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If you are a professional movie composer you likely have quite an investment in computers and detailed sample libraries. These libraries are often priced in ranges that  make them prohibitive to the beginning composer or even a more seasoned composer who isn't presently funded in any way for their work.

Though it should be said that most of the better sample library companies offer entry point software, sometimes for free in order to get you started. These beginner packages often don't offer enough capability for serious composition. This is the beginning of a long expensive road to acquisition of everything needed for large scale orchestra composition using these libraries.Some companies have started a monthly rental fee to make using these libraries more attractive to more composers.

Thankfully there are products that fill the gap between those libraries and soundfont/rompler kinds of sounds that often just sound cheesy and unrealistic when coupled to a composition you have worked hard to make.Some of your choices might be limited to either use of a DAW for composition or notation software. DAWs offer more flexibility here over the end result of the sound in particular. Many notation programs offer sometimes passable included soundsets or the capability to mate the notation program to a DAW which is in my option, the best of both worlds if you write notation. Much of this depends on the composers personal standards with respect to the quality they demand for their work.

Thankfully there are sound libraries priced at points much more attractive to the budding composer that faithfully reproduce a good facsimile of the instruments. Since this is mostly a site dedicated to orchestral compositions both small and large I will omit the smaller instrument dedicated libraries and save that discussion for another time. Instead I will concentrate on the "all-in-one" kinds of libraries that a composer will need in order to make entire orchestral mock ups. It should be noted that it is of prime importance to make sure your computer specs either meet or exceed the expectations of the software requirements. Often the minimum spec isn't enough for serious work and so I recommend a computer that far exceeds these expectations. This is also a subject for another time. This isn't to say you need the very best, but old OS using 32 bit programming languages on computers showing some age are probably not good hosts for this sort of thing.

In order to use these libraries one either needs notation software that hosts them or a DAW. Many Libraries also require a program made by Native Instruments called Kontakt since it is the shell they load into. Here's a plug of one of my favorite free DAWs- Cakewalk by Bandlab. This program is miles ahead of anything else free out there.

Here are the libraries not listed in any particular order.

Amadeus Symphonic Orchestra

The Orchestra

Miroslav Philharmonic- Note Kontakt is not required.

Garritan Orchestra

As a general rule these libraries sound ok. Some better than others What they often lack in comparison to their more expensive siblings are mic positions and less command over the sounds. Sample quality sometimes isn't as good.

Having said that they are excellent in many composition settings and work well as sketch pads or examples that sound mostly realistic in comparison to sound fonts and often are useful in some professional applications.

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Hi Timothy.

Just to note that even Garritan Orchestra does not require Kontakt nor Kontakt Player.

Must check Cakewalk…

Best

Good article, Tim, thank you.

Perhaps it's worth mentioning that there is a free version of the Kontakt player that is pretty expensive in its 'full version'. Many third party instruments work with the free version but a prospective buyer should check the instrument's spec to see if it needs the full version or not.  

Glad that you mentioned Cakewalk. There are members here who could be considering exploiting a daw but don't want to be lumbered with the huge expense that can follow on when acquiring sample libraries. 

:)

Thanks Tim for useful article.

Thanks Fabio. I appreciate this information. Didn't know Garritan could function independently of Kontakt.


Fabio Biolcati said:

Hi Timothy.

Just to note that even Garritan Orchestra does not require Kontakt nor Kontakt Player.

Must check Cakewalk…

Best

Thanks Dane. I usually hesitate to mention Kontakt free because there are limitations. I'm glad you brought it up though since it would make a wonderful way to try out the basic Kontakt GUI for free to see if you like it. There is a decent beginner library in it . Kontakt and most German software in general seems to be a little more expensive and they don't often offer sales. I believe you can get a license transfer from a trusted buyer though LINK. This way you can possibly get into the game for less. I recommend to use caution on ebay though. Not sure if you see this in ebay UK. Here in the US we have some selling pirated software keys really cheap. I would be very suspect of anyone selling a key for less than 1/10th the original price and offering online downloads at suspect web sites.. These can usually be picked out fairly easily since they also sell a bunch of other stuff like Omnisphere etc.

I have used Cakewalk for a long time and it has been my go to DAW. It continues to be supported and updated. Has some basic instruments that come with it as well.

I picked up Amadeus on a sale awhile back and have been very happy with it. Some of my forum friends who also have The Orchestra seem to like it slightly better. 

Here is a song I made entirely in Amadeus awhile back. I have had the time to go back and make a few corrections to things but it should give you some idea.



Dane Aubrun said:

Good article, Tim, thank you.

Perhaps it's worth mentioning that there is a free version of the Kontakt player that is pretty expensive in its 'full version'. Many third party instruments work with the free version but a prospective buyer should check the instrument's spec to see if it needs the full version or not.  

Glad that you mentioned Cakewalk. There are members here who could be considering exploiting a daw but don't want to be lumbered with the huge expense that can follow on when acquiring sample libraries. 

:)

Thanks Saul

Saul Gefen said:

Thanks Tim for useful article.

I would add the Vienna Special Edition 1. The sounds are a cut above any of the ones listed above, and it is priced at an affordable level. Get the standard version, not the Synchron one (where you need an instance of the Synchron synth for each instrument. The standard one uses the free Vienna Ensemble Player, which is multi-timbral). 

 Vienna has some excellent libraries :)

Also to keep in mind is the buyer needs a software dongle which is about 30.00 US.Unless I am looking at the wrong software, this is up over 300.00 US. I think this is a consideration when Amadeus is 150.00 US about half the cost. Vienna weighs in at 27gb while Amadeus is 10gb. These might be considerations for some. 

Vienna has a FREE LIBRARY called Big Bang Orchestra as well provided you have the dongle.Don't accidentally try to download the payed version of a similar product. Their website is confusing to say the least. You will need to make a login up for yourself and download through the portal they make you download. That library isn't half bad for some arrangements. The download process can be hectic though.

Probably the most troublesome download is Miroslav Philharmonic by IK multimedia. The nice thing is, no need for Kontakt. They break all of their files up into smaller files and make everything very confusing since they don't have a portal. I recently downloaded Sampletank 4SE and it took me quite awhile to get it all sorted out. FWIW they also have free versions of some software than might wet your appetite for more.

The main favor anyone can do for themselves in beginning with these libraries is to make a software template in your DAW. I recently made a template for Amadeus...over 135 tracks total in 12 instances of Kontakt. Once the  template is made though it opens them every time. No one has time to load 135 tracks on every project.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned EastWest yet, I pay £13 a month and you get every single sound pack and all the new releases as they arrive.

I know lots of people are not fans of the subscription model for software so there's that, but it offers great value if you are starting out and can't yet afford the more expensive libraries

If you're interested in IK Multimedia stuff, I suggest to keep the original downloaded files in a safe place once purchasing. Downloads at IK site expires after some time, then you must pay a fee to have them available again (eg. my hd failed some times ago and I needed to reload SampleTank about two years after purchase: I was asked to pay an extra 8€ for this).

Timothy Smith said:

Probably the most troublesome download is Miroslav Philharmonic by IK multimedia. The nice thing is, no need for Kontakt. They break all of their files up into smaller files and make everything very confusing since they don't have a portal. I recently downloaded Sampletank 4SE and it took me quite awhile to get it all sorted out. FWIW they also have free versions of some software than might wet your appetite for more.

Some luscious sounds there, Tim. I won't critique the piece here as this isn't the right forum except to say I loved that swelling out at around 3'30"

Here's a Prelude for Violin that I did using VSL that offered a deal on its solo strings 'bundle'. This could easily have been done with the standard library, put together free-form in the midi editor. It's meant as a true, old-fashioned Prelude that the violinist would play as he entered the stage. (I don't normally write music like this!)

I have to say that the library is huge: 104Gb, the full version contains nigh 178,000 samples. (There are still things missing, like why not muted glissandi?) but otherwise it's pretty comprehensive. 

As for the Vienna key, it's Steinberg's and will accept licenses for anything Steinberg, so I'm led to believe. It cost £20 in the UK. It did seem the way to go then, should something drastic happen to this computer, I can transfer it to another without trouble.  It may be worth watching out for VSL as they seem to have a sale each month that brings their prices MORE within reach or the impoverished like me. And that free player is so powerful. The slot crossfade is worth a mention.



Timothy Smith said:

Thanks Dane. I usually hesitate to mention Kontakt free because there are limitations. I'm glad you brought it up though since it would make a wonderful way to try out the basic Kontakt GUI for free to see if you like it. There is a decent beginner library in it . Kontakt and most German software in general seems to be a little more expensive and they don't often offer sales. I believe you can get a license transfer from a trusted buyer though LINK. This way you can possibly get into the game for less. I recommend to use caution on ebay though. Not sure if you see this in ebay UK. Here in the US we have some selling pirated software keys really cheap. I would be very suspect of anyone selling a key for less than 1/10th the original price and offering online downloads at suspect web sites.. These can usually be picked out fairly easily since they also sell a bunch of other stuff like Omnisphere etc.

I have used Cakewalk for a long time and it has been my go to DAW. It continues to be supported and updated. Has some basic instruments that come with it as well.

I picked up Amadeus on a sale awhile back and have been very happy with it. Some of my forum friends who also have The Orchestra seem to like it slightly better. 

Here is a song I made entirely in Amadeus awhile back. I have had the time to go back and make a few corrections to things but it should give you some idea.



:)

Attachments:

Thanks Fabio. This is timely because I qualify for an upgrade special price on MAX.I know of a few others who weren't too happy about having to opay I think around 10.00 US to get something they already payed for.

Fabio Biolcati said:

If you're interested in IK Multimedia stuff, I suggest to keep the original downloaded files in a safe place once purchasing. Downloads at IK site expires after some time, then you must pay a fee to have them available again (eg. my hd failed some times ago and I needed to reload SampleTank about two years after purchase: I was asked to pay an extra 8€ for this).

Timothy Smith said:

Probably the most troublesome download is Miroslav Philharmonic by IK multimedia. The nice thing is, no need for Kontakt. They break all of their files up into smaller files and make everything very confusing since they don't have a portal. I recently downloaded Sampletank 4SE and it took me quite awhile to get it all sorted out. FWIW they also have free versions of some software than might wet your appetite for more.

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