Big Fish Audio | Sample Library Review Steve Blizin | Country Essentials: Bluegrass Product Review
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Country Essentials: Bluegrass | Sample Library Review

Reviewer: Steve Blizin Back to Country Essentials: Bluegrass product details

Pros: 15 construction kits, featuring acoustic guitar, resonator, banjo, bass, dobro, mandolin and a collection of percussion instruments for plenty of options for mixdowns.

Cons: Not a con but be advised that no fiddle loops are included with this library.

This collection feels fresh, current, joyful and pure country. With moderate tempos and light, positive and breezy melodies, there won’t be anything in this collection you will struggle to use. Tempos range from 85 BPM to 124 BPM keeping the collection right in the sweet spot for bluegrass bliss.

Whenever Big Fish Audio teams with Sample Factory, I get excited. This team has produced the lion’s share of my most favored loop titles in recent history, regardless of the genre. More specifically, this partnership of hand selected, session musicians, producers and writers create some of the most carefully crafted virtual instruments, loop and construction kits on the market. With Country Essentials Bluegrass, the team has captured the essence of acoustic bluegrass, folk and country, that’s rooted in traditional bluegrass standards without feeling like you’ve heard it all before.


Despite the American heritage feeling that Bluegrass music can inspire, the origins of this style of acoustic music are traceable to the British Isles and beyond. But a brief history of flat-picking style guitar or banjo music probably isn’t why you’re reading this review. You’re probably wondering what you’ll find inside a library labeled “Country Essentials: Bluegrass.” The library contains 15 well-conceived arrangements based on both traditional and modern Bluegrass tunes. And while it’s positioned as “traditional bluegrass,” I found the tunes to lean more towards modern bluegrass than traditional bluegrass standards and this is a good thing, since some traditional bluegrass can feel dated or at least sound familiar.

This collection feels fresh, current, joyful and pure country. With moderate tempos and light, positive and breezy melodies, there won’t be anything in this collection you will struggle to use. Tempos range from 85 BPM to 124 BPM keeping the collection right in the sweet spot for bluegrass bliss. Think Allison Krauss, Nickel Creek, The Seldom Scene and The Wailing Jennys and you’ll be in the right ball-park. Traditional instrumentation is as you might expect, featuring; Acoustic Guitar, Dobro, Banjo, Mandolin, Resonator Guitar, Bouzouki and Bass – but this collection does not contain any fiddle. If you’re a vocalist or aspire to be one, this would be a great set of tunes to work with to practice your skills.

For film, television, podcast and other multimedia producers, these kits could prove useful for anything related to outdoor/adventure, western, travel, leisure, nature, documentary and children’s programming. The loops are labeled by instrument, lead or rhythm, part, and arrangement position so building custom length cues is easy. And while song structure is fairly intuitive, nothing is left to chance. Arrangements generally follow this pattern: Intro/Verse/PreChorus/Chorus/Turnaround/Bridge/Breakdown/Outro.

Both the KLI and multi format versions are divided into parts which can sometimes yield interesting results when rearranged. Even novice producers will find it easy to work with these smartly labeled loops, folders and filenames. Folders include kit number, tempo and key signature information (in all versions.) It’s very easy to match or extend the demo versions of each kit. I will once again state that either version (KLI or Multi-format) will work quite well for you, based on how you prefer to work. If you are comfortable in the Kontakt based work environment, the KLI product offers far more built-in conveniences, such as artifact free time stretching and sliced loop options that can otherwise be time-consuming to create. You’ll need a Midi keyboard, however – and the full retail version of Kontakt 5.8 or higher. But the Multi-format (.wav, .rex or Apple Loops) offers drag and drop file access to quickly build a music bed. Personally, I still find, I can work a tad bit faster using traditional loops as opposed to recording and then rendering KLI sessions. But your mileage may vary.

Looking at the DEMO.nki file loaded into Kontakt, you can see the green band which describes the Kit number, the Tempo, the Key Signature and finally the key the demo is mapped to on your midi keyboard. All 15 demos are accessible here. The rest of the loops are accessible through their individual kit folders.

Each kit is broken out into various instruments loaded into two .nki files. You can see that many options are accessible here such as room sound (reverb) and other FX controls.

Note the kit name, tempo and key signature are displayed in the top of the Kontakt instrument window. A separate, 3rd instrument located in each folder, includes rhythmic elements such as Djembe, Shakers and more – and these can really help to give your tracks a contemporary feel while maintaining their bluegrass roots.

The beauty of having these rhythmic options included in this collection, is that these can sound perfectly at home in almost any mix.

Surprising flexibility comes from experimenting with the arrangements. For instance, simply using two acoustic guitars conveys a simple, relaxed feel to this particular kit which could be further augmented with rhythmic elements to add flavor, soul, movement and balance. Likewise, a solo’d mandolin track or dobro can lend a country feel without getting in the way of dialogue or visual elements.

If you need a little Bluegrass in your life, this is a perfect collection to begin with. The musicianship is flawless. The vibe is all positive. There are no dark, brooding melodies here, and the arrangements feel current without being edgy or too progressive. In my opinion, Country Essentials: Bluegrass ticks all the boxes for quaint country charm. This is a perfect introduction to bluegrass music for those unfamiliar but for those already indoctrinated, it compliments the previous collections offered by Sample Factory & Big Fish Audio nicely. Priced at $129.95 at, I have no reservations about recommending Country Essentials: Bluegrass but there are plenty of demos for you to sample before you buy.


The KLI version requires a full retail version of Kontakt 5.8.0 or higher. You cannot use the free Kontakt player with this product. Depending on the version you purchase, you will receive download links via email which are only good for 24 hours.

If you purchase the KLI version of this product, it downloads as a single compressed file weighing in at 3.76 GB. Fully expanded, this will occupy 4.68 GB of hard drive space. And you’ll have access to a whopping 1,945 Kontakt patches!

Multi-format purchasers will have the choice of downloading one or all of the .wav, (3.58 GB compressed which expands to 4.35 GB on your hard drive and 2081 individual files,) .rex, (1.97 GB which is not compressed but offers 2130 files,) or Apple Loops (3.58 GB compressed which expands to 4.35 GB and 2081 individual files!)

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