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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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You are most welcome!



Timothy Smith said:

Thanks Saul

Saul Gefen said:

Thanks Tim for useful article.

Thanks for comments Dane. It certainly pays to err on the side of caution. I think you have a pretty good tool kit to work with. 

Pianoteq is a difficult one to best, although I really like Embertone's new piano

called the Walker 1955 Concert D. It's a big one though. Over 200gb. This is where Piano teq shines because they have managed to capture all of the characteristics of a huge piano sound without the weight of a huge sample library. My favorite as of now though for me personally is the Binaural C-7 in Sampletank.  It is so sweet and smooth in mixes. Most pianos, including all of the ones in Komplete take some adjustment to make fit into a mix. Many have a harsh quality to the sound, especially for me because I tend to be heavy handed on the piano. My favorites in Komplete are Alecia's Keys and The Giant. The others, including the Berlin Grand and the Gemtleman would probably fit well in an orchestra mix.

My first experiences with synths was the Korg M-1. That was my first real keyboard. It was digital but had some unique wave shaping abilities. I put together Handel's Messiah in it using only the sequencer one Christmas. The sequencer was very small and limited by today's standards. Though some of my background training is in electronics I was never fortunate enough to work on or play real analog synthesizers. I worked on two-way communications equipment and A/V gear. Similar concepts .Two or more frequencies beating against one another make a hybrid frequency that can be a tone.

Thanks for chiming in Dane, have a great day in spite of everything going on with the big C virus.

Here is a project called    PIANOBOOK   Spitfire is involved in that allows users to upload piano of all kinds. The use of these samples is free.

I haven't tested them. Chances are that with over 224 free libraries uploaded there are at least a few that are well done and probably more than that. Spitfire would not put their name on anything that didn't have some credibility.

I think it should also be said that sometimes selecting singular instruments over collections has a benefit, especially in smaller ensembles. 

Hey, thanks, Tim,

But what does one need to play them as a VST. Do they come as a VSTi?

Single instruments is something VSL have explored and its been useful to me collecting a few together rather than having to shell out for complete collections which I couldn't afford without bashing plastic. It's covered everything other than strings. They've sometimes offered them in promotions. That's how I got a couple of weird instruments. But there are some among them I don't get on with so use other (older!) samples.

As you say, good for smaller ensemble writing as I seem to be heading in that direction.

.

There is both good news here and maybe not so good news all depending. If you are Mac user many of these appear to offer the EXS format. The other main format is Kontakt sample player, though as I understand it Ableton has a sampler and might be used in some cases. Apparently you need the payed version of Kontakt. The good news is there are upgrade paths for some library owners to get a discount on crossgrade to a payed version of Kontakt for less than buying it outright if you already have the free version.. See that info  HERE Dane I could probably find you some dirt cheap qualifiying libaries.

I tried one of the pianos from the pianobook library and made a short example video. I had to change my audio drivers to use my screen recording software, so you might hear a few clicks and pops. I downloaded the Steinway Piano by Jon Meyer. He is an educator and used some high end mics for his sampling. I put the zipped file into one of my SSDs and unzipped it at the same location. I was able to get my latecy to 128 samples even using WASAPI shared.File size was somewhere around 500mb unzipped.Not especially large for a sampled grand piano. 

Judge for yourself. I think for a free piano it isn't bad. Miles better than any soundfonts in my opinion.If I were to use it in a mix I would likely roll off some bass and add a nice reverb. The process in Kontakt wasn't difficult. I just pointed my Kontakt explorer to the file, selected the instrument and it loaded right up. 

This just in- Cinesamples is having a sale. Up to 75% off their libraries. Not sure how long the sale is or if it will be on sale when you read this. This still might come close or exceed the "affordable" margin. They have a library called the "core" made by composers for composers that is presently in the mid 200ish range for the sale. Kontakt is required.

Here's the link- LINK

Thanks for that, Tim.

It looks like I'd need the bought version of Kontakt for it to be usable under all circumstances but I can't see my way to paying £400 along with the time needed for learning. Initially I thought this was needed for the Spitfire choir but it looks like that has a dedicated player. It's the only spitfire product I anticipate and I'd have to buy it on a disk as mine is/are nigh on full. (I keep a backup)....otherwise I'm moving well out of the middle market, needing to upgrade to 2 x 2Tb SSDs - that's another £500 - or more 1Tb drives - £300. Plus I'm going to have to acquire Dorico. Getting quite an expensive business.

However, I'll continue to browse though those libraries. They look pretty interesting. There might just be something.....


Timothy Smith said:

There is both good news here and maybe not so good news all depending. If you are Mac user many of these appear to offer the EXS format. The other main format is Kontakt sample player, though as I understand it Ableton has a sampler and might be used in some cases. Apparently you need the payed version of Kontakt. The good news is there are upgrade paths for some library owners to get a discount on crossgrade to a payed version of Kontakt for less than buying it outright if you already have the free version.. See that info  HERE Dane I could probably find you some dirt cheap qualifiying libaries.

I tried one of the pianos from the pianobook library and made a short example video. I had to change my audio drivers to use my screen recording software, so you might hear a few clicks and pops. I downloaded the Steinway Piano by Jon Meyer. He is an educator and used some high end mics for his sampling. I put the zipped file into one of my SSDs and unzipped it at the same location. I was able to get my latecy to 128 samples even using WASAPI shared.File size was somewhere around 500mb unzipped.Not especially large for a sampled grand piano. 

Judge for yourself. I think for a free piano it isn't bad. Miles better than any soundfonts in my opinion.If I were to use it in a mix I would likely roll off some bass and add a nice reverb. The process in Kontakt wasn't difficult. I just pointed my Kontakt explorer to the file, selected the instrument and it loaded right up. 

LOL, I tried editing my post to add in something about the Steinway but it came up with an html-coded version or something - incomprehensible. I don't know, I'm no tech! Nice sound. As a sampled piano it isn't at all bad for its size.

I was going to put up an example of pianoteq but it would be a bit crass as the site itself has plenty of examples. Only takes 50Mb. 

 I didn't know Pianoteq was so small. Sure, if you want to put an example up, why not? I think the reason why, in spite of amazing products such as Pianoteq, the sampled piano is so popular is due to the fact that computer speed and storage capabilities have come way down in price. Add to this the fact that most composers who use a DAW will already have Kontakt so I think it makes the choice for them easier. If they bought Komplete it has a handful of pianos in it already. Lastly it's probably human nature to want variety. They have so many choices. I know Pianoteq can be made to sound lot's of different ways though. It could probably be said that if a person can't find a sound in it they like, they are just hard to please. 

I think one of the larger issues using sampled pianos is latency and audio setup. A good average latency is 256 which puts my overall delay at just under 6 milliseconds. If I only use a few tracks I can go to 128 in my buffer. This would probably put my latency down to less that 4ms. Some people can go to 64 using some better audio interfaces (sometimes called the sound card). I'll post a pic of it here. At under 6ms you notice no delay when playing.

If track count gets high and the computer starts to choke under the stress, a person can always "freeze" their tracks into audio which takes the load off of the cpu because the samples are no longer being pulled from disk and are instead written as a typical audio file. This usually also "unloads" the instrument from that track. This can be done on a per track basis, so that I could only freeze the tracks I want to freeze and keep working at the midi level in other tracks.

FYI- Spitfire will ship you a hard drive loaded with some of their libraries. Can't be sure they do this for all of them. There is a charge for them to do this, but then it spares you the headache of downloading from their server and buying a hard drive.

Anyways I have typed enough for now. Talk later. Best!

Hi Tim,

Yes, it's a good idea about the hard drive, always with an eye to my ones are pretty full up now.

I don't know why but I haven't had to worry about latency in doing my pianoteq pieces. It may have been there and perhaps I'm too slow to notice it. Lounge/cocktail playing daren't be flashy although I did do a couple, one piece of Liszt'z took me over a year to get up to any kind of standard! You need big hands and lots of fingers for Liszt!

But ok, here's an example, a standard - in case some female comes over and leans on the piano!: 

Attachments:

Dane,

Very nice indeed! Sounds amazing. Pianoteq probably has no noticeable latency issues. Ideal, especially for portable laptop work when playing live.

Thanks for sharing that!

 I recently stumbled on a really great library quite by accident This is 5 libraries in one. Don't let the "film score"composer lingo throw you off here. This would cross pollinate nicely for non film composition as well. There are both sectional and solo instruments in this kit. I think it was more than worth it if only for the Eighty Eight. I didn't want to talk about this until I had downloaded and tried it out myself. I'm impressed. Dedicated piano with lots of interesting presets including choirs. Strings, woodwinds, drums, brass. All have sectionals and solo instruments.

The best 20.00 I've spent in a long long time!!. Requirements- ilok, enough hard disk space to install it and a DAW or program capable of using vst instruments.  Takes some patience to get everything registered and downloaded. No Kontakt necessary.

FILM SCORE COMPANION

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