Toontrack EZkeys Line by jerjabs
As a guitar player/song writer, if I fumble and edit midi long enough, I'm able create "believable" piano parts for my songs. Often, this time ends up killing my creative writing vibe, and the song suffers or I get bored and stop creating. As an HUGE fan of the EZ Drummer and Superior products I was very excited about Toontrack's new product EZKeys. My hope was to have a product that like EZ Drummer, had a huge selection of performance patterns that i could easily edit and alter (chords/feel), then drop them into my DAW project. A program that like EZ Drummer, had a large selection of different beats / fills and you had to do was drop them into your song for instant inspiration. It seems as if other people were hoping for the same thing. A sort of Band in The Box for pros.
This is where the rub comes. I must confess that myself, as well a few of my recording buddies, feel let down by EZ Keys. The Midi pattern library in EZK is shockingly small. Under Pop/Rock, you get the option of only Straight 4/4 and Swing 4/4. Upon selecting Straight 4/4, you only get 6 choices: Ballad, Rock Ballad, Basic, Slow Push, One of the Greats and Memphis. "Greats of Memphis" is an almost EXACT rendition of the hit classic "Walking in Memphis". Unless you are wanting to record a Karaoke version of that song, it adds nothing to the library. Anyway, each song pattern is broken down into the basic arrangements of a song all with four slight variations. If you don't happen to like the 6 choices, you're out of luck...
I'd guess that the Pop/Rock section would be, by far the largest style writing demographic. Hence, I was expecting much more here. Under "Pop/Rock", there are basically 6 choices one can make, and as stated above, some of them are blatant copies of other songs. In the promo video, Toontrack use the term "extensive" to describe the library. That is not the term I would have used. I know you want to be able to sell expansions later on, but the selection in the current package feels like a lite version at best. As EZ Keys currently sits, I see it priced in the $79.99 range and not the current $179.00 asking price.
Others users have pointed out that the editing capabilities of the few patterns you do get, is clunky and frustrating. If you drag a pattern into the time line, make a chord edit to it, then drag another in...the first edit is lost. This is a serious flaw, one I'm hoping will be corrected in time.
Up till now, Toontrack releases have all been met with generally positive reviews. As a supporter of Toontrack, all is not lost with this product. Clean up the editing section and add more to the core library. That's it. My circle of engineer and song writing friends feel the same way about Ez Keys, it's close but not enough to warrant $179. Currently, EZKeys is a limited and overpriced product that will no doubt need some fine tuning by Toontrack to get up to snuff. Expansion packs will not be long off to help fill out it's library, but one cannot feel that the standard performance library is thin at best.
Quick but limited scratch song writing arrangements can be created with EZKeys, and for what it does well, it does well. The sampled piano is nice sounding but Toontracks never intended EZKeys to battle the already over saturated piano virtual instrument market. This product is created as a song writing tool. A virtual pianist in your virtual band that plays the keys much better than you do. The issue is that he only knows a few songs, and some of the songs he knows, are cover tunes.
EZKeys, could have been a home run if more time was spent fleshing out the editing functions, those oversights along with the sparse library make EZKeys hard to recommend at this time. My advice is that unless you really need this type of song writing tool asap, wait till some omitted editing functions are implemented and the price drops. You're going to want that extra $$$ to buy expansion packs and fill the void of drag and drop ideas in the base model.
REVIEW GRADE: C