Pro Audio Files

Review: Dronar by Gothic Instruments

Dronar is a collection of instruments designed to create “a universe from a note.” Gothic Instruments, whose main players include Dan Graham (product designer and founder of trailer music company Gothic Storm Music) and Adam Hanley (programming) among other contributors, have crafted several modules that use the same underlying architecture and functional interface, but with distinct sample libraries and source material.

The Modules

(descriptions below provided by the developer)

Cinematic Atmospheres

“This Cinematic Atmospheres Module creates evolving, filmic textures where the main highlight is the extensive “FX” section – a wide range of live recordings of environmental noises like water, thunder, rain, electricity and more, heavily processed by Sound Design genius Alessandro Camnasio. These complex texture layers add instant colour, mood, tension and grain to your expressive pads and drones.”

Guitarscapes

“This Guitarscapes Module creates a massive range of guitar-inflected textures from natural strummy accompaniments to wildly complex and awe-inspiring soundscapes, with hundreds of beautiful presets and a huge set of controls designed to invite deep exploration, expression and discovery.”

Hybrid

“This Hybrid Module creates cutting-edge, grainy, complex, evolving cinematic and sci-fi atmospheres with 300 inspiring presets and a huge set of controls designed to invite deep exploration, expression and discovery.”

Live Strings

“This Live Strings Module creates a massive range of strings-based textures from natural live strings and live-played effects to awe-inspiring soundscapes, with hundreds of varied presets and a huge set of controls designed to invite deep exploration, expression and discovery. With 10GB of world-class live recordings being fed into a huge multi-track modular engine plus synth, effect, arpeggio and rhythm sequencer controls, this is a powerful cinematic beast worthy of heaven and hell.

Vintage Synth

“This Vintage Synth Module began with a classic 1980s synth expertly programmed and processed by Sound Design genius Alessandro Camnasio. Once fed into Dronar’s glorious engine where 8 separate sounds are animated by independent arpeggiators and modulations these beautiful rich analogue textures take on a hypnotic new life of their own, sounding how classic vintage synths should have sounded but never quite did, set free at last in a Platonic realm of analogue dreamscapes.”

Dark Synthesis

“This Dark Synthesis Module creates dark, eerie and mysterious synthetic textures by combining strange synth waveforms with complex processed real world recordings with a huge set of controls that invite deep exploration, expression and discovery.”

The fundamental concept behind all of the instruments is that one hand remains free to change parameters of the sound as it drones on either with a controller or even your mouse. The main page of the interface is quite simple with level controls for the sounds sources, overall intensity, reverb and delay controls, and movement, which is a global control for the intensity of the underlying arpeggiators and modulators.

The Expert Page (example seen below) reveals the four sound layers, each capable of crossfading between two samples, which can be chosen via the drop-down menus or randomized. The layers are designated as:

FX: un-pitched sound effects loops

HI / MID / LO: automatically generated notes spread across the spectrum based on the key(s) pressed. In addition, The “Thick” button will add extra notes either an octave above or below based on the layer. There is a crossfade slider to control the sample choice levels, a simple AR envelope, envelope modulation control over a LP filter, filter cutoff and resonance, Mod Wheel intensity control over the filter cutoff, stereo width and a tone control, which “is a complex EQ control. At low settings it takes off the high frequencies and boosts the low for a big low sound. At high settings it boosts the high frequencies and cuts out the lows, resulting in a thin bright sound.”


The LFO and FX Page

The effects available on this page include:

  • LFO (that can modulate pan, filter and pitch)
  • Distortion

  • Chorus

  • Reverb and Delay Sends

There can be 12 independent settings of this page which can be accessed by the 12 Drone keys shown in red below (F0 to E1). These keys allow instant access to widely different sounds by altering several effect settings with a simple key press.

These same keys will also save settings on the Arpeggiator Page. The three arpeggiators are routed to Pitch, Intensity and Filter and according to the developer, are unique in their operation.

For instance, the “pitch arpeggiator plays all the notes that you are holding down but crossfades between them. This is like having the different notes of a chord all going through different channels on a mixing desk, then turning the faders in succession to create the impression of an arpeggio.”

ADVERTISEMENT


The Master FX Page are global effects that are active across all 12 Drone key switches.

MIDI Controllers and LEAP Motion 3D

To a great extent, the Dronar modules are designed to be played using some sort of MIDI controller to manipulate parameters as a note is sustained. Aside from the standard controllers available and iOS apps like Lemur and Touch OSC, the developers recommend Leap Motion 3D, “an infrared gesture-abased controller using 3rd party GecoMIDI software.” Each Dronar instrument comes with a .geco preset file and Leap Motion parameter list in the Extras Folder.

Six Gestures can be mapped to parameters on the main page using LEAP and GecoMIDI:

INTENSITY – UP / DOWN: This effectively controls the MOD WHEEL (CC1) and moves the INTENSITY up and down.

MID VOLUME – LEFT / RIGHT: This controls the MID (mid-range sounds) volume.

LO VOLUME – BACK / FORTH: towards and away from you — this controls the LO (low range sounds) volume. Push to the back for a loud LO, but go easy, too much power can be dangerous. 😉

HI VOLUME – TILT HAND UPWARDS: raise your hand towards a ’stop’ gesture –  (referred to in Geco MIDI as “pitch” using an aviation metaphor): This controls the HI (high range sounds) volume. Lifting the fingers makes HI louder.

FX VOLUME – TIP HAND TO THE LEFT: turn open like you are showing your mum that your hands are clean – (referred to in Geco MIDI as “roll”).

MOVEMENT AMOUNT – SPIN TO THE RIGHT: spin your hand horizontally to the right like a DJ scratching a record – (referred to in Geco MIDI as “yaw”).

Conclusion

The Dronar Bundle is an expansive library of rich textures that include dark dystopian underbeds, dreamlike other-worldly ambiences, and chaotic and complex rhythmic sequences. Although capable of regular pulsing rhythms and fixed tonalities, the instruments are at their best with evolving sonorities that often unfold seamlessly in beautiful and unexpected ways. The playability of these modules adds another level of functionality that expands their sonic palette even more and the integration with LEAP Motion 3D and GecoMIDI seems like a natural marriage.

My latest research showed the current price for the Dronar Bundle to be £219.00 (about $312) at timespace.com. The price seems more than reasonable based on the depth, flexibility and performability of these amazing instruments.

———–

Check out my other articles, reviews, interviews and my video tutorial series, Synthesis 101 available exclusively on The Pro Audio Files.

Twitter: @PMantione
Instagram: philipmantione

Missing our best stuff?

Sign up to be the first to learn about new tutorials, sales, giveaways and more.

We will never spam you. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione is a composer, synthesist, guitarist, educator and sound artist active in the LA experimental music scene. His music has been presented in festivals, museums and galleries worldwide. His current project is TriAngular Bent, an electroacoustic trio featuring Don Preston (founding member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention) and circuit bending virtuoso, Jeff Boynton. Details at philipmantione.com

3 FREE Max for Live Devices

Download three free Max for Live Devices from Phil Mantione.

Powered by ConvertKit
/> /> /> /> /> /> /> /> /> />