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The Chinese Sheng, Laotian Khaen, and Japanese Sho are three very similar instruments with a common ancestor. They have been traditionally made from bamboo, the aluminium of the east, since the 14th century BC.
Sound is created by both inhaling and exhaling - as with a western mouth-organ.
By controlling his breath the player can keep an almost endless sustained sound, characteristic of Japanese Sho technique, or a quick rhythmic pulsing, typical of Khaen performance.
Dating from the 14th century B.C., the sheng is the most technically developed instrument, with metal keys and a fully chromatic tuning. Modern Sheng come in various sizes including some very large bass instruments, but for this library we sampled a standard alto instrument with 30 pipes.
The Khaen has the longest pipes in our collection, but is also the most “rustic” of the three and lacks the finesse and sensitivity of the other two. A typical Khaen performance uses breathing to create a quick rhythmic pulsing effect.
The Sho is the smallest of the three and has a the highest pitch register. The instrument was introduced to Japan from China in the 8th century AD and became a primary woodwind in the court Gagaku ensembles of the Heian period. There has been a rediscovery of the instrument in modern times with new pieces being written for the instrument by such composers as John Cage, Toru Takemitsu, and Alan Hovhanness. Björk used Sho as a primary instrument in the music to her film Drawing Restraint 9.
Sheng keys and mouthpiece.
The performer blows into the central chamber to provide pressure to the instrument. Covering a hole in a pipe allows air to pass and vibrate that reed so the pipe will sound. Each pipe makes a single pitch, but as many pipes can sound at once these instruments are polyphonic.
Sho mouthpiece and close up of pipes
Sho pipes from above
How to recreate an authentic Khaen performance with our instrument, using the breath modelling function.
This video shows the different note elements and how to put them together as MIDI.
In this video you hear only the Soniccouture Khaen.
The Sheng instrument page features comprehensive control over the instrument behaviour, with user configurable breath control, including inhale /exhale switching, pitch offset and instability. A full set of envelopes, LFOs and filters add creative possibilites.
The Khaen features a 'drone' key in addition to the inhale /exhale controls, as well as the envelope, LFO and filter setup.
The Sho instrument page also features user configurable breath control, with inhale /exhale switching, pitch offset and instability. A full set of envelopes, LFOs and filters add creative possibilites.
The Tuning panel offers powerful control over scales and individual notes. Choose from over 50 preset scales including pentatonics, African, Chinese & Mesopotamian setups, or create your own unique micro-tuning.
A completely user configurable FX chain: choose from 16 different effects in 6 insert slots - in any order you like. The Space processor offers everything from straight rooms and halls to ambient convolution effects.
The breathy, sustained timbres of the asian free reed instruments is an interesting palette for sound design.
Sculpt with 22 different filters, LFOs and modulation envelopes, not to mention the custom FX section.
Sheng Khaen Sho includes 30 sound design snapshot presets as inspiration for your own sonic exploration.
This is a Kontakt Player instrument. This means that you do not need to own the full version of NI Kontakt to use it. It will run as a plug-in instrument in any VST/AU/RTAS/AAX/WASAPI,compatible host program or DAW eg: Cubase, Logic, Ableton Live, DP, Reaper, Pro-Tools. No extra purchase necessary.
Windows 7 or higher (latest Service Pack, 32/64 Bit), Intel Core Duo or AMD AthlonTM 64 X2, 4 GB RAM (6 GB RAM recommended)
Mac: OS X 10.9 or higher, Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM
Requires KONTAKT 5 or KONTAKT 5 PLAYER version 5.6.8 or later