The best virtual instruments are tricksters. They trick the listener into believing that the instruments are being played by live performers.  It is not enough anymore to have perfectly recorded samples. The real trick these days is to make convincing libraries that sound as so close to real that they fool everyone.  With Handheld Sound’s Flying Hand Percussion, I feel like it transforms me into a live percussionist!

The other important thing that many libraries miss is playability.  That is definitely not the case with Flying Hand Percussion!  According to their website: “FlyingHand Percussion is a dedicated Hand-Percussion sample library. It represents an authentic and evocative ensemble utilizing a great number of articulations, true replication of the drums’ behavior at various playing techniques, and authentic nuances from each instrument. Whether you are composing or playing live, the outcome is great responsiveness, authentic character, and complete genre freedom no matter the type of music you play or write.”

Though Flying Hand Percussion (FHP) is not a new virtual instrument, it is one of my favorite percussion libraries. It is because I am not a drummer or a percussionist, but I want to add realistic sounding percussion to my music, not loops or pre-recorded midi beats. FHP makes a percussionist out of me by allowing me to perform on the the instruments.

In fact, when FHP first came out in 2008, it won Electronic Musician’s “Editors Choice Award” – Best Sound Library. Back then, Sound on Sound had this to say about it: “To date this is the only hand percussion library I’ve tried that has been sampled to the same depth as, for example, the conventional drums of BFD or DFH … The instruments are recorded using multiple mic positions and are all stored as 24-bit, 44.1kHz samples with up to 20 dynamic layers per note.”

Since then it has had a total makeover, and it an even more powerful instrument than before.

Let’s start off with an overview of FHP by chcking out how it sounds in a real life setting – the African Savanna – in a VR game called Stampede that I am working on as the audio director:


Overview of Flying Hand Percussion


As the founder of Handheld Sound, and Core Team member of Designing Music NOW, Eitan Teomi, says about the new version, “The update is actually a complete overhaul. Newer GUI, re-programmed, and I have encapsulated all mic positions in one patch instead of having separate patches.”

It also contains a wide variety of instruments and playing styles along with a brilliant user interface that lets you clearly see what you are doing all the time.  It has some cool sound design elements, as well as different mic positions and built in reverb and chorus.

The most unique thing about this library is they are all performed by a master percussionist by hand, only using sticks on a few instruments like the gong (tam tam) and timbales. This gives a really intimate vibe to the library.

Here is a complete list of the 20 instruments included in the library:

Anklungs Asian Bamboo rattlers (4 sizes).
Ashiko 14″ Maple Ashiko Drum.
Gran Casa An Orchestral Bass Drum, suspended and played with hands.
Bells A variety of Bell-like instruments.
Bongo Cajon Bongo Cajon with Mahogany heads.
Boomwhackers ® ‘D’ and ‘G’ Boomwhackers.
Claves The earthy ‘Piru’ claves.
Clay Drum Custom made Clay Drum resembling an Udu.
Congas A hi-end set of Congas.
Cowbell 3 different types of cowbells.
Djembe 16” Djembe.
Frame Drums 16” and 22” Frame Drums.
Kanjira Indian Kanjira Hand Drum.
Timbales 14” and 16” hi-end Timbales.
Triangles Orchestra Brass Triangle and the one-of-a-kind Trine Instrument.
Naal Custom made Indian Naal Drum. Its tone resembles a Tabla.
Plastic Bottle 5 Gallon Plastic jug.
Shakers Assorted Shakers including Plastic, Wood, and Bamboo.
Morphosis Electro Acoustic Drums synthesized from real objects’ resonances.
Mutants Cinemtaic Sound fx, re-pitched instruments and Virtual ensembles.

Handheld Sound’s founder and Designing Music NOW Core team member, Eitan Teomi has offered a discount code for this amazing library – just head over to and use the code designingmusicnow30. This coupon does not expire.

Let’s take a closer look and listen to some of the instruments in this amazing library:


The ashiko is a drum, shaped like a tapered cylinder (or truncated cone) with the head on the wide end, and the narrow end open. It is made of hardwood and generally has a goatskin hide. It is played with the hands, and tuned by ropes. Ashiko drums – or variants thereof – are traditionally found in West Africa, as well as part of the Americas. – Wikipedia


Bass Drum – Played by Hand

The Orchestral Bass Drum, or Gran Cassa in Italian, is played by hand with super cool effect, as you can see and hear in this video.


Bell Tree

A bell tree (often confused with the mark tree) is a percussion instrument, consisting of vertically nested inverted metal bowls. The bowls, placed on a vertical rod, are arranged roughly in order of pitch. The number of bowls can vary between approximately 14 and 28. An effective glissando is produced by sliding a triangle beater, a glockenspiel mallet, or a xylophone mallet down the length of the tree. When a glissando is played, the inexactness of the order of the bowls’ pitch is unnoticeable, merely creating a fuller sound. The bell tree is often used to accentuate the start or end of passages of music with a “bright”, “shimmer” effect, adding complexity. – Wikipedia

The actual instrument sampled is more like a “Chimes Bar” which is horizontal instead of vertical, but they look and sound very similar.



The angklung is a musical instrument from indonesia made of two to four bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. The tubes are carved to have a resonant pitch when struck and are tuned to octaves. The base of the frame is held in one hand, whilst the other hand strikes the instrument. This causes a repeating note to sound. Each of three or more performers in an angklung ensemble play just one note or more, but altogether complete melodies are produced. – Wikipedia

Empty 5 Gallon Water Bottle

This is a unique and cool sounding instrument – an empty 5 gallon water bottle played by an expert percussionist (not me – the folks at Handheld Sound!)


A djembe or jembe (/ˈdʒɛmbeɪ/ jem-bay; from Malinke jembe [dʲẽbe]) is a rope-tuned skin-covered goblet drum played with bare hands, originally from West Africa. According to the Bambara people in Mali, the name of the djembe comes from the saying “Anke djé, anke bé” which translates to “everyone gather together in peace” and defines the drum’s purpose. In the Bambara language, “djé” is the verb for “gather” and “bé” translates as “peace.”


Tam Tam

The Tam Tam is essentially a gong. In Flying Hand Percussion they also provide some really cool sound design elements to this instrument – so check it out here.



It is fun to load multiple instruments into Kontakt and just play them simultaneously with supprisingly realistic and cool results, as in these videos:

Kanjira and Tam Tam

The kanjira, khanjira or ganjira, a South Indian frame drum, is an instrument of the tambourine family. As a folk and bhajan instrument, it has been used for many centuries. It was modified to a frame drum with a single pair of jingles by Manpoondia Pillai in the 1880s, who is credited with bringing the instrument to the classical stage. It is used primarily in concerts of Carnatic music (South Indian classical music) as a supporting instrument for the mridangam.

Bass Drum and Bell Tree

Bottle and Djembe



Flying Hand Percussion is an amazing deal at $179 list.  It has 40,000 individual samples, plenty of velocity layers, and 4x Round robin. Up to 3 mic positions. Over 50dB of dynamic range. Totally noiseless with no artifacts! Meticulous collection of articulations / extended techniques / Left-Right hand samples / multiple playing zones, and combination strokes. It requires Kontakt 4 or above to play.

It is great for natural sounding percussion, but also has amazing cinematic and sound design potential built in.  If you can’t tell, I just love it!

When I begin to imagine the amount of work that had to go into editing all these samples and then coming up with an intuitive way of playing them and laying them out in Kontakt it is mind boggling how many hours must have gone into the creation of this instrument.

It will add a live and human feel to your songs, and if you like unique percussion, you will want to own this library!

30% Discount Coupon for Flying Hand Percussion

Use code designingmusic30 on checkout at Handheld Sounds Website.  There are also lots of free Kontakt instruments you can download and try out.

References and Further Reading and Watching

Playlist with all the above videos on YouTube


FHP Examples on Soundcloud

Sound on Sound Review of the early version of FHP

Image Credits:

“Lenke djembe from Mali” by Djembe Art. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –


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