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Topic: Picking a starting orchestral library

  1. #1

    Picking a starting orchestral library

    I hate to bring this up because I know it gets discussed a lot, but I need help picking an orchestral library. I'm basically starting from scratch and I'll be using it not only for my own compositions and recordings, but (perhaps more importantly) for some musical theatre gigs that I occasionally do. GPO is great, but I think I want some better strings for the musical theatre stuff since that's usually what I'll cover. I can't find info on the new GOS so I don't know timeframe or cost.
    I guess it basically boils down to this:
    KHSO Emerald + a player (kontakt probably) or GPO + GOS whenever it comes out. I'd love to get them all, but my budget will only allow one set right now.
    I need something that will play well live and will sound decent for musical theatre. I hope that's all clear. Thanks for your feedback.

  2. #2

    Re: Picking a starting orchestral library

    What's your budget?

    I bought GPO when I started out, and I think the percussion and all of the woodwinds are still fabulous. I upgraded for precisely the same reason as you - better strings.

    One other library you might consider are one of the offerings from Eastwest.

    Their Silver symphonic orchestra (the lowest tier of a three tier system - Silver, Gold, Platinum) - sounds very good, but is dry and will require a reverb.

    So, buy the Silver bundle (which includes the original package and the expansion pack) and Altiverb (the best convolution reverb, in my opinion), and you're all set for 700 bucks.

    But, you might consider the next step up, their Gold package, which contains more articulations than Silver AND includes the release tails of the hall they recorded in, which frees you from having to purchase a reverb. That'll run you 500 bucks. If you need a dryer sound, simply delete the release tails and run it through Altiverb. 1000 bucks total includes Altiverb.

    Finally, Platinum's only 1000 dollars at the moment and comes with three mic positions (close, medium, and far), medium being the mic position included in Gold. Use the close mics for a dryer sound (I've done only one musical theater gig, and I used the close mics), which eliminates the need for a reverb to acquire a more intimate sound with these samples.

    You'll notice I've mentioned no recommended sampler for these libraries. That's because they come with Kompakt, one of NI's older samplers which will load up as a VSTi out-of-the-box. You CAN use Kontakt 2 if you want, and that opens up the way for all kinds of additional goodies and performance options, but it's not strictly required in any way.

    Kirk Hunter's symphonic package is quite extensive and sounds fairly good, but I feel one of Eastwest's libraries - now the cheapest you will likely ever see them before they run out of stock - will do you better in the long run, with an even more extensive palette to choose from, and superior sound.


    P.S. The website to go listen to the demos for these libs is: sounds online dot com. I think you can figure it out. Due to past disputes with the folks here at NSS, their website is censored if I type it out conventionally.

  3. #3

    Re: Picking a starting orchestral library


    there are pro's and con's with every choice and there are no easy answers. You should not only consider how much money you can spend on the library but also

    - which computer do you have and what will you need for the library or libraries of your choice
    - how many knowledge with sequencing etc. you have and how much a strong user group and detailed tutorials could help you for starting
    - which sound or style you prefer
    - how much time you can dedicate into learning
    - how much tume you can dedicate into rendering

    I very conciously chose GPO as my first orchestral library because of the great support, community, setup guides etc. I knew that a great part of the user demos sounded synthy but there were also convincing examples. And I was able to run it on a laptop. Soundwise it then took me a year to go from this http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...ad.php?t=43792 to this http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...ad.php?t=52156

    Very much of the quality boils down to how much you are willing to ride controllers. With a purely pianistical approach you will have difficulties with any strings.

    Meanwhile I have three computers in a network and dedicated monitor speakers. I also own GOS, KirkHunters VSPro, SAM Brass, Wallander Brass ... and there is more to come. But I have taken my time to get all out of GPO I could get and it was a very valuable experience I would not want to miss.

    I am not really convinced especially by the strings I hear from East West (EDIT maybe it is not only the sound but also a stylistic monoculture that they seem to provoke. It always sounds like candy. But maybe I have to think again) but maybe they are just right for you. In that case you should hurry since they have great offerings right now. The good thing about EWQLSO Gold is that the samples are recorded in ambience so you don't have to experiment with Altiverb etc. However if you need a dryer sound for stage productions you should consider the Platinum package and that is already in the 1000 UD range. Don't underestimate the hardware needs of these libraries though.

    Another possibility is the Special Edition from Vienna Instruments (EUR 350 or something) which could make a great start. They are strong in regards to their legato. What bothers me with that is that there does not seem to exist a good upgrade path to their more complete libraries, but I may be wrong with that. Also you really have to know how to set up, mix and pan an orchestra for using this. Hardware is also an issue here.

    Out of the libraries that I have I would reccommend:
    GPO for woodwinds and percussion
    WIVI for brass
    KirkHunter VSPro and GOS/GPO mixed for strings (Kirk Hunter has very warm and vibrant sounds and responds to key velocity and modwheel which could be fortunate in a live situation, GOS/GPO delivers the more distant/neutral strings sounds). For a KHVSPro example see here http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...ad.php?t=54571

    I know my answer is ambiguos but nevertheless I hope it helps a bit

    All your strings belong to me!

  4. #4

    Re: Picking a starting orchestral library

    I've never really liked GPO.. I bought it after Emerald and found that I preferred the Emerald samples to GPO, and for Woodwinds I preferred the VSL ones that come bundled with GigaStudio 3 (the same ones come bundled with Kontakt 2) to those in GPO... so haven't used a single sample from GPO in any pieces.

    I agree very much with the other poster about Altiverb - it is excellent. I would probably suggest a sampler plus Emerald plus Altiverb for a good starter solution.

  5. #5

    Re: Picking a starting orchestral library

    What will you be using to play the library for the musical theater gigs? I've done extensive string enhancement work for musical theater but so far have been reluctant to put a computer in an orchestra pit, especially since for long running shows there may be a variety of people playing the parts, many of whom won't be computer literate. I've been looking at the Receptor, but am having a hard time determining if it will be able to handle most theater string/synth books.

    Are you providing the entire string section or playing along with live players? In my experience the big massive "Hollywood" sounding string sections don't always blend well with small theatrical string ensembles. Also live string players hate it when the synth that's doubling them sustains longer than they do, so if you go with the East/West stuff make sure you're not stuck with more ambience than you need.

  6. #6

    Re: Picking a starting orchestral library

    Maybe I'm missing something, but why would he need altiverb for music theater gigs? Its not like the live players will be playing through reverb but instead the reverb is the natural hall, so shouldn't his samples do the same? So wouldn't he be best buying a dry library? Maybe its being suggested for his home use? Even then, it seems like that cash should be used to get the highest quality samples for his music theater gigs (which I assume are your main gigs, correct?) You can get away with a poor reverb for home mockups, but the sound in the performance hall is what matters most imo. In fact, if you have access to the hall one day, you may want to bring in your PA (or use the houses) and listen to multiple demos from multiple libraries and see which sound the best in the actuall hall.

    Just something to keep in mind, as you can always add reverb if needed, but never take it away.

  7. #7

    Re: Picking a starting orchestral library

    Having put together many string keyboards for musical theater I can say that you absolutely never use bone-dry samples. A little bit of reverb is crucial to add some organic quality to the sounds, especially if you have sampled strings blending with live players. Many modern theaters aren't very reverberant (unfortunately) and you can't count on the sound guys to handle synth reverb consistently. Completely dry samples coming out of the house sound system in a dead hall are very ugly indeed. You don't have to have a top shelf, CPU-hog reverb plug-in, but you have to have something.

    At the same time you don't want to be stuck with recorded long concert hall reverberation that you can't get rid of.

  8. #8

    Re: Picking a starting orchestral library

    Another vote for Emerald.
    Composer, Logic Certified Trainer, Level 2,
    author of "Going Pro with Logic Pro 9."


  9. #9

    Re: Picking a starting orchestral library

    I'm a musical theatre composer (as opposed to performer or pit musician) and I also vote for Emerald. They have, to me, the most playable out-of-the-box strings I've heard of. I do also enjoy the VSL strings, but for the sheer flexability, I recommend Emerald.
    They have the included chamber strings, which make a nice sectional for the theatre.



  10. #10

    Re: Picking a starting orchestral library

    Hey, just wanted to chime in on being reluctant to use computers in the musical theater pit. I spent last year conducting a national tour of a show, and we had a six person pit which consisted of a trumpet, a reed player (playing a little of everything!), drums, two keyboards, and a guitar. There aren't any strings in the orchestration of the show I did, but we did have to fill in the missing 4 reeds, 6 brass, and percussion/timp, and bass player. I was able to reorchestrate the score so every part in the original orchestration was played, and we played EVERY part of the show live! We used Kontakt2 running through two Mac towers on each keyboard (each keyboard had a main and a backup Mac) with 4 gigs of ram in each computer. I used Project SAM solo brass and True Strike to fill in the brass and auxilliary percussion, and various reeds from different libraries to play under the live reed player. The trick was making sure the sound and reverb of the live players matched the samples, which meant playing with it in each theater (which often changed on a nightly basis!) I would post a sample if it weren't for copyright issues, but I can say that when the live and sampled instruments balanced well, the sound, through no work of my own other than finding great samples, was really great! While the computers would crackle occasionally and require a reload, it was never very apparent, the reload was easily done inbetween songs, and in almost 200 shows we never had an actual crash on any of our four computers! So while I think it is a couple of years from being what I would call "fail-safe", it definitely is doable. From what I understand, the Broadway production of Tarzan used only a PC and sampling program for each of the synths in the pit, and they felt confident enough with the computers that they ran without a backup!

    I am currently working on the same sort of setup for another tour, and this show has TONS of strings, so I am using a combination of the solo and chamber strings from Emerald, the GPO strings behind them for a little more depth, and the Kontakt VSL samples to give the lead violin line a little better legato feel. (I like the realness of the Emerald sounds, and that they use fairly little memory.) It requires a ton of keyswitching, but I am surprised at how well it works, and with a real violin and cello mixed in the sound is pretty stunning! Before my last two years of touring and feeling safe to use Kontakt, I actually got fairly good results using a live violin and cello with a synth player playing a generic Roland string sample I compiled from the old Roland solo and symphonic string libraries with a volume pedal, but things are definitely better now. Good luck!

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