“An incredible stringed instrument library created by a truly unique musician… This collection contains an outrageous blend of riffs and licks, produced using an equally outrageous assortment of instruments. Seven-string metal, blues-based rock, and sweet acoustic riffs mix it up with Chinese zithers, banjos, sitars, and more. Ever hear a mountain dulcimer shredded by a full Marshall stack? Banjo licks strained through a Morley wah? Now’s your chance.” This is the description you’ll find on the back of the CD jacket for Sonic Foundry’s new Loops For ACID product called Bradley Fish: Unstrung.
There are exactly 498 loops provided on this disc in the Acidized WAV format, which can be used with any ACID-compatible loop sequencing software, such as Sonic Foundry’s ACID and Cakewalk’s Sonar. A slightly larger number of loops would have been nice, but this is pretty much on spec with most sample CDs, which provide an average of 500 loops per disc. The loops on Unstrung cover a small variety of musical styles. Most of the loops are either bluesy or in a laid-back acoustic rhythm type of style. Although, there are also a number of very melodic loops, and still others that are extremely heavy with rock and metal influences. The organization of the loops is a bit out of the ordinary in that the loops are separated into six main folders (some of which have subfolders) corresponding to the instrument being played rather than the style of music. Depending on what you need this can either be an advantage (if you’re looking for a particular instrument) or disadvantage (if you need a particular musical style).
The folders on Unstrung are named and organized as follows: Acoustic Guitar and Dulcimer (contains 7 loops of guitar and dulcimer strummed in an upbeat tempo); Dulcimer (contains three subfolders named Acoustic Dulcimer, Electric Dulcimer, and FX Dulcimer – Acoustic Dulcimer provides 83 loops of a moderate tempo demonstrating a number of different dulcimer articulations – Electric Dulcimer provides 18 melodic loops of a moderate tempo, some of which have subtle distortion and others heavy – FX Dulcimer provides 8 loops of very heavily processed dulcimer performances that serve better as sound effects than musical performances); Electric Banjo (contains 8 loops of clean electric banjo performances in a blues style with some wah-wah effect); Guitar (contains six subfolders named 7-string Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Lead Acoustic Guitar, Lead Electric Guitar, and Synth Guitar – 7-string Electric Guitar provides 50 heavily distorted, hard rock style loops – Acoustic Guitar provides 51 loops with a mixture of finger picking and strumming in a variety of styles – Electric Guitar provides 16 hard rock style distorted loops – Lead Acoustic Guitar provides 32 blues styled melodic loops that can be used as lead parts together with the Acoustic Guitar loops – Lead Electric Guitar provides 133 hard rock style distorted loops that can be used as lead parts together with the Electric Guitar loops – Synth Guitar provides 45 synth loops that were played with a guitar controller. Some of the sounds are guitar-based, but others just synth sounds. To me this is a waste of disc space since most musicians can create loops of this type on their own.); Sitar (contains 14 loops of sitar picking and strumming); Zither (contains two subfolders named Chinese Zither and German Concert Zither – Chinese Zither provides 15 melodic loops in a slow tempo – German Concert Zither provides 18 rhythmic loops of a moderate tempo in a blues style.
What makes this disc somewhat unique is the variety of instruments played by Mr. Fish, which include the following: PRS Custom 24 and Jackson DR7 7-string guitars, Taylor W14CE Acoustic Guitar, McSpadden Diatonic Mountain Dulcimer, Marx & Marx Marxolin, McSpadden Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer, Rikki Ram Sitar, Gu Zheng (21 string Chinese zither), German Concert Zither, 1909 Vega Banjo, Roland GR-33 Guitar Synthesizer, and a Roland TD-10 Percussion Sound Module. Unfortunately, this is one of the things that makes this disc unappealing, at least to me. There is such a hodgepodge of different loops on this disc that it makes it difficult to actually find a way to incorporate them into an actual song. The best function for Unstrung is probably to be combined with other loop discs when you might need a stringed instrument that is a bit out of the ordinary. Even then, however, you won’t get traditional performances here. Personally, I would have much rather seen a series of discs by Mr. Fish – one disc covering the sitar, another covering the zither, another on the dulcimer, etc. Each disc would offer a variety of styles being played by the same instrument, including both traditional and modern performances. In my opinion, this type of content would be much more useful to many musicians. This is not to say that the performances on Unstrung are of low quality. Quite the contrary – both the performances and the sound quality of the loops is excellent, but their usefulness in the musical context of an entire song is limited.
As it stands, I can’t recommend this disc. It just doesn’t provide enough musical value for the asking price. If you really need electric guitar loops, I recommend checking out Jade Hill: Rock/Pop Guitars Loops For ACID. And for acoustic guitar loops, you might want to look at Leo Cavallo: The Songwriter’s Acoustic Guitar Companion Loops For ACID (I hope to review this disc soon, but in the meantime, I’ve heard good things about it). As for sitar, dulcimer, zither, and other exotic instrument loops, well, hopefully Mr. Fish and Sonic Foundry will take my advice and create a series of discs as I described earlier. Those types of discs would certainly sell and lend themselves well to the musical creation process. We’ll just have to wait and see…