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Are my samples holding my orchestrations back?


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Hey, YoungProdigy here. Lately, I've been working a lot on improving my midi orchestration skills. I think so far I've gotten pretty decent at writing orchestral pieces.

However, the samples I use are from Sampletank 3. They're basically the same used in Miroslav Philharmonik, which came out in 2005. So they're pretty dated.

Here's an example of one my songs:

Do you guys think my samples are holding back my orchestrations?

Would it benefit me to buy a more recent library like Hollywood Orchestra?

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That imo is well orchestrated, but my granddad always used to say "Always buy the most expensive tools you can afford". Meaning, subpar tools make for subpar work, regardless of skill. I don't know whether that chestnut helps, and price doesn't always equal quality, but in most respects it's true. 

The good thing is, if you do shell out for an updated library, it's something you'll always have. 

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If you bought higher quality samples, I think you'd find out pretty quickly that your orchestration skills aren't as good as you think they are. Working with a library like the one you have is great for stuff like this, where it has that dated type of rpg maker sound. But higher quality samples requires better automation / modulation and attention to detail, and more logical arrangements with more natural playing. It wouldn't be something you just load up and then play the part and not expect to do extensive work humanizing it afterwards. If you wanted it to actually be good, you'd have to stop quantizing your notes and instead keep natural timing... that is, if you even play a midi keyboard. If you don't, it'll take a hell of a lot longer to click in each note with natural velocity and timing, and even longer to click in all the natural sounding modulation. 

So the short answer to "are my samples holding my orchestrations back" is sort of. 

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The main problem with the example is the choice of slow-attack samples on fast notes (these should be faster-attack), and the lack of variation on the drums to enhance dynamic contrast (the snares are pretty much on autopilot the whole time here). So, it's partially your sample choice that's limiting you, and partially your sample quality that's limiting the extent that you can write. But mainly it's not the samples, it's you. The more you look into the amount of detail work it takes to orchestrate with more expensive libraries, the more you should realize that you need to practice so that you can figure out what you don't yet know how to accomplish.

So, why not look into when you should use each articulation so that it sounds good for the particular samples you are using, and so that you actually have significant dynamic contrast? That's what's currently the major issues are here.

Now, I'm not actually saying, "start from free samples and work your way up." I'm saying, "don't buy the more expensive sample libraries until you have a better idea of what you're doing." So, it's sensible to buy a 'starter' sample library to get immersed in the orchestral-sample-library composition/modulation mindset.

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For all i know, most expensive and good looking(-ly advertised) might not be the best choice always, depending on the sources reliability and the quality of equipment for example and skill they have had the opportunity to put unto their library samples (recording, instruments and the players of the instruments, structure of the program itself etc), but they still might be, because sometimes they are expensive for a reason, as they are made expensively but not always. Don't trust brand marks and ads kids (and this does not limit to vst matter). Imagine if you first spent enormous amount of your savings / money into a orchestral vst you are excited over and then after getting it, got disappointed of it as it was nowhere near what you needed/wanted to be able to make what you want to and can do and can't get refund nor afford a new one.. Not cool. not cool at all... So do your research boys before getting involved into huge invests. Youtube is full of video reviews for example and those do usually (not always) show what they are like and would you like it and need it for your compositions. And there are demos of plugins and other options to test stuff you know..

Of course as stated by others already, there are also skill and creativity required (among other requirements) to compose and arrange orchestra by yourself, not just having some good sample pack, BUT it also plays (can't stress enough) an enormous part for being able to arrange realistic stuff the way you want to. You still seem to have good idea what you are doing so if you feel like it yourself, yes you should at least consider and look into new stuff most definitely.

Personally i know i would need new stuff, for new better stuff, but i can also already produce with the stuff i have and try to practice and produce new music stuff until i can get the new stuff and stuff.

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I'm actually going to have to disagree a bit with the notion some have that a better sample library won't do you any good unless your orchestration skills are better first.

It's hard to practice that unless you actually have a sample library that has a lot of articulations and is capable of making something realistic. For example, you will never be able to create a truly realistic sounding, expressive violin melody without legato, portamento, marcato, etc. Players generally don't play with just one articulation (a simple sustain in most crap libraries) throughout a phrase and playing with the envelope usually doesn't produce as satisfying results. 

If you know this, but your library only has something like sustains and staccatos, you will likely avoid writing melodies that use shorter notes because you'll notice the staccatos are too short and sound unnatural in your phrase - you need a detache, marcato or some other sort of short sample with a longer decay/release instead.

I've never understood the idea that lots of people have that you should start with something low-end and garbage and then move your way up when a smarter financial decision is to buy something really good and improve yourself so that when you are good enough, you won't need to spend any more money.

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I always complained that I should get Kontakt and let go of Sampletank 2 and Miroslav... but forgot and bought a 1k$ camera lens instead like two days ago lol
I would say FOR SURE that it's holding you back. It is for me and although I don't orchestrate much, I can never the "flavor" I'm looking for with the old bland samples. I also hate the program, it's like being stuck with Windows 95. It's not just the samples... Go for it man. And what AngelCityOutlaw said is exactly how I feel. When you have ideas and know how you want the mechanic to work, but don't have the right tools. "Always get the right tools for the job".

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It's not about having good libraries. Neither is it getting good at said libraries. It's both.

You need good libraries. And then you need to get good at using those libraries.

Find an MP3 of a recording you like. Find the sheet music. Study the sheet music. Plop the MP3 into your DAW. Arrange the piece with your samples. A/B the MP3 of the live orchestra with your sample version.

Don't just wiggle the mod wheel for the sake of wiggling the mod wheel. Do it with purpose. Know when to swell and when to fade. Know when to crank up the vibrato and when to back off. Think of it emotionally and not mechanically. Think of yourself as the individual player and feel the emotion.

Also, if you're really serious about "realistic" sounding mockups, don't reach for ensemble libraries (Albion, Symphobia, CineSymphony Lite). When all of the string sections are crossfading dynamics or vibrato at exactly the same time and by the exact same amount, it sounds fake. With individual sections, you can play them in one at a time, and get different performances that blend everything together. Don't get me wrong; ensemble libraries have their place and can be useful, but usually in combination with individual sections (layering, adding textures) or for making hybrid/epic/trailer trash stuff. If you're aiming to achieve realistic orchestral material though, don't get ensemble libraries by themselves.

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On 5/14/2016 at 6:20 PM, AngelCityOutlaw said:

I'm actually going to have to disagree a bit with the notion some have that a better sample library won't do you any good unless your orchestration skills are better first.

It's hard to practice that unless you actually have a sample library that has a lot of articulations and is capable of making something realistic. For example, you will never be able to create a truly realistic sounding, expressive violin melody without legato, portamento, marcato, etc. Players generally don't play with just one articulation (a simple sustain in most crap libraries) throughout a phrase and playing with the envelope usually doesn't produce as satisfying results. 

If you know this, but your library only has something like sustains and staccatos, you will likely avoid writing melodies that use shorter notes because you'll notice the staccatos are too short and sound unnatural in your phrase - you need a detache, marcato or some other sort of short sample with a longer decay/release instead.

I've never understood the idea that lots of people have that you should start with something low-end and garbage and then move your way up when a smarter financial decision is to buy something really good and improve yourself so that when you are good enough, you won't need to spend any more money.

Basically this.

You can't orchestrate without articulations. That's a basic cornerstone of arranging for instruments; knowing their ranges and playing techniques.

Practicing on garbage sounds ingrains into you habits, habits that say "oh, when I write music like this, it sounds bad" when sometimes it wouldn't sound bad with a good performance or good samples. Even a simple chord can sound bad on a piano but sound wonderful on brass. Sound matters. Composing is as much about sound as it is the notes on the paper. A bad performance can kill a composition.

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On 13/5/2016 at 6:19 PM, YoungProdigy said:

Hey, YoungProdigy here. Lately, I've been working a lot on improving my midi orchestration skills. I think so far I've gotten pretty decent at writing orchestral pieces.

However, the samples I use are from Sampletank 3. They're basically the same used in Miroslav Philharmonik, which came out in 2005. So they're pretty dated.

Here's an example of one my songs:

Do you guys think my samples are holding back my orchestrations?

Would it benefit me to buy a more recent library like Hollywood Orchestra?

wow, great

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  • 5 weeks later...

Samples always do hold you back. That's why I went from the "write on the fly" mode to actually notating every single part before it touches my computer. I use StaffPad for that.

 

You could benefit from a newer library due to the fact you are using notes that require different articulation samples. For instance your French Horn line. I recommend CineBrass for that since you can switch between legato and staccato with just the sustain pedal. Your string staccato sounds are just a matter of quality if you decided to purchase a new string lib. Or a staccato based one.

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