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FEATURE SOUND LIBRARIES Composer Jason Graves in his studio

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Sample Supremacy? Y

ou’re slumped on the sofa watching the latest, “Mate, you’ve got to see this…”

drama that you know will consume an obscene amount of your time. Or you’re plugged into a game that got 11 out of 10 stars on that review site you like. Te music’s great – a rousing

orchestral score than really adds to the whole performance. But surely it’s all samples these days, isn’t it? Technology, costs of an orchestra, and all that? Not so, according to TV and film

composer Nainite Desai. “Te danger of using samples is that it requires a lot of time when trying to either inject that human emotive touch into the music or when creating a distinctive score that stands out from the crowd. To counter this I almost always bring in at least a couple of live players.” Film and TV composer Miguel

d’Oliveira, whose work can regularly be heard on BBC dramas and documentaries, does dip into sample libraries but will always go with the live approach if possible. “Whenever I can, I go for a live

28 August/September 2014

ensemble. Nothing replaces its sound. You may even get stuff that you didn’t write (which may sound better) and samples don’t tend to do that. If I start by picking up a guitar, a trumpet, a mandolin, etc. I know that samples, if anything, will come at the end just for a dash of colour. My libraries are an amalgamation of the ones I have been creating for projects I’ve worked on, and purchased bits from 8dio, Soundiron, Project SAM, VSL, SonicCouture, Cinesamples, etc.”

Finding your Path

James Hannigan, who composes for broadcast media and games such as Transformers Universe, likes to pick an approach and stick to it. “I try to be consistent with the

production method of every cue, as it bugs me sometimes hearing scores that are a patchwork of different approaches. You can sometimes hear how certain cues have been prioritised, and it becomes evident decisions are being made in relation to budget that are having an impact on the realisation of the music.

“Low budgets can be a reality, but I think it’s partly up to composers to disguise those realities, or render them irrelevant. For example, if I find that I can’t use a real orchestra for a project, I’ll probably avoid trying to ‘fake it’ and will steer clear of anything resembling a big orchestra, but may use individual instruments or sections at times. “My use of sample libraries tends

to be for mocking up an orchestra or some other ensemble before actually recording the real thing, which makes them incredibly useful.” Jason Graves, a composer with an

impressive track record in game music, uses orchestral samples of mock-ups on every project to give the end client something tangible to listen to. He then re-records around half of that material with a live orchestra. And even when he does use samples, he goes for a grow-your-own approach. “I’ve been building up my own

orchestral library. What started as textures and effects has grown to an extensive list of articulations covering the entire orchestra – lots of very deep sampling of individual instruments,

With sample libraries becoming more and more realistic and budgets getting squeezed ever tighter, the average composer must be relying more on in-the-box options than John Williams-esque orchestras, right? Jerry Ibbotson finds out.

so I have complete control over each wind instrument and the individual string sections. Tis takes a lot of dedication – it’s been five years in the making – but it’s paying off for me. Last year’s score for Tomb Raider was entirely my personal sample library, plus me performing various solo instruments around the studio. When I do need non-orchestral sounds that I can’t record myself my first stop is Heavyocity. Tey have the most inventive and best-sounding virtual instruments out there.”

Custom Work

Recording-your-own-samples is something that resonates with Ian Livingstone, who counts diverse examples such as Rome: Total War 2 and the Great British Sewing Bee among his recent work. “I’ve got most of the major

orchestral libraries, for example SAM, 8dio, Eastwest, VSL, etc, but I also developed a custom orchestral library with some friends, which we recorded in Utah and edited and programmed ourselves. Although it’s quite old now

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