Sketching libraries and quick composition

Are “sketching libraries” really useful to speed up composition? I’m not a great example of quick and fast productivity, but when writing tonally I like to start playing the piano. Considering how good modern sampled pianos are, I find it liberating to just return to my first instrument and let it help me drawing at raw lines my music.

The new tempo follow metronome in Logic is a revolutionary innovation for me, since I have all my creativity killed by playing on a metronome click. Having the metronome follow me is letting creativity flow freely, as one could do in the age of acoustic pianos, pencil and paper.

The piano sketch is a good place to work on melody, harmony, form. It's just two lines of music and some textual annotations. When done with the basic matters, you can start propagating your music to the other instruments, by copying&pasting or playing idiomatically the new lines.

But I admit that sketching libraries are also great. Not as straight as a piano, they let you write down more information on the first pass. I like Albion One for more booming music, Vienna Smart Orchestra for more classical. The Berlin Orchestra Inspire series should also work great. Orchestra sketching libraries are however already forcing one to follow their pace. String attacks may be too slow, and while you can adjust this with a controller (later or in realtime), here are you already and again facing detailed editing - the thing you were trying to avoid.

On the other side, sketching orchestras may offer you inspiration. I can't wait to try British Drama Toolkit.

The horrors of the ideas about horror music

Jump into a discussion about sound libraries like Spitfire Audio's Albion IV "Uist", Sonokinetic's Espressivo or 8Dio's CASE and CAGE, and you see that they are automatically associated to horror music. Some also associate Spitfire's EVOs, with their intrinsic instability, to horror music.

To be honest, some sound library manufacturer does nothing to prevent this automatic association. Native Instrument called their dedicated library, developed with Audiobro, "Thrill". 8Dio is not hiding this is the intended destination. And it is true that their CASE and CAGE library are very dedicated to the genre.

In my view, however, some of these, like Uist, Espressivo and the EVOs, are simply great tools for modern classical music. They are not "effects", but "words" or "phrases" typical of a particular modern language. In particular, Spitfire's Evolutions are more on the subtle side, so I would exclude them from the "horror effects" category.

All considered, we often consider "horror music" the soundtrack assembled by Kubrik for his movie Shining. But these were, in origin, modern classical pieces from Bartók, Ligeti and Penderecki. The ones to whom the finest of these libraries are inspired.

Writing for the real, AND virtual players

Let's be honest: when writing a piece for a real ensemble or orchestra, we know that it will probably remain in the realm of virtual instruments. Our piece will never, ever be performed by a real orchestra.

I had the honor and pleasure of having some of my pieces performed by real players. Very skilled musicians, sometimes among the best players for that instrument. Yet, this is something that can only happen in some special events for most of us.

The rest of us will, most of the time, continue to listen to their works from virtual performers and instruments.

That means that we have to find a balance between writing for real instruments, and at the same time make accurate prototypes, that will have to be considered an alternative form of the final piece. Our piece has to sound great both when read by real performer, and when performed by our samplers.

We write for virtual orchestras. This is no longer to be considered a second choice. Virtual orchestras very often go into feature films released in major theaters. Virtual orchestras are a real instrument, even if the human content is just that of the musicians who recorded the samples, and the composer that created the virtual performance.