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Orchestral Sample libraries


David Coscina
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You know, 10 years ago it was hard to find sounds that were really indistinguishable from the real thing. While sample technology is still not quite there, there have been a plethora of orchestral sample libraries thathave hit the market over the past few years that have made life much easier for budding composers to hear what they have written (I studied music when things were just getting started and relied on a U-20 with some expansion cards to check things out; but I still had to notate everything by hand back in the late '80s).

Now we have mid-priced libraries from VSL, EWQL, Garritan, Steinberg (HALion), MOTU, Miroslav and Kirk Hunter.

I'm just curious what fellow musicians and composers use to realize their music creations, both sample libraries and sequencers/notation. What about them do you like? What about them do you find wanting? Which one would you recommend to someone just getting into music? I get asked this a lot from people (some of them even track me down by phone asking me which orchestra lib is the best).

My personal work flow is usually one of two situations:

1/ composing for acoustic musicians, I solely use NOTION. The built-in sounds are quite good and I can stick with concentrating on the music. The print facilities aren't as deep as Finale or Sibelius but I can bend the program to do what I want.

2/ demos or finished product within my studio. Here I use a ton of plug-ins. This is what my virtual orchestra usually looks like:

Logic Express 7.2 or Digital Performer 5.11 (for film scoring)

- Vienna Symphonic Library VI Special Edition

- EWQLSO Gold Pro XP

- Steinberg HALion Symphonic Orchestra (very underrated IMO)

- IK MultiMedia Miroslav Philharmonik

- MOTU Symphonic Instrument

- Apple Orchestral Jam Pack

- Project SAM Horns and Solo Sessions

- NI Bandstand *

- Spectrasonics Atmosphere *

- Garritan Strad 2

- Garritan Jazz & Big Band *

- Korg Digital Legacy Collection *

* not an orchestra library

Of all these plug-ins, I think if I had to resort to a single one it would be VSL SE. It has the variety and great performance legatos (they sound freakishly real). The runner-ups would be a tie between HALion Symphonic Orchestra and EWQLSO Gold Pro XP. Of all the libs, Gold Pro has the largest amount of variety and neat effects that are good for film scoring. But because the hall is built-in to the sounds, you get that epic sound everytime. and I don't like their Qlegato articulations which is their version of VSL performance legatos.

I run all of these apps on my Intel iMac 17" Core 2 Duo and Macbook 13" Core Duo.

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Believe it or not, David, but today I make more music with Propellerhead's Reason (3.0) then with anything else. I rediscovered the program's ease of use and, more importantly, I'm kinda fed up with orchestral imitations, no matter how good they sound. Mind you, I still want those darned, frigging VSL woodwinds!

Alex

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I use Overture 4 with Kontakt 2 and a bunch of plug ins. EW Gold (reprogrammed in Kontakt 2) is my core virtual orchestra, but Kontakt 2 came with a Vienna lite orchestra library. I like tha marimba there, and when I need a fakey Zelda sound, it works well. I have Garritan and a mishmash of various samples like you do, Fiery.

Lately I have been finishing a minute per day at least, not that it is all good music. Last night though I went for broke and wrote what I consider some of my best work. I'd like to work for some clients who want to spend a little money on a real orchestra, because I orchestrate as I write in Overture, so it mainly would just need a print and layout cleanup.

Sometimes I feel like Vader, more machine now than man. It wolud be great to write like Johnny, sans computer, and get to still hear what I wrote.

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Believe it or not, David, but today I make more music with Propellerhead's Reason (3.0) then with anything else. I rediscovered the program's ease of use and, more importantly, I'm kinda fed up with orchestral imitations, no matter how good they sound. Mind you, I still want those darned, frigging VSL woodwinds!

Alex

Work flow is crucial I find. Whatever set-up you have that gets the music from your head out into the real world is so important. I have heard good things about Reason. I also know that Miroslav Philharmonik comes in Reason Refills too. So you could technically use that orchestral lib in your program of choice.

And yes, the VSL woodwinds are friggin' amazing. As are the legato brass, strings, and everything else.

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What would be the best or let's say a good setting of a computer to work with libraries?

Pure technically, you get the most mileage out of Tascam's Gigastudio. But since VST instruments reign the market these days, the future for GS and especially its sample libraries is uncertain. I mean, when was the last time that we've seen a major release designed for GS? Exactly!

Alex

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Sure seems like a lot of people here could make good approximations of Williams unreleased fanfares.

K.M.Taking every opportunity to ask

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Pure technically, you get the most mileage out of Tascam's Gigastudio. But since VST instruments reign the market these days, the future for GS and especially its sample libraries is uncertain. I mean, when was the last time that we've seen a major release designed for GS? Exactly!

I'm doing quite alot work with GS and Sibelius in my free time, and have done so for four or five years. I'm no pro, and I don't want to be one, but GS has always served me well.

I often get catalogues in my mail, and I never really understood what VST instruments are.

Could you elaborate please?

Right now, I write out music with Sibelius and let it play back with GS. Any better solution?

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What do you think are the most realistic strings samples? I also use EWQL Gold Xp Pro, but still I'm not satisfied with the strings. ;) I used long ago soundfonts, and a DXS_SuperOrchestraStrings was far more realistic but only for slow passages.

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Believe it or not, David, but today I make more music with Propellerhead's Reason (3.0) then with anything else. I rediscovered the program's ease of use and, more importantly, I'm kinda fed up with orchestral imitations, no matter how good they sound. Mind you, I still want those darned, frigging VSL woodwinds!

Alex

Oh, you make music, Alex?

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What do you think are the most realistic strings samples? I also use EWQL Gold Xp Pro, but still I'm not satisfied with the strings. ;) I used long ago soundfonts, and a DXS_SuperOrchestraStrings was far more realistic but only for slow passages.

Yeah, strings are very difficult to find. I like Miroslav Philharmonik for its strings. THey are very emotive and warm. The VSL strings are very smooth sounding especially the performance legatos. Really nice. I'm still mastering the VI Special Edition and programming patches that smoothly switch between sustain, legato, staccato and pizz. The VI engine is really cool. And it doesn't take too much CPU power to run. Which is good since you can only load one instrument per player. They are not multitimbral. But you can program various articulations of the instrument into the VI so there is less of a need for multiple tracks and instruments. I know East West is coming out with PLAY which is their answer to VI from VSL. I think that will also help their samples out (which are pretty good to be honest).

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I dislike the idea of prefabricated film music.

It's an inferiour form of this medium.

Only in relation to the impact it has on the synergy between film and music. Hermann wrote library music. The music in a library can be just as good as music for a specific film, but when placed in a scene there is less synergy because it was not written for that scene. But the entire ending of AOTC is basically "scored" with the library technique, as are various parts in many Williams films. When they move the music around, it doesn't fit as well.

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I dislike the idea of prefabricated film music.

It's an inferiour form of this medium.

It's not film music. It's music for television. It could be anything. I may take on any genre of music that I like and even invent my own. In some ways, I have more "freedom" than most film composers out there. There are no producers telling me that I should mimic John Williams or Hans Zimmer (the fate of many film composers) or that the music should match the imagery. Of course, there are rules, I can't switch from one style to another within the same track.

Stefancos, in the end, it's the music that counts and not the purpose behind it. You remind me of that classical music elitist (Joseph, was it?) we all once fought with (especially our very own Jeshopk), because he claimed that film music is an inferior form. Boy, how we hated (or pitied) him for that, remember? Well, right now you're guilty of doing the same thing. Don't worry, I won't hate you for it.

Alex

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