Welcome to another edition of This Thing Rules! As soon as I finished my recent review of Sonic Zest’s excellent Ambient Cinematic Guitar 3, I was asked if I’d like to check out their brand new instrument, Cinematic Percussion Engine. Only a half hour into playing with it, I can tell you right away that they’ve got another winner on their hands with this one. Check out my demo “In The Fire.”

You know in an action movie film score when you’ve got the big dramatic strings causing tension and build-up as the spy is breaking into the evil corporation’s headquarters, and then all of the sudden, in comes the rattling percussion sounds? Little twinkling bells and shakers that help add a whole new layer of tension to let you know that something is about to go down. Well that’s what Cinematic Percussion Engine is for. Either using the powerful arpeggiator tools to quickly get some riveting tension going, or simply by playing along with the expertly sampled sounds, this collection offers a lot of possibilities.

In my demo “In The Fire” that you heard above, there is a lot going on. I decided to start off by building something that would fit in an action/drama type of film. No Cinematic Percussion Engine was used at first – on purpose. I wanted to try using it as I imagine it should be used… By using it to ramp up the action after the fact. Once I had a good start with the strings and pulsating bass and the big boom drums, I started adding in layers of sound from Cinematic Percussion Engine.

I decided to use just 3 tracks of it so that I wouldn’t overload the demo with too many sounds, so I went with one each of the 3 separated patches. Included are “The Cinematic Percussion Engine” which is the main patch you’re going to be loading up when you first dig in. The sounds are non-melodic, percussive, and when paired with the arpeggiator, create totally usable, unique sounds.

The second patch is “Metal Pans,” which is more melodic. It’s made up of an assortment of metal pans/drums that are tuned and ready for you to create melodies with. Along the same lines is patch three, “Glass Bowls.” These also sound excellent and allow you to add some more melodic layers to your track. Sonic Zest specifically mentions Thomas Newman as one of the influences of this collection, and it’s an appropriate comparison. If you’ve heard a Thomas Newman score (and even if you don’t know one by name, you’ve probably heard his music before in everything from “American Beauty” to “Skyfall”), or the countless scores out there that imitate his style, then you know what I’m talking about.


Aside from the three individual patches, there are various options included that help you get the kind of sounds you’re looking for. Starting off with the simple mode switch which switches the arpeggiator on and off (so you can play individual notes or rhythms), and moving from there into Note Order, Rate, Swing and Rhythm. Those four all allow you to change up the style of the rhythm, and the preset options allow for some quick switches and can be very inspiring. I definitely recommend checking out their website for some notes on best practices for messing around with these settings.

It’s interesting that Sonic Zest has named this set “The Cinematic Percussion Engine,” instead of Instrument or just “Cinematic Percussion,” like a lot of their other pieces of sample collections. I think it’s a fitting name considering the arpeggiator that allows you to create rhythms is like it’s own engine pushing these sounds through your music.

Cinematic Percussion Engine is available now from Sonic Zest for the intro price of $18.00. Like their other offerings, this is also a small, dedicated package, but the added options really allow it to shine and make it something I definitely recommend checking out, especially if you compose for film.

David Rosen is an award-winning music composer. He composes original music for films, commercials, jingles, video-games and all other kinds of media projects. He has a vast music library of original tracks available for licensing and is also available for custom compositions. Contact him on the ABOUT page for pricing and availability for your next project.