MusicLab RealStrat review

RealGuitar enabled authentic acoustic guitar parts to be created by non-guitarists - now RealStrat is set to do the same for the electric axe.

  • £133
  • $249
You can choose your chord position and register for extra authenticity.

MusicRadar Verdict

RealStrat can sound scarily similar to the real thing, representing the pinnacle of today´s emulative technology. If you want a virtual electric guitar, this is the best option yet.


  • +

    A dream to play. Multiple flexible performance modes. Keyswitches galore. Effects mixer for fine-tuning. AmpliTube Duo bundled. Throw away that ‘how to play guitar’ manual.


  • -

    Bad news indeed for session guitarists!

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RealGuitar is a clever piece of software that enables any user - whether they possess guitar-playing skills or not - to bring authentic acoustic guitar parts to fruition within a host DAW.

At the time of its release, MusicLab promised that there would eventually be an electric guitar version, and now it's here in the shape of RealStrat. As its name suggests, this is sampled from a Fender Stratocaster.

RealStrat adopts a similar performance ethos to that of its acoustic sibling in that five performance modes are available: Solo, Harmony, Chords, Bass & Chord and Bass & Pick.

Solo mode is polyphonic but otherwise speaks for itself, while Harmony is monophonic but doubles your chosen note at the octave. Chord and Bass & Chord modes let you 'strum' any chord of your choice, with the latter providing a bass root. Bass & Pick enables you to play picked or plucked parts with a supporting bass.

The other major performance element retained from RealGuitar is that your controller keyboard is automatically divided into two discrete zones: Main and Repeat. If you're in Chord mode, the Main area is where you hold down chords, while the Repeat zones, at the extremities of the keyboard range, provide retriggers, so you can tap out rhythms on them.

The really nifty thing is that, within the Repeat zones, white notes retrigger the full sound, while black keys trigger a muted variation.

Audio examples

1. British Lead: A bass-driven lead line is given the Amplitube Duo treatment via a 'British Lead' amp sim.

2. Chords through Distortion: These 'strummed chords' are passed through a Distortion stomp box.

3. Assorted playing styles: Scrapes, Pinch Harmonics, BridgeMute and Chucka Mute Keys - a sample of some of RealStrat's many playing modes, all accessible via dedicated key switches or MIDI control messages.

Extra authenticity

RealStrat also comes packed with keyswitch options to keep parts sounding as realistic as possible. In Solo Mode, for example, a huge range of tricks can be assigned. Harmonics, slides, hammer-ons and many more are available, and you can keep tabs on which one is selected within the main GUI.

In Chord Mode, you can be musically specific in other ways, such as paring down chords to fewer than six strings. You can choose from a variety of ascending fretboard positions in order to emulate a guitarist's approach to chord changes, rather than that of a keyboard player.

Playing RealStrat is a real joy, particularly in Solo and Chord modes. The former offers a range of styles, with the fantastic-sounding plug-in responding to your every move. Velocity, mod wheel and pitchbend become expressive controllers and, with a little practice, you can produce authentic solos and strummed parts.

Non-guitar-playing producers may find RealStrat to be the answer to their prayers. Understanding how to play guitar will help in achieving the best results, though the software does a good job of making up for performance discrepancies by itself. And even if you do play, the lure of firing up RealStrat may ultimately prove all too strong!

Either way, this is a magnificent plug-in that sounds scarily real.

Music Radar Team

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