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adammonroe says

Whenever I upload stuff that features Vienna Symphonic Library samples too prominently, I usually get some feed-back about the sounds being too dated and/or unrealistic. Anyone still using this library to great success?

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SkyProductions says

I don’t own them, but I have a composer friend in town which gets a lot of work and he only uses VSL . It is very professional with out a doubt. His scores are amazing. http://www.randingraves.com/ Its also worth it to get the amazing MIR reverb simulation.

I use Hollywood Strings/Brass and LASS with EWQLSO for woodwinds and typical orchestral percussion.

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PatrickAThompson says

It’s funny you ask… VSL (for a long while) was THE sample orchestra in town… While I’ve never purchased their products because of the astronomical pricing, I’ve done my research. Even (some) of the orchestration instructors at Berklee College of Music use VSL (while EWQL products are ‘required’ for the courses)... My own personal opinion is the indeed, VSL just sounds flat to me. In the ever-evolving quest for sample libraries to develop a convincing ‘orchestra’, new things are sounding better – which makes older things sound… old.

I DO think that VSL could be used to layer underneath other products… so your collection is not completely obsolete. Layering is a GREAT tool to add depth and create a hybrid sound of two different libraries.

Modern companies are filling in the holes where others leave off… One library I use deep-sampled the HECK out of the violin section.. Frankly, it’s insane… but they’re setting out to IMPROVE on others’ older libraries. They ask “What’s missing?” “What’s not working well?” “How can we get more realism?”

On a quick-fix note: Try different mastering techniques. Experiment with beefing up the mids and adding a little on the highs… A good reverb and proper panning are ESSENTIAL .

It’s certainly easier to start off with a great library collection – but a large deal of issues can be corrected by using proper production techniques.

Most importantly though – don’t give up!! Stay at it! Keep writing!! When you decide to upgrade, you can go swap out the plug-ins and – BAM ! It’s an entirely new piece.

Best of luck to you!

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adammonroe says

I think the problem isn’t necessarily that vsl is bad, it’s that the newer stuff coming out sounds so much more convincing, and the companies that produce sample libraries are consistently raising the bar and trying to outdo each-other. Either way, to get a good sound from vsl, I think you have to be an extremely competent mixer/producer. It requires a lot more finesse than say, east/west products which generally sound fairly convincing out of the box.

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garethcoker Envato team says

The VSL samples their products according to a completely different philosophy to most other developers. Since the very beginning, they’ve always been interested in having the cleanest and driest sound (which allows the end-user the most flexibility). What that leads to is samples that are generally quite unsatisfying to play out of the box.

LA Scoring Strings – while not recorded completely dry – had a similar approach when it was first released back in 2009. They have since updated to LASS 2 which includes fabulous EQ / reverb settings – which speeds things up if you’re working to a deadline.

Make no mistake though, VSL ’s samples – especially the woodwind section – are world class. There is still no sample library that does sampled woodwind better. The new Berlin Woodwinds from Orchestral Tools might be an exception.

VSL has done a fabulous job in recent years of catering to the working media composer by adding in their mixing software / reverb to their product. A skilled user who knows how to mix / engineer an orchestra will be able to get a great sound out of it.

To go further, their Appassionata Strings library still has a fabulous lush Ravel-like sound, the Epic Horns library is legendary (8 sampled French Horns) and I’ve heard it in countless film scores as it has quite a distinctive sound. It’s orchestral percussion is rivaled only by Spitfire Percussion.

In summary, VSL sounds are in no way ‘dated’, they just are not particularly satisfying to play straight out of the box, which so many other sample libraries do. One could say that it is probably a sample library for purists.

The best company for many years to have great sounding samples out of the box are ProjectSAM – especially if you’re doing Hollywood-style ‘epic’ stuff. Their recording techniques and sound quality are generally just a cut above everyone else – including East West.

(Mini rant)

Finally, the other thing I have to give credit to VSL for – is having a working and fully functional product out of the box. Advertising from sample companies these days just makes me laugh. They promise the world, they put out epic videos and posters of their products and more often then not – the products are released broken and unfinished. A great example of this is 8Dio’s Adagio, and Requiem. They are fantastic sample libraries with a great sound, but the scripting leaves a lot to be desired, especially in Adagio. Their 1.1 ‘update’ shouldn’t even be an update, it should have been included from the start. These sample libraries that sound great out of the box, often don’t work properly out of the box. Again, I’ll just go back to ProjectSAM, who just make products that work. Spitfire Audio operate on exactly the same philosophy.

(Mini rant over)

In short, you shouldn’t have the perception that VSL is a substandard library, but like any ‘instrument’ – you should be prepared to learn it. I’ve heard composers make Symphobia and Hollywood Strings sound bad. The fact is if you don’t have a good knowledge of orchestration and MIDI ‘synthestration’ – you will always struggle to get good sounding orchestral music. No matter how many sample libraries you own, you will be found out if you don’t study this in depth – and orchestration is a LIFETIME study.

There are tons of tutorials available online for orchestration/synthestration, but make sure what you’re listening to actually sounds world class before you study it. Many of the ‘tutorials’ on Youtube still result in crappy sounding mockups! Use your ears!

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adammonroe says

Hah, I’m not sure I’d follow a youtube video when it comes to midi orchestration or orchestration in general.

Do you think VSL is usable in other forms of music besides orchestral? Or would you say it’s uses are limited to the box it was designed for? Perhaps this is more than what I’m getting at.

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garethcoker Envato team says

On the contrary – when it comes to midi orchestration – good results from end users are the best examples. Demos on websites are incredibly misleading. 8Dio put processing all over their demo tracks (to help sell the product). So, it’s just…you have to find the good tutorials first. There are some extremely gifted composers using Youtube and Twitter / Facebook to hand out advice – I particularly recommend Robin Hoffman’s site.

And also, watching bad examples of orchestration, you can learn just as much. How would you correct it? What what you change? What would Ravel do? etc. etc…

VSL is an instrument. It can be used for whatever you want to use it for. You could EASILY use the flute or clarinet in an uptempo funk/jazz track. You could run the low brass through a distortion effect and make Inception-like drones. VSL ’s melodic percussion – especially the more esoteric stuff works GREAT in ambient electronica, even more so when you put creative reverbs on it.

Whether all this will sound good is another question entirely, but fundamentally the answer to your question is yes, because of it’s flexibility and the dry sound, you can mould it into anything you want. Ultimately, what you’re paying for is a REALLY good quality recording, how you use it is up to you. You get the same with ProjectSAM, a really good recording – but you have less flexibility with it, because of the soundstage it was recorded in / where the mic was positioned, etc…

Hope that all makes sense.

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adammonroe says

Overall I like the sound of VSL . I do think that the woodwinds in particular hold their own against other libraries.

Wearing the engineering cap as well as the composer’s cap is something relatively new to world of composition. It’s seems like how good you are at engineering and mixing is almost as important as how good you are at writing music, sometimes even more important: as composers and musicians move away from traditional forms of music, traditional ways of writing music, traditional harmonic and melodic structures, and from traditional instruments, what it means to be a composer isn’t so easily defined. Are we composers, or are we collectors and assemblers of different musical sounds? Traditionally, the composer relied on the performer to breath life into his work; now, we must rely on ourselves to work that very same magic. All that being said, I believe there is only so much you can do with any sample library. After all, it all it really is is a collection of sampled notes. You can put reverb on it and eq it, script it or play with the expression and velocity maps to change how it’s played back, but at the end of the day, all you really have to work with is that core collection of sounds.

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garethcoker Envato team says

Are we composers, or are we collectors and assemblers of different musical sounds?

Composers have since the beginning of time been both. It’s just that there are far more resources and instruments (and technology) for us to play with now.

Brass instruments have been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that composers started using them more prominently in music (as opposed to being a novelty / gimmick).

Additionally, Ravel used the soprano saxophone to great effect in some of his music long before anyone else was using it (and before it became a staple sound in jazz). There are numerous other examples.

We also live in an age where you have to be able to sell your music. Back in those days, there was no way to play a record, so you HAD to go out and find an orchestra to play your work. Now, anyone can upload a tune to Soundcloud, and if you want to stand out, you’d better make sure you can sell it. It’s no different to how it was centuries OK, just the methodology (and terminology) was quite different.

When purely talking with music for film / games / TV, you are just a cog in the machine, and you are trying to accentuate and ultimately sell a product. So – the role of a composer is not just to be able to write the notes, it’s about having a vision for the overall sound. That often requires at the very least, a basic knowledge of engineering.

The best and most successful composers are usually the ones who have the best or most effective concepts, and then find a way of hiring the best people (or as many as they can afford) to execute those concepts. Sometimes they don’t need to hire anyone, but in the case of orchestral music – it’s essential.

Obviously this is hard when you’re starting out – it’s especially tricky to find a good mixer, but…it’s not tricky to find a talented instrumentalist. I hear constant whining about how expensive musicians are, but it’s nonsense as they really are not expensive at all – considering what you can get from them. The amount of time (for example) that I save from hiring a guitarist to play some chords rather than struggling with some crappy fake strumming on a guitar sample library is ALWAYS worth it.

I bet most composers are probably spending $1,000 – $3,000 a year on new libaries. Many composers (such as myself) spend far far more. But actually, if you looked at what you spend on libraries and divide that by 2 the following year and use the other half for live musicians, let’s see what you’d get. Or, you could do sample libraries one year – and live performances the next year.For example.

Gareth spends $5,000 on sample libraries. So, next year, he’ll spend $5,000 on musicians because he already has great libraries having just spent $5,000 on them! So what can $5,000 get you?

$5,000 will get you a 3 hour recording session with 30 musicians in Eastern Europe. This includes the studio space, cartage, and a bilingual producer. Depending on the difficulty of the music, you could probably get about 15-20 minutes (possibly more, unlikely to be less) of recorded music done with a 30 piece string section. No sample library can touch the quality of that, the musicians in Eastern Europe are quite capable.

$5,000 will get you 45-50 hours of recording time with 1 professional musician in Los Angeles. (Or 22-25 hours with 2 musicians, etc…). These figures drop dramatically once you go out of the big cities.

Additionally, music students as music universities / conservatoires are a FABULOUS resource. They LOVE playing on composers’ work, are usually really talented, and are nowhere near as expensive as a union musician. I once did a 20 piece 2 hour recording session with students for $600. This is one of the pieces (I recorded 7 in total) from that session – http://soundcloud.com/garethcoker/continuum

And so on….

My point is, if you plan things out not just for the next 3 months, but for the next 3 years, you can find better ways to stretch your finances and resources. I understand that not all composers have $5,000 to drop, but equally if composers are serious about their business, then honestly, they probably need to be spending AT LEAST that on (pick any one or more of the following) new tech gear, new instruments computer upgrades, live performances, mixing, mastering. Of course, none of this guarantees anything, the music and concepts in the first place still has to be good – but when you start hiring people to execute your concepts, a real transformation can occur in your music. Even just adding one real player makes an ENORMOUS difference to the emotional content of your music if everything else is samples. A vast majority of the best selling tracks here have live ‘something’ on them, be it a vocal, ukelele, electric guitar, acoustic guitar. There is quite often a live element on there.

There are of course, exceptions to everything I’m writing, but I’m citing real-world stuff from an American/British standpoint. Also, if you’re a hobbyist, as many others here are – then it’s a completely different matter. You guys can spend as much or as little as you like!

HOWEVER …to get back to your original question – if you really do need to do it all yourself, then generally yes, you need to be a good engineer, because that’s an important part of the music making process. You’re working in an ultra-competitive and crowded business, with both talented composers and total hacks joining every single day – all competing for the same jobs. You have to do whatever you can to stand out from the crowd. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a pain, but that’s how it works nowadays!

EDIT : Sorry, I write way too much. I’m procrastinating from doing what I’m supposed to be doing!

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BCrutchfield Envato team says

Finally, the other thing I have to give credit to VSL for – is having a working and fully functional product out of the box. Advertising from sample companies these days just makes me laugh. They promise the world, they put out epic videos and posters of their products and more often then not – the products are released broken and unfinished. A great example of this is 8Dio’s Adagio, and Requiem. They are fantastic sample libraries with a great sound, but the scripting leaves a lot to be desired, especially in Adagio. Their 1.1 ‘update’ shouldn’t even be an update, it should have been included from the start. These sample libraries that sound great out of the box, often don’t work properly out of the box. Again, I’ll just go back to ProjectSAM, who just make products that work. Spitfire Audio operate on exactly the same philosophy.

It may be a little off topic, but I have the same issues as well with 8dio’s stuff, and how they demo their products. No other sample library company gives me the level of buyers remorse that their samples do.

I have their 1928 Steinway and it is on v1.5 or something, and still totally unplayable. Every single piano patch other than their main “full piano” patch has audible audio pops and glitches on the attack of every single note, and the piano is pretty much unplayable (for me) no matter how I adjust the velocity sensitivity curve. This doesn’t even touch how I feel about how it sounds, but that might just be my personal preferences. What I can say is that it sounds nothing like their demos of it do right out of the box.

Anyway, rant over.

More on topic… I really love VSL ’s woodwind section and percussion. I don’t see myself replacing those woodwinds any time soon. CineSamples does have a new woodwind library that could be an improvement over it, but I haven’t really heard it in use enough, or read enough opinions of it to tell if it may be worth checking out or not.

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