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MOJO: Horn Section | Music Tech Magazine

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Funky pop, jazz and big band horn sections are notoriously difficult to sequence convincingly. The reasons for this are mainly performance-related. By comparison to symphonic players, jazz musicians enjoy more freedom of expression within a section and employ a variety of stylistic techniques to achieve an exciting sound. Clearly, then, for a rousing big band or funky Tower of Power-like horn section, your average orchestral VI or all-purpose sampler simply isn't good enough; something more specialised is needed. Enter MOJO: Horn Section, a new VI from Vir2 Instruments. Built around 12 core instruments (trumpets, trombones, saxes and clarinet) MOGO is powered by the popular Kontakt engine and can be used standalone or as an AU, VST, RTAS and DXi plug-in.

MOJO's approach is a little different from those of other horn libraries. Instead of deciding in advance which articulations are required, you select a ready-to-play instrument, which loads complete with its relevant articulations and release types. At this point the interface is simple, providing two main control knobs: Players and Mode.

Players gives you access to both solo and section versions of an instrument (up to ten players). As more players are added to the ensemble MOJO intelligently spaces them across the stereo field, adjusts their tuning and applies humanization and variation.

The Mode control is used to switch between polyphonic, monophonic and legato playing. These controls can be programmed by MIDI, enabling you to easily switch between, let's say, a four-piece trumpet section and a solo player. It should be noted, though, that for reasons of behind-the-scenes stereo balance, sections must contain even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8 or 10).

Articulations are plentiful (bends, runs, crescendos, swells, falls, staccatos, stabs and so on) and an onscreen display shows you which type is active at any given time. Swells and crescendos are programmed to sync to the tempo of the host sequencer and can be configured to play to the exact length you want, from one to 18 beats. If the song tempo changes, the swells and crescendos adjust automatically.

On the surface, MOJO is very straightforward to use and the simple interface belies the complexity beneath. A Setup menu provides access to many further controls, such as modelled vibrato, advanced humanization, character control (mellow or aggressive playing), attack control and convolution reverb. A suite of effects (Compression, limiting, reverb, EQ and more) is also included with each instrument. Hundreds of pre-recorded riffs and stylistic effects are also available.

Collectively, the instruments here are capable of packing considerable punch. However, powerhouse sections aren't always appropriate. Ballads and the like require smoother note transitions and sweeter-sounding sections. In that respect, MOJO's flexible controls proved very impressive (especially the legato feature, which worked beautifully when applied to the saxophones.

This is a well-implemented VI with sufficient sounds, tools and controls to program remarkably authentic-sounding horn parts. Although adding a clarinet for big band arranging is a good idea, we would like to have seen a flute as well, which is a common doubling instrument for modern saxophonists. A larger variety of mutes, too, for the trumpet and trombones would be welcomed by big band arrangers; at present only cup mutes are represented.

We would advise anyone looking for a virtual horn section to give MOJO serious consideration. It's competitively priced and delivers the goods.

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