library featuring professional singers currently available. It is a treat indeed to have such a powerful and unique choir at our fingertips.

 

Rhodope Bulgarian Choir 1.1 Core Interface  

Figure 2—Rhodope Bulgarian Choir 1.1 Core

Figure 2—Rhodope Bulgarian Choir 1.1 Core

 

The Main Rhodope Core Module contains the Syllabuilder, an intuitive interface for programming words and phrases and the timing of each syllable when played with your composition. I was highly impressed with how easy it was to navigate and use right away. Typical Bulgarian phrases are built into the Syllabuilder for immediate use. Just drag and drop them into the window and adjust the timing according to your composition. It’s probably a good idea to look into the meaning of these phrases if lyrical content is important or build your own phrases using the quick word system. Extensive vowel and consonant combinations are provided to start. The meaning of the typical Bulgarian phrases may not matter so much layered in the context of a thick orchestral arrangement and are so easy to start using. The different vowel and consonant combinations can add wonderful textural transients to liven up any emotional charged orchestral arrangement, especially in film and game scoring. The main intention of Strezov Sampling was to make the instrument easy to use while maintaining all the possibilities to customize your lyrics to make sure the sound fits into your composition. Like all sample instruments, this requires great ears and attention to detail, but when used to use the instrument, it can be a powerful, go-to choir tool. 

 

The other two sections in this module are the Options section that includes various sound sculpture parameters and the Help section where you can quickly solve user challenges by scrolling through helpful ‘hints’ without leaving the instrument. 

Figure 3—Rhodope Bulgarian Choir 1.1 Options Window.

Figure 3—Rhodope Bulgarian Choir 1.1 Options Window.

 

 

‘Expansion A’—True Legato and Effects  

Figure 4—Rhodope Legato and FX Expansion.

Figure 4—Rhodope Legato and FX Expansion.

 

Whereas, The Core module is good for building words, phrases and attacks, the sustained sound of ‘Expansion A’ is smooth and more ethereal sounding. It’s nice to have the choice between the two modules depending on purpose. ‘Expansion A’ also comes with a fun set of vocal effects including various shouts and glissandos. 

In the new expansion module, there are three sets of unique true legato intervals for the most common vowel “Eh”, two dynamic layers (p and f), and effects like shouts, risers and falls that allow you to create both melodies and effects. Their proprietary overlapping note script makes it possible to overlap different legato transitions within one performance. Switch between velocity types using different velocity values and the sustain pedal to trigger the ‘Tresene’ or vocal shake mode characteristic in Bulgarian singing. Composers can quickly create polyphonic choir arrangements while sprinkling vocal effects and melodies on top. The power and flexibility of this library is wonderful for composing quickly, without too much programming. The Strezov Sampling team worked longer than expected to make sure this Expansion delivered to expectations, working out bugs and refining their innovative programming approach.  Those of us new to working with the unique nature of the Bulgarian choir will find the Help section incorporated into the Kontakt patch a great guide without having to consult an online manual or video.

 

It is worth noting that ‘Expansion A’ does not require the Core Rhodope module. Depending on your compositional purpose, you can use the Expansion by itself and add on the Core module if you require the ability to write specific words with the 1.1 Syllabuilder later on. The Rhodope Bulgarian Choir Complete comes with both modules and is a great deal investment if you find yourself working with different voices, or more specifically, choir in your work. This is definitely worth exploring.

About the Expansion A Choir: http://www.cosmicvoices.net/ 

Price: $259.00 (Rhodope Bulgarian Choir Complete).

Pros: Great Authentic Bulgarian Choir Sound in Both the Core Module and Expansion A; Intuitive Interface.

Cons: It’s hard to choose which one is better—so you may have to spring for both and go for Rhodope Complete!

Web: http://www.strezov-sampling.com/bundles/view/Rhodope%20Ethnic%20Bulgarian%20Choir%20Complete.html

Lynda Arnold is a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist (voice, flute, piano, and guitar), and electronic musician/sound artist who has been producing, performing, and developing her own sound for over 12 years as ‘Divasonic;’ an ethereal, song driven electronic music project with multiple album and single releases on labels EMI, Cl... Read More

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