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How to make fake orchestral instruments sound more realistic?


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Well, first off, welcome to the world of music composition on PC! I am an amateur just like you and I've been learning a lot with self study so take what I say with a grain of salt. Since I learn on my own some of the things I do aren't the most intuitive ways or traditional but I think for your level, these will work wonders for at least your sound.

If we take out the quality of your samples out of the equation, the first thing I'm sure you notice is your strings kinda stutter when they transition. Like kinda stop and go. If your instrument library doesn't detect legato (smooth transition from note to note) very well on its own, you might want to try and overlap your notes. When you program them in.

 

If you are playing on keyboard, don't lift your finger immediately when transitioning to the next note. Depending on the instruments, give a few milliseconds where both notes are being pressed then release the previous note. If you are inserting notes directly, go into the midi editor and make the two notes overlap. Usually you want to extend the previous note over the one you are going to. Don't do it too much or both notes will play (again, depending on you library). Do it just enough and it should give the illusion that they are transitioning smoothly. At least smoother than you have now.

 

Ideally, you would want a legato patch or articulation in the instrument if you are moving a lot, but it sounds like you are using a sustain here that isn't very smooth when it is shifting or starting. You could also lower the "attack" on the instrument so that it starts playing with more dynamics sooner. Maybe my terminology usage is off here but that's how I do it sometimes.

 

As far as plugging notes in manually or playing...well, ideally you wanna play I find? That's what most people I see online do. But I'm not good at playing on keyboard and sometimes I think better when I see a staff and can write on it. So I mostly insert notes. But the downside is it can sound artificial. I try to counter this by playing with the timing a bit and also playing the notes by hand after I write them down.

Lastly, you can use better quality samples. Spitfire Labs and BBC Discover are great starters that sound really nice.

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Thank you very much! Yes I will have to overlap the strings moving from note to note, and experiment with attack. I am unhappy with the string samples I am using, so I will look into the ones you suggested. Although for now generally I will assume that any problems are mine and not my equipment lol. 

I prefer to play yes. I am not really good on the keys, just competent. I find it too time consuming to click all the notes in. Although I was stuck on the train recently with my laptop and this was a good way to kill the time. 

In Kontakt there is an option where you can slightly randomise attributes of notes to what ever extent you wish. I am going to experiment with this to see if I can get clicking in the notes to sound less robotic. Maybe what you are using has this option? 

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