Film, TV and game composers reveal their favourite string virtual instruments

Film, TV and game composers reveal their favourite string virtual instruments

Following the popularity of our round up of composers’ and artists’ Top plugins of 2015 on the T+S Blog at the end of last year with contributions from Time+Space friends including Nainita Desai, Andy Barlow, Ty Unwin and more, we decided to do another one!

This time, we’ve been finding out what other virtual instruments and plug-ins the professionals are really rating right now and we’re kicking things off with a look at their favourite string virtual instruments.

Over to the professionals…

MIguel D'OliveiraMiguel D’Oliveira – Award winning composer Miguel d’Oliveira is self taught and with a passion for playing and collecting every musical instrument known to man. He has scored for big live ensembles and studio based electronic productions as well as for high profile TV shows such as First Dates and Grand Designs. Miguel says…

“A world of new sampled strings have been released since the very first versions of Symphobia and LA Scoring Strings. Despite the fact that many of these have really nice details, faithful transients, allow for extra CCs and have an impressive array of mic positions, I still reach for a couple of old patches for basic writing, and most times they end up on the final mix as well. For smaller ensembles, Spitfire Saconni Quartet is always the ticket. With the odd bit again from LA Scoring Strings (old version).”

Follow Miguel on Twitter here

Ty UnwinTy Unwin – Music composer known for his work on TV series’ such as Vikings, A History of Ancient Britain and a very synth-heavy contemporary score for a BBC series about the story of 1066. Ty is currently working with Midge Ure (from Ultravox) on a new and exciting top secret project that will be released next year.
“So much of my music is based essentially around Strings so I have SO many libraries simply so that I have enough variation and most importantly it means that I can ALWAYS find just the right sound or articulation… Essentially I can always find something that works.

So choosing a favourite library is a tough one…. but when I look through recent projects there are certain libraries that get used again and again…. therefore they MUST be favourites!!!

For Strings it basically depends on how much time I’ve got to write the score, because string libraries tend to fall into two categories… ones that are quick to work with and get instant results, and those that need to be worked at, crafted, but after that time and effort can sound incredibly realistic. An example of this is VSL’s Dimension Strings, which, because of the versatility of individual player mic control, ensemble size and articulation choice, means that it can sound amazing but you HAVE to put the time in, to work with it, to get those results. A great library but NOT an instant fix.

The Spitfire Audio libraries, on the other hand, are unbelievably playable… straight out of the box… right under your fingers. With a few key switches you have instant string ensemble and their answer to scale is 3 different libraries… Sacconi Quartet, Chamber Strings, and Mural Symphonic Strings. Each sound completely different (as different as real ensemble sizes do) but each have enough articulations and variable mic techniques to keep anyone happy. These recently have been my first port of call for Strings Ensembles… especially Mural.

In terms of solo string libraries (as in solo players… not wanting to create a natural cohesive string quartet sound), there are two libraries that stand out… Best Service Emotional Cello and Chris Hein’s Solo Violin…. both of these achieve the almost unachievable of being able to convince the listener that it’s a real instrument (in the right mix, with the right arrangement) and, in the case of the Chris Hein violin, with incredible ease. Both amazing libraries. A quick mention should also go to Cinesamples Tina Guo Legato cello library… which CAN sound incredible and is very playable but is very much a one trick pony…. but a great trick all the same!!!

Overall best? Any of the Spitfire String libraries for ensembles and Chris Hein Solo Violin for Solo work.”

Follow Ty Unwin on Twitter here

Pendle PoucherPendle Poucher – Pendle has written, produced and performed soundtracks for every major UK TV station and has worked for 10 years as sound designer and composer for award-winning theatre company DreamThinkSpeak devising amongst others a 32 channel soundtrack for their radical reworking of Hamlet “The Rest is Silence” in 2012. He’s also the founder of SoundDust, producing strange and beautiful instruments for Kontakt, Maschine and more.

Spitfire EVO grids is great for quickly creating really nice textured and evolving stringy backdrops, to which I usually add my own scratchy layers of bowed strings from electric guitars, cigar box guitars, one string cello etc.”

Follow Pendle Poucher on Twitter here

Jason GravesJason Graves – an American television, film, and video game music composer. His works include the musical scores for Dead Space, Alpha Protocol, Tomb Raider, The Order: 1886, Until Dawn, Evolve and Far Cry Primal.

“Kind of cheating on my part, but my go-to string library is my own custom one I’ve built over the years. I’ve used it on pretty much everything since Tomb Raider and Dead Space 3, which released in 2013. Since I built it myself, it’s obviously tailored to the way I like to work. It’s a very performance-oriented library, meaning the sounds were made to be used in real time – nothing loop-based or repetitive.

I also love all the Spitfire string libraries – such amazing programming and a sound that can’t be beaten. I use all the Albion libraries and especially love the BML Mural Strings for their huge articulation list.

I’ve also recently added Cinematic Studio Strings to my permanent template and really love the immediacy and passion in each sample. The legatos are especially nice and feature some beautifully programming scripts that play the appropriate legato speed.”

Follow Jason Graves on Twitter here

Dru MastersDru Masters – a British composer, best known for composing television music. He has composed scores for recent BBC dramas Silk and Capital and tracks for the British version of The Apprentice among others. He has also recently scored several feature films including The Library Suicides and Our Loved Boy.   

“Spitfire Sable Ensembles. I used to pride myself on never using ensemble patches and painstakingly playing each violin, viola, cello and bass patch to make up the whole section. Then Sable Ensembles came along and I thought, why am I making life so difficult for myself?! It just works and if I need something to stick out a bit more, I’ll add a bit of LA Scoring Strings or VSL Dimensions.

Follow Dru Masters on Twitter here

Nainita DesaiNainita Desai – With a career that spans over twenty years, Nainita has written the scores to hundreds of award winning films, TV documentaries and dramas. Most recent projects include the BBC’s Mumbai High and B is for Book documentaries and just last month Nainita, with her writing partner Malcolm Laws, won Best Feature Film Score at the 2016 Music+Sound Awards for The Confessions of Thomas Quick.

“I couldn’t live without my Spitfire strings, Cinesamples strings and Berlin Strings. Cinestrings Solo have been very useful too – I needed a solo violin and having gone through several solo violin libraries, this one absolutely fits the bill in terms of control and authenticity.

I’ve also been using the recent Albion One and for the style of intimate, atmospheric string writing that I am finding more in demand at the moment- the EVO grid 1, EVO grid 2 & EVO grid 3. The precision and intimacy is exemplary but they also have an ability to bed in very well amongst other string parts. They have an intricate depth that sounds so organic and authentic. They are finding their way on a BFI feature film I’m scoring at the moment alongside BBC Documentaries for the Natural History Unit and I’m planning on using them for a C4 feature doc about a Russian Spy conspiracy next year.

Follow Nainita Desai on Twitter here


Click here to view all String virtual Instruments available from Time+Space

What’s your favourite software/plugin to use for strings? Tell us in the comments below…