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MOJO: Horn Section | Keyboard Magazine

Reviewer: Marty Cutler Back to MOJO: Horn Section product details

If you're looking for great-sounding brass and reeds for pop, funk, and big-band arrangements, Vir2's Mojo is a great place to start. The compilation of brass and reeds is dripping with attitude and a very human touch- which is to say that the samples appear to favor realism over slavish consistency. Artifacts come and go from one keystroke to the next, so for example, one sustained trumpet note sounds ever so slightly more tremulous then the next round-robin sample of that note. It pays off, producing ensembles which seem to have different musicians rather than the same player cloned several times.


Mojo lets you work practically any way you want. You can create solo instruments and set them up for legato performance - an essential way to avoid the note overlap and retriggering that tips your hand as a keyboardist and not a real horn section. You can build multi patches out of individual horns, which is great for complex, individually articulated brass ensembles. You can also choose from a nice batch of multis that already have ensembles laid out across consecutive MIDI channels. If RAM is low, or you're in a hurry and just want a single brass-section patch, Mojo has you covered with a bunch of single-MIDI-channel instruments comprising different combinations of brass and woodwinds. As with most sample-based brass sections, the most realistic way to recreate an ensemble is one instrument at a time, each on its own MIDI track, and add bends and other articulations in a separate recording pass. Mojo - which loads into Native Instruments Kontakt or uses the included Kontakt Player- you can load instruments in just this way. On offer are trumpet (including Harmon mute and cup mute), piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, bass trombone, clarinet, and baritone, tenor, alto, and soprano saxes. The neat trick for both single instruments and multis is the ability to specify the number of players for a given instrument, so if you want to thicken up the horn section, a turn of the dial will give you more of any instrument you choose. In a multi, this lets you set up, for instance, two trombones, four trumpets, two alto saxes and a baritone sax, or any other combination. With a single patch, you simply get more of that instrument, whether solo piece or ensemble. If you're expecting a simple replication of voices to sound keyboard-like or mechanical, you'll be happily wrong: From one keystroke to the next, instruments evidence subtle tonal differences, and you can humanize note onsets and tuning. More so than most humanizing features I've heard, the results can be subtle or even create the sound of a downright amateur section if that's your goal.

In Use

Mojo offers "lite" patches of its single instruments to help you conserve CPU resources. With 14GB RAM in my 2.83GHz, eight-core Mac Pro, I put Mojo through its paces on a dense, big-band, horn-section MIDI file that consisted of five saxes (two altos, two tenors, and one bari), four trumpets, and four trombones. I deliberately stripped the file of all MIDI control changes except for pitch-bend. Using the full-sized patches in MOTU Digital Performer 7.24, tracks played back at the high end of the CPU meter, occasionally straying into the red, and causing DP to bring up overload messages with a buffer setting of 64 samples. After a bit of futzing with Kontakt's memory management, and setting a buffer of 256 in DP, the track sailed along without a hiccup, never reaching into the red. Playing a solo horn against that track - even from my MIDI guitar - felt comfortable and musical.
In Apple Logic, CPU load didn't seem to lighten appreciably when I used larger buffers, and the instruments felt quite playable at settings as high as 512 samples. Driving Mojo from a MIDI track of funk-brass parts from Twiddly Bits yielded equally slick results, albeit with only a single alto sax, tenor sax, trumpet, and trombone. That provided a good opportunity to crank that knob I mentioned, doubling the reed players and quadrupling the trumpets and trombones. The sound was fat and animated.


Simply playing back my recorded tracks with just notes and velocity sounded terrific. Effective round-robin programming literally keeps it real. The generous supply of key-switched articulations can be a bit daunting for playing live, especially when you consider that Mojo uses MIDI continuous controllers quite a bit as well. For example, you could key-switch to engage legato mode, then alter the legato time or other qualities with series of consecutive CC numbers. That's a lot to remember. If you've ever felt like you've forsaken your keyboard for the cockpit of an alien spacecraft with more controls than you have digits, you're not alone. Fortunately, Mojo conveniently lets you assign your own key-switching scheme. Just select an articulation, hit the Learn button, and hit the key to which you want to remap that articulation.
For the most part, Vir2's programmers have done an excellent job of providing realistic articulations. Switching directly from a relatively "straight" sound to an affected technique can often sound abrupt and contrived, but Mojo manages to pull it off convincingly most of the time - trumpet doits, subtle crescendos, realistic, one-finger trills, falls, glissandos, and more.
There are also folders of instrument effects, full phrases and riffs, and even a folder of patches optimized for wind controllers. With all that, there are still a few instruments I'd like to see: tuba, euphonium, and French horn are missing. I'd also like to see a wider variety of mutes for trumpet and trombone. Nonetheless, Vir2 Mojo presents a solid, great sounding pallet for pop, jazz, and funk styles.

PROS - Great sounding, versatile library with articulate brass and reed instruments. Easily configurable key-switching. Expressive MIDI CC assignments. Convenient expansion of players for each instrument.

CONS - No French horns, euphoniums, or tuba. Higher sample count can strain at lower buffer settings.

BEST FOR Big band, pop, funk, and jazz.

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