Whilst Native Instruments and Scarbee tend to make waves in the world of virtual guitar and bass instruments, it's worth noting that Pettinhouse has been around for almost 10 years, providing its own version of such products. This Italian company, operated by Andrea Pettinao, has it's own range of playable guitar libraries that range from acoustic to electric. Even ukele's are being sold! After having purchased and used his flagship DirectGuitar plugin, I had a chat with Andrea about his company.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background in music and how you got into being a creator of audio products?
Everything started the day my father put his headphones on my ears. He was an opera singer and a HiFi collector. My older brothers were DJs at radio stations and clubs. I started playing piano when I was 13, guitar at 14 and later the bass and drums. But my passion was more about creating sounds than learning how to play musical instruments.
At the age of 15 I had my first keyboard, a Yamaha PSR-6. One day I opened the PSR, and accidentally dropped the screwdriver into it. It fell onto some of the pins of the electronic chips. The keyboard had been switched on and I was worried that I had destroyed it, so I checked it and heard strange noises coming out from it. Through this, I discovered that touching certain pins of the chip inside the keyboard I could create new sounds, aka circuit bending.
The Roland U-20 came after that. It was a limited keyboard without any particular synth abilities. But with this keyboard I discovered that lowering the transpose and the pitch bend all the way down gave me the ability to produce odd sounds, which layered with other patches created completely new and fresh sounds.
Finally came the era of computer music, and thanks to the advent of new technologies, I was able to expand my skills, and in 2001 I started collaborating with keyboard producers like Ketron and Roland.
Many people might not know exactly what your company, Pettinhouse, does. Can you tell me what it's about and what kind of products you make?
Pettinhouse produces innovative and usable guitar, bass and drum sample libraries for Native Instruments Kontakt. It's made for producers, songwriters and soundtrack composers with the intent to give the tools that would allow them to quickly achieve the sound they need. I come from the Apple computer philosophy where everything is minimalist and easy to use. I believe that a sample library should inspire you to create music, and to help you maintain a continuous flow of production.
When and why was Pettinhouse created?
In 2001, I was working for some keyboard producers, creating new sounds for their keyboards. That was the hotbed of Pettinhouse. I started experimenting with Kontakt 2, and in 2002 I ended up accidentally creating the first version of DirectGuitar, which was thejazz patch. Meanwhile, I discovered the Amplitube virtual guitar amplifier simulator, and I asked to myself, "why not to create a sample library with dry samples recorded with a stratocaster guitar straight to the audio interface and then apply the amp simulator to it?". I created the first sample library that was direct recorded, which allows you to shape the sound as you wish. That was the 2002.
On the 27th of March, 2006 I decided to share online all my free experimental patches made years before. Those patches for Kontakt are still available to get on the download page of Pettinhouse's website. from that point, I started the adventure of Pettinhouse.com. I have to give thanks to the massive responses from the users of forums such as KVRaudio and VI-Control, which supported and encouraged me to create the rest of the patches for DirectGuitar 1.0.
Over the past 5 years or so, we've seen quite a few sampled-based virtual instruments pop up on the market, and only a few of them have been well-received by musicians. What made you feel that Pettinhouse products would be able to stand above the sea of other virtual guitars out there?
The passion! I believe that there is space for everyone if you believe in what you do.
With companies like Native Instruments and Scarbee having created a name for themselves in the world of sample-based instruments, do you feel like the competition in this field is hard for you?
No, absolutely. I see them as resources and point of references from which to take inspiration from the good that they have. They are not my competitors. Native Instruments is a very big company, compared to my one-man efforts. The company has two branches in Berlin and USA with lots of employers. I do everything by myself (sample libraries, audio, video, graphics, my website, answering emails at 4am, etc) so it would be crazy to think to compete with Native Instruments. I prefer to work with them on collaborations. For example, in 2007 I collaborated with them to create guitars and basses for Kontakt 3. I think my sounds are still on the current library of the new Kontakt.
Thomas Skarbye from Scarbee is not my competitor, but a friend. I don’t like to call people that do the same job as me “competitors”. I’m in touch with them, we exchange opinions on forums, we discuss many aspects of our work in Facebook groups, via email, and sometimes we meet in NAMM or Frankfurt MusikMesse. Their clients are my clients. Who has only one drum library? Or only one guitar library? Everybody has more than one library from different developers and we all use whichver is necessary for our needs at the time.
Though your products are of good quality and very usable, there doesn't seem to be very much marketing for them, whether in the form of online ads and reviews, or things like sponsorships. Why is that?
Well that’s true. As an Italian, I must say that I'd prefer to relax and drink an espresso, rather than work on such things! Just kidding. As I said, before I’m one-man band here, plus I’ve got other musical projects to follow. I work mostly with my loyal customers that I've had since 2006, and my philosophy of life is “If I have what I need I don’t need more”.
Tell me a bit about the process of creating the following Pettinhouse products:
DirectGuitar was created with an American Fender Stratocaster from 1982 with alnico single coil pickups. 10Gb of samples were directly recorded at 24bit/96khz straight to the audio interface to get dry samples in order to use with an amp simulators and shape the sound as you wish. It includes all the pickup combinations (Bridge, Mid Bridge, Mid, Mid Neck, Neck) plus a patch which combines the neck pickup with the tone at 70% down in order to get a darker sound for playing other styles, such as jazz.
Over the years I've created new DirectGuitar patches for a total amount of 10 kontakt patches that have everything you need to quickly create a great virtual guitar track. From the straight strums to funky strums, as well as powerchords patches that have automatic strummer patterns.
DirectGuitar has around 7000 samples which were meticulously selected from a list of 14000 samples in order to get the best pick attacks and sustained notes.
AcousticGuitar was created with a Spanish custom guitar from the 80s. 5Gb of samples were recorded at 24bit 96Khz with custom microphones and pre-amps from Pettinaudio.com, which is run by my brother, a geek of audio and Hi-Fi gear. (We're still working on this, and it's one of the project which I hope will see the light in the future, so stay tuned.)
The guitar was recorded with a technique which I invented by experimenting with four microphones and routing the signals in particular ways. This technique gives me more dynamic, details and natural stereo image. The recording technique is a combination of stereo and binaural.
Similarly to DirectGuitar, AcousticGuitar has alternate samples per key, which are pick, upstroke and downstroke. It comes with 3 patches: Finger, Pick and Strum. The strum is an innovative patch that has patterns with the ability to “strum” what you press on the keys of your keyboard. In this way, you are not limited to chord recognition so you are free to strum whatever you want from one note to two notes, from chords with normal and strange position to chromatic chords.
WarmjazzGuitar, like DirectGuitar, is directly recorded dry straight into the audio interface, and is meant to be used with an amp simulator. 2GB of samples at 24Bit/96Khz, recorded with an Ibanez Hollow Body jazz guitar with Humbucker pickups. These pickups produce warm, full-bodied sounds with great dynamics. It has alternate notes, a velocity layer and a set of articulations with key switches that are made for playing jazz.
Tell me about your drum kit library. They seem to be secondary to your guitar ones, and are at the bottom of your product list. Are they made from real drums that were sampled, or are they programmed from drum machines?
This is my favorite library! I love it and I still use it in my productions. It is the oldest library of Pettinhouse, and was started in 1999. It’s a library made recording real drums with an SM57 mic, as my intention was to recreate the crackly retro vinyl sound from disco of the 70s. This is a library that I would like to upgrade as soon as possible, as I’ve now got material that I can use to create a fresh drum pack.
Have you found that your products have been able to sell well over the years? Which one has been the most commercially successful for you?
Yes, though not all products of course. Some sell more than others, but generally speaking I’m satisfied. Libraries for rock, funk and pop are obviously the best sellers on the market. Libraries such as LittleGuitar and UkuleleGuitar are less successful, only because these are products made for creating specialized types of music. The most commercially successful products from Pettinhouse are DirectGuitar and AcousticGuitar.
Do you have any plans to create more virtual instruments in the near future?
Yes! I’ve got a list of several instruments which I hope to record in 2015 and this includes new way to play guitars and bass on keyboard, always using the same concept as I mentioned earlier, which is inspire you to create music, and to help you maintain a continuous flow of production.