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After spending about 10 years with Garage Band, someone gave me Reason Essentials last year and I was very excited to try it out. But most of the things I like to write are orchestral or at least have an orchestral backbone and Reason was not very good for that (just trying to find a place to buy the Miroslav Refill was overly difficult). So I'm looking to start fresh with a new DAW that will fit my needs better. Since I use a MacBook Pro and have experience with Garage Band, I'm leaning towards Logic Pro. I hear it's orchestral stuff is pretty good and the $200 price point doesn't hurt. But I wanted to get some opinions from the community here first. Is Logic Pro good for orchestral writing or should I check out something else?

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Logic's orchestral stuff is, like most DAW's, crap. It's not what they do. Not specifically, anyway. For good orchestral mixes, you'd want an orchestral sample library (or several), and those are costly. They are compatible with Logic and other DAWs, though, so that shouldn't be an issue. You can make enjoyable orchestral stuff in what comes with Logic, sure, but I don't think it'll be the huge improvment in quality that you seem to be looking for. That said, upgrading from GB to Logic, or any more powerful DAW, you should see plenty of improvements in your output.

 

I've used GB and moved to Logic, and I'm not sure I recommend it. Logic is a good DAW, but Apple's machines are expensive so I think a cross-platform option would be better. Automation is a bit clunky in Logic, it lacks some convenient features for quantization and other stuff, but overall it's a good DAW, especially for that price.

 

Because Logic can load GB's project files, and you probably want to continue working on your old songs with all of your new tools, and the price isn't that big, I think it's a good option. I used it for years before having any issues with it, and even then it still does the job well.

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Logic's orchestral stuff is, like most DAW's, crap. It's not what they do. Not specifically, anyway. For good orchestral mixes, you'd want an orchestral sample library (or several), and those are costly. They are compatible with Logic and other DAWs, though, so that shouldn't be an issue.

What are some recommended sample libraries then? Regardless of what DAW I go with, sounds like I'll need some anyway. Might as well know what I'm getting into lol. I've heard people mention the Vienna Symphonic Library...?

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What are some recommended sample libraries then? Regardless of what DAW I go with, sounds like I'll need some anyway. Might as well know what I'm getting into lol. I've heard people mention the Vienna Symphonic Library...?

 

Vienna Symphonic Library, 8Dio, East West Symphonic Orchestra, The Hollywood 2&3 Expansions for the Nexus Rompler (actually pretty good!), Cinesamples and Symphobia are the most popular/standard ones I'd say. East West is the cheapest, but is also one of the oldest and requires a lame USB dongle...but still good. It's the one I'd recommend the least, personally.

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I highly recommend Spitfire's Albion ONE. It has simplified orchestral ranges (high, low, mid for brass) for each family, but this is only an issue if you're trying to create extremely delicate orchestration and/or arranging mockup for live performance. Besides that, it's got plenty of very well-performed articulations, good quality legato, and a killer natural wet sound from the further mics (which you can turn off). Spitfire records in a really amazing hall.

 

It also has some really nice percussion, including "epic" stuff, and a lot of other sounds and loops using the eDNA (their cinematic synthetic libraries) engine.

 

As for the DAW, I find Studio One to work best for my orchestral needs. It's got a lot of no-brainer MIDI editing features with CC, automation, etc. Super fluid. Cubase is also really good at this.

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Logic is basically a professional version of Garage Band, (or so I hear - I didn't like Garage Band, but Logic seems fine,) so it's a logical choice. I can say for sure that it's entirely doable to make orchestral compositions in Logic. But of course - orchestral compositions can be done in most DAW's.

 

EWQLSO Silver is basically a stripped down version of Gold for a cheaper price. It's what I've used for a long time. So if the iLok dongle/the fact that it's stripped down/the sounds themselves don't put you off, I can recommend it.

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Slimy would be correct; Logic is--simply put--an advanced version of GarageBand. East West Symphonic Orchestra is DEFINITELY one you're gonna wanna look into; I don't own it but the library is amazing.

 

However, I'd like to say that just because you have a good orchestral library doesn't mean your stuff is going to automatically sound amazing. It'll definitely start off sounding better than the crap GarageBand hands you but that stuff honestly is an art form in itself. You've just gotta learn how to manipulate your sounds as best you can to try and mimic the real deal (which, the real deal is always the better choice... if you have thousands upon thousands upon thousands of bucks to spare :P) and this just takes some time and practice.

 

But yeah anyway, I'd personally look into East West Symphonic Orchestra.

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If you want to just have a monthly subscription rather than paying up front for a great set of orchestral and other samples, East West's Composer Cloud is something you should really look into. $30/month gets you access to East West Symphonic Orchestra Gold, Hollywood Gold, and a huge host of other great products. One of the best deals in music creation right now for those of us without a substantial EW library to begin with.

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Logic and most other DAWs are FANTASTIC for orchestral music. So fantastic that the worlds most talented and esteemed composers use them for scoring. What you want to look into these days are libraries like Spitfire's Albion series, East West Hollywood Strings/Brass, Berlin Woodwinds/Strings, 8Dio's Adagio series, LASS2 and Cinesamples' offerings also (especially Cinepercs).

 

There are all kinds of awful misinformed opinions floating around out there about using specific DAWs or notation software like Sibelius but if we listened to types of opinions we'd all be using Pro Tools and buying $5,000 hardware compressors and EQs. In the end all that a DAW does is with regard to orchestral sounds is create a way for you to enter notes into VSTs, even if you go the notation software route you're going to need the same VSTs (in Logic's case AU), and you'll have to painstakingly edit legato transitions, note start times, mod wheel transitions, decays, keyswitches, arpeggiators and faulty Kontakt scripts (or god forbid you go via EastWest and have to deal with the PLAY engine...) in the same exact way. Any DAW out there that supports VST/AU will work pretty much identically in that regard. 
 

So yeah, composing the song may be at best 40% of the work. The rest of the work comes down to you and your DAW, and spending many many hours trying to make your thousands of dollars of samples sound decent. So if you are used to GarageBand and can work well in it, go with Logic and you'll be set. Always remember that writing your music is step 1, and orchestrating it is step 2, and in the digital music realm you're orchestrating a second time for the samples, not to an orchestra, and that requires ridiculous amounts of editing because every sample library is recorded differently with its own legato timings,keyswitches, crossfades, patch structure and all around quirks.

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Logic and most other DAWs are FANTASTIC for orchestral music. So fantastic that the worlds most talented and esteemed composers use them for scoring. What you want to look into these days are libraries like Spitfire's Albion series, East West Hollywood Strings/Brass, Berlin Woodwinds/Strings, 8Dio's Adagio series, LASS2 and Cinesamples' offerings also (especially Cinepercs).

 

There are all kinds of awful misinformed opinions floating around out there about using specific DAWs or notation software like Sibelius but if we listened to types of opinions we'd all be using Pro Tools and buying $5,000 hardware compressors and EQs. In the end all that a DAW does is with regard to orchestral sounds is create a way for you to enter notes into VSTs, even if you go the notation software route you're going to need the same VSTs (in Logic's case AU), and you'll have to painstakingly edit legato transitions, note start times, mod wheel transitions, decays, keyswitches, arpeggiators and faulty Kontakt scripts (or god forbid you go via EastWest and have to deal with the PLAY engine...) in the same exact way. Any DAW out there that supports VST/AU will work pretty much identically in that regard. 

 

So yeah, composing the song may be at best 40% of the work. The rest of the work comes down to you and your DAW, and spending many many hours trying to make your thousands of dollars of samples sound decent. So if you are used to GarageBand and can work well in it, go with Logic and you'll be set. Always remember that writing your music is step 1, and orchestrating it is step 2, and in the digital music realm you're orchestrating a second time for the samples, not to an orchestra, and that requires ridiculous amounts of editing because every sample library is recorded differently with its own legato timings,keyswitches, crossfades, patch structure and all around quirks.

Logic definitely seems like the, um, logical choice for me but it sounds like settling on an instrument library will be much more difficult  :|

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If it helps, I would consider some pretty important criteria for an orchestral library that suits you:

 

- What do you want to do with the library, specifically? You mentioned as a "backbone", so maybe a supplementary role is sufficient?

- Does it have the features you want for your purposes? For example, you may want to consider (among other features) whether they have ensemble patches, intelligent voicing, keyswitches, solo patches, etc.

- Is it within your budget? These libraries are often several hundreds of USD.

- Does it give you the instruments you want? For instance, LASS2.5 gives you only strings (in excellent quality, but yeah, only strings), while Bravura Scoring Brass gives you only brass (you should definitely take a look at it---fantastic value for your money!).

- Do you want it enough to wait a while until you make enough money to get it, if it's outside your budget right now? For instance, LASS2.5 is I think $1400.

- Does it sound good in terms of sound quality? (They're all sampling the same real-life instruments, so it's mainly a matter of how well and in what way. For example, is it dry enough? How confident are you with reverb? etc.)

 

It may also help to try looking at kvraudio.com and searching through their database. They have all sorts of product reviews, links to product pages, and clear product descriptions.

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Logic definitely seems like the, um, logical choice for me but it sounds like settling on an instrument library will be much more difficult  :|

 

Just about nobody owns just one  ;-)

 

Buying instrument libraries is a slippery slope. Most composers I know have more samples and libraries than the crazy cat lady has cats.

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Buying instrument libraries is a slippery slope. Most composers I know have more samples and libraries than the crazy cat lady has cats.

 

I have nearly a terabyte of large-format (Kontakt, STEAM, EastWest) libraries at this point.

 

plz send halp

 

and moar SSD

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If it helps, I would consider some pretty important criteria for an orchestral library that suits you:

 

- What do you want to do with the library, specifically? You mentioned as a "backbone", so maybe a supplementary role is sufficient?

- Does it have the features you want for your purposes? For example, you may want to consider (among other features) whether they have ensemble patches, intelligent voicing, keyswitches, solo patches, etc.

- Is it within your budget? These libraries are often several hundreds of USD.

- Does it give you the instruments you want? For instance, LASS2.5 gives you only strings (in excellent quality, but yeah, only strings), while Bravura Scoring Brass gives you only brass (you should definitely take a look at it---fantastic value for your money!).

- Do you want it enough to wait a while until you make enough money to get it, if it's outside your budget right now? For instance, LASS2.5 is I think $1400.

- Does it sound good in terms of sound quality? (They're all sampling the same real-life instruments, so it's mainly a matter of how well and in what way. For example, is it dry enough? How confident are you with reverb? etc.)

 

It may also help to try looking at kvraudio.com and searching through their database. They have all sorts of product reviews, links to product pages, and clear product descriptions.

Ack! More to think about! And I'm really not sure about some of these things, like what sort of sound quality I'll like best. I'll be sure to check out kvraudio though.

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I use Logix X Pro after switching over from Reaper. Whiley I do like Reaper (which is cross platform), Logic had some work flow things that makes it work really well for me. The biggest thing is the built in notation system which I find a must have for when I work on orchestral stuff. I worked with notation before I ever say a piano roll. It just jives with me more in the way that I work. 

 

As far as samples go, I generally stick with Vienna Symphonic. I have Special Edition vol 1 and a couple other smaller libraries from them. Vienna also has a great sample player that is highly geared towards programming and performing virtual instruments like these. The basic orchestral libraries that come with Logic are fairly average but they can be useable. I use them if I'm composing with just my laptop but I always use Vienna with my desktop. 

 

I'm also a pretty big Reason user but I mostly use that for electronic stuff. While there are a few orchestral libraries for it, most of them are old and very basic. They're usable but can be difficult to work with. 

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I have a rule for people getting started, and that is don't get caught up in what's the best and what sounds like it has the most value (features, sound quality, etc.)

 

When you're getting started, you need a baseline. The baseline is the set of instruments (or even just one library, like Albion, Symphobia, EWQLSO) that you learn how to use and you're "set". Meaning you can write orchestral music using them, and that's your fallback level of quality for mockups and such.

 

Your baseline can be feature-rich and detailed (the Hollywood series) or incredibly dumbed down and easy to use (like ProjectSAM Orchestral Essentials). Once you have your baseline, and you are consciously feeling like "I'm trying to write music with a certain sound but my current set doesn't let me do it, but that other set will", only then should you start buying more libraries. For instance, let's say my baseline strings are CS2. CS2 is amazing, but it has no divisi. If I'm working on something and I need to write divisi, that's when I'm able to justify buying a library with divisi (like LASS or NISS). If I like to centerpiece a violin in my orchestra, I invest in a solo violin like Embertone Friedlander.

 

NEVER BUY SAMPLE LIBRARIES OR INVEST INTO FEATURES BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE THEM OR "MIGHT USE THEM LATER ON".

 

This is a slippery slope that never financially pans out in your favor (it may creatively, but I only give practical advice). You end up buying a metric ton of shit you never use in your music, and keep buying more when you get excited about new releases from your favorite companies to build up your "library". Don't "build up your library". I took that stance with purchasing stuff and I have bought so many thousands of dollars worth of tech I don't use and rarely have ever used outside of a single project. It's one of my biggest life regrets, actually, to be tangentially dramatic. :) It burns mostly because most developers employ a no resale policy, so I can't sell something when I'm done with it. It digitally follows me and stays on my Kontakt drive forever, and ever, and ever, and ever...

 

Start with your baseline, and buy something when your baseline doesn't cut it. As you absorb more stuff into your baseline, you use it more often because it's the sounds you really wanted, and it becomes your new baseline.

 

That's why amazing computer orchestrators layer different libraries. They didn't learn "layering tricks" from Daniel James on YouTube then go out and buy 3 different string libraries to stay in the game; they went through the grueling process of deciding their current libraries weren't giving them the sound they wanted, then visiting the market to find who developed a library for it.

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I have a rule for people getting started, and that is don't get caught up in what's the best and what sounds like it has the most value (features, sound quality, etc.)

 

When you're getting started, you need a baseline. The baseline is the set of instruments (or even just one library, like Albion, Symphobia, EWQLSO) that you learn how to use and you're "set". Meaning you can write orchestral music using them, and that's your fallback level of quality for mockups and such.

 

Your baseline can be feature-rich and detailed (the Hollywood series) or incredibly dumbed down and easy to use (like ProjectSAM Orchestral Essentials). Once you have your baseline, and you are consciously feeling like "I'm trying to write music with a certain sound but my current set doesn't let me do it, but that other set will", only then should you start buying more libraries. For instance, let's say my baseline strings are CS2. CS2 is amazing, but it has no divisi. If I'm working on something and I need to write divisi, that's when I'm able to justify buying a library with divisi (like LASS or NISS). If I like to centerpiece a violin in my orchestra, I invest in a solo violin like Embertone Friedlander.

 

NEVER BUY SAMPLE LIBRARIES OR INVEST INTO FEATURES BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE THEM OR "MIGHT USE THEM LATER ON".

 

This is a slippery slope that never financially pans out in your favor (it may creatively, but I only give practical advice). You end up buying a metric ton of shit you never use in your music, and keep buying more when you get excited about new releases from your favorite companies to build up your "library". Don't "build up your library". I took that stance with purchasing stuff and I have bought so many thousands of dollars worth of tech I don't use and rarely have ever used outside of a single project. It's one of my biggest life regrets, actually, to be tangentially dramatic. :) It burns mostly because most developers employ a no resale policy, so I can't sell something when I'm done with it. It digitally follows me and stays on my Kontakt drive forever, and ever, and ever, and ever...

 

Start with your baseline, and buy something when your baseline doesn't cut it. As you absorb more stuff into your baseline, you use it more often because it's the sounds you really wanted, and it becomes your new baseline.

 

That's why amazing computer orchestrators layer different libraries. They didn't learn "layering tricks" from Daniel James on YouTube then go out and buy 3 different string libraries to stay in the game; they went through the grueling process of deciding their current libraries weren't giving them the sound they wanted, then visiting the market to find who developed a library for it,

This is such great advice. So, I'll try out the default instruments with Logic and see what I use a lot and what's passable and decide what to do from there. I don't want to cause any big life regrets for myself! Lol.

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This is such great advice. So, I'll try out the default instruments with Logic and see what I use a lot and what's passable and decide what to do from there. I don't want to cause any big life regrets for myself! Lol.

 

You'll find Logic's default instruments don't really cut it for orchestra (no DAW has good orchestra samples, because good orchestra samples have a level of programming DAW-default samplers aren't really equipped with), but you should still test them. If you hear for yourself why they're bad you'll be able to discern "good" sounds with a better perspective, which is generally an important skill for a computer composer whether he/she's using it to produce music or he/she's using it to judge different libraries against each other.

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NEVER BUY SAMPLE LIBRARIES OR INVEST INTO FEATURES BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE THEM OR "MIGHT USE THEM LATER ON".

 

Somewhat related to Neblix's post, I find the libraries I use most often are the ones I spent $500+ on -- not because I think oh man, I need to get my money's worth but because those libraries weren't impulse buys and I bought them because I already knew I would use them.

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Lots of great advice in this tread. I'll see if I can add some advice of my own.

 

As a EWSO owner, I can attest that the East West Symphonic Orchestra is a great step forward (in terms of sound quality) from the Logic Pro X default sample libraries. Though IMHO Logic's default Orchestral library is fairly versatile despite its sound quality.

 

My largest gripe with East West's plug in has to be its container, Quantum Leap. It eats your computers power and doesn't even use its own sounds to the fullest. Luckily I bought SO on sale so my buyers remorse isn't that high (and I don't have to pay a monthly fee to use it!). 

 

Thats my token of wisdom, look into the container that these plug in run it. That could save you lots of time and headache.

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Also keep in mind that orchestration and proper sample use is key. Listen to Final Fantasy Tactics and remind yourself that you're listening to what amounts to a MIDI sequence through a very basic soundfont from the mid 90s. You can spend $100,000 on sample libraries but if you can't orchestrate a simple MIDI file well then you're wasting money. Also I'm just gonna come out and give you some good advice that's kind of scummy but consider pirating a huge sample library to try it out and learn it, then buy it. (And I do mean BUY it because pirated versions are almost never up to date, and even then companies will release very buggy versions of their libraries as version 1, knowing that they'll be pirated like crazy and then shortly afterwards send a fixed updated version to the actual customers via email).

 

So yeah, use whatever means you have to obtain a copy of LASS2 and learn it, it'll give you a basic understanding of working with legatos, crossfades and divisi.

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Throwing my hat into the mix, if no one else has suggested it, purchase/download a book that details orchestration techniques and practice. Half of getting orchestral music on a DAW to sound realistic is the knowledge of what an instrument can do, or how instruments are used idiomatically. The best sample libraries, for example, won't tell you when a downstroke will typically be performed in a string section, or how the woodwinds will breathe with a particular phrase, but they WILL supply you with better tools to emulate these techniques and sounds, when you do know. Snappleman is definitely right in the regard that proper use of the samples is key, and learning orchestration technique helps dramatically in that regard.

Rimsky-Korsakov's "Principles of Orchestration" is a well known classic, in this regard, if you want a place to start.

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Throwing my hat into the mix, if no one else has suggested it, purchase/download a book that details orchestration techniques and practice. Half of getting orchestral music on a DAW to sound realistic is the knowledge of what an instrument can do, or how instruments are used idiomatically. 

 

 

I second this. It wasn't until I took some online classes from Berklee that got a clue on how to really use my orchestral libraries. Getting to understand what all those articulations are for is a big part of the battle.

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Rimsky-Korsakov's "Principles of Orchestration" is a well known classic, in this regard, if you want a place to start.

Here's a great site where you can get a well scanned of the original. https://archive.org/details/principlesoforch00rims

The author died 107 years ago so don't worry too much for the "free" stuff.

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