A. The flute used about thirty seconds into Modal Shanghai is a shakuhachi. Shakuhachis are end-blown Japanese bamboo flutes that sound like Naruto. Everyone knows bamboo is the best. For example, you only have to buy one bamboo seed in Animal Crossing, and then they multiply. There are a crapton of applications for bamboo, like construction, paper, and digital tablets (/rimshot), meaning pandas are greedy bastards. Can you make an entire house out of apples? Didn’t think so. Checkmate, Applejack.
The shakuhachi appears in the GM soundbank, so you’re probably already familiar with it in a shitty Casio keyboard sense. However, with the right sample it’s actually a really nice sound. Specifically the one I used is from a soundfont based on the Emulator II shakuhachi, which has been affectionately dubbed the Enigma Flute, after its use by the band. The Enigma Flute has been used a lot to the point where it’s almost harder to find a song that doesn’t open with the iconic sound. More shakuhachi audio files:
- You can get 20 “royaltie-free” shakuhachi soundbytes from Universal-Soundbank
- Samplephonics offers 6 free sounds from their “Ethnic Flutes and Whistles” collection.
- Here’s a collection of flute sounds compiled on Sampleswap.
- These four samples are CC0-licensed from Freesound users.
Enigma.sf2 is great for accent notes, though rather useless with continuous melodic phrases. For that purpose you might want to try the Kontakt Factory Selection version or substitute it with the Chinese dizi or Persian ney.
The dizi I linked to is from Kong Audio, a group which specializes in bringing a variety of Chinese instruments to the virtual world. Their commercial products will run you about $40 each or you can get bundles for a few hundred dollars. Most of their sounds work on their trademark Qin engine, and to promote it they offer the ChineeGuZheng Classic for free. The Classic is a formerly commercial predecessor of GuZheng II. To be honest, I don’t actually know what’s different between the two.
A guzheng is a Chinese zither that you play over your legs like a table. A girl in my dorm has a guzheng in her room she busts out sometimes. How sweet is that?! What will those crazy Chinese people come up with next. Kong Audio’s version offers vibrato, grace note slides, legato, tremolos, and glissando effects, and with the Qin engine you can tailor and layer the different play styles or assign key switches to rotate between them.
You can download the engine and virtual instrument from the same page, and install them to the same folder.
The Mini Erhu, Kong Audio’s freebie take on the Chinese violin, and is their third and final free instrument — “among the best Chinese sound money can buy.” Er… alright then. Everyone loves the Chinese violin. In combination with its freebie siblings, the erhu makes you fully equipped to do shitty covers of Amy Winehouse songs for use as ambiance in Chinese restaurants. Top notch!
Unfortunately only the guzheng is geared for use in Qin, meaning the other two are VSTs and not as easy to swap through the different play styles with. However, the Mini Erhu has a portamento preset that slides up or down from one note to the next that makes this VSTi totally worth it. You can hear it ease all your suffering and set things right in the world about 38 seconds into Modal Shanghai.
Alternatively for those out there who prefer the insanity wolf approach you can KAYAK TO CHINA and BUY YOUR OWN INSTRUMENTS, which may prove to be a significant challenge owing to the fact there’s a lot of variation in the quality of a dizi.