I’ve always been a fan of Applied Acoustic Systems’ software, mainly because I love how how it sounds, but also because I love the idea of using software to model instruments instead of relying on gigabytes of samples to create the same sounds. Their Strum GS-1 guitar modeler has been around for a while, and while it’s serviceable as a guitar sound, they just came out with a new version, GS-2, which for now only does acoustic guitar sounds.
For starters, the sound is incredible for a modeler. It sounds … well … like a real guitar. And it behaves like one, too. (And in the end, it’s all about the sound, isn’t it?) There are plenty of patches to play around with to get a good variety of sound colors, and since it’s not much of a memory or CPU hog, it’s pretty easy to run them through whatever VST FX you want to to dirty them up.
The playing interface is also updated, with three new modes. In the first mode, it plays like a keyboard instrument. Hit a key, get a sound. Not much to say there.
In the second mode, it plays like a rhythm guitar. Press a key on the lower half to select the chord, then press a key or combination on the upper octave to strum it. This mode is slightly tricky to figure out. Just banging out major chords is relatively simple: if you want a C, play a C. But if you want a C7, what do you do? You play C and then play the first white key below it. If you want Cm, play the first black key below it. And since F and E are right next to each other, they keys still operate the same, so it’s a little weird. Don’t think in terms of half/whole steps. Think in terms of white/black keys.
I really like the rhythm mode (called Guitar in the program), especially the variety of strums. There are also six different chord types, with different root positions and fingerings, so if you want open chords, you can choose those, or if you want power chords, you can choose those.
To get chords like a sus2 or sus4, you have to chord it out like a regular chord on the keyboard, and experiment! Hitting C-F-G will give me a Csus4, C-D-G a Csus2, and C-F-B a C7sus4. There are a lot of chords lurking in there, you just have to bang around a bit. The major/minor/7th chords are easy to find, though, and that should make simpler stuff easy to knock out.
The last mode is the loop mode, and that’s the most fun to mess with in a mindless kind of way. Hit a key, and the program will auto-strum it for you. To change patterns, select a different key on the upper octave. You can choose a bunch of different patterns, so that makes it fun to play with.
The upgrade was only $30 or so, since I’m already a registered used of Strum GS-1. I can’t recommend this upgrade enough! It sounds wonderful, and it’s really fun to play with.
Obviously, if you’re going to lay down something professional, you’ll want to get a real guitarist in, but for laying down a good acoustic track before then, this should work fine.