Composing with Ensemble Libraries vs Solo Libraries


New Member
Hello, everyone!
Hope you are well and safe

I just wanted to ask for some clarification about composing with orchestral libraries.
At the moment I am using Chris Hein Solo Strings and String Ensemble Symphony Series
Chris Hein instruments have an amazing sound and articulations in my opinion, String Ensemble is good as well, but not on the same level.

Anyway, the thing is: how do you guys usually compose and why?

I mean, when I use solo instruments (CH) I can layer violins, violas, cellos adding them in the desired number and playing them with many articulations.
When I use the ensemble (SESS) I can only play a few articulations and I cannot even do legato.

P.S. I am a beginner in the audio production.


Active Member
Hi and welcome.

The biggest factors determining which library to use are time and keyboard skills.

For the pros and to some extent the hobbyists, time is precious.

For a composer with good keyboard skills the big ensemble libraries will let you knock out demos and flesh out ideas that sound good and don't require as much time.
Someone with less keyboard prowess may find it quicker to play in single note lines or even enter it with notation.
Individual instruments and sections can provide a more detailed sound but also require more time.

It all depends on the end use of the music and the flexibility of the audience (producers or friends).

This is obviously a very short version of virtual instrument land and it's warped reality.

Hope this helps.



New Member
I agree with what Steve says about time and keyboard skills and I believe that keyboard skills are really important for the composers who uses virtual instruments. It speeds up work, in almost any case, and time is important for the creative flow, too.

It depends on the libraries but ensemble patches can also be useful to give some areas of the orchestration (=mix) a richer, more cohesive sound, with moderation. By ensemble patches I mean what you can find in Spitfire Audio Albion or similar (sampled as they are, like an entire string orchestra playing together or split into different types of orchestration).

A technique you could use is layering solo instruments (solo or chamber-size strings, for example) on top of an ensemble sound to achieve a more detailed sound.

I hope this can give you another idea on how to use the libraries you mention!



New Member
...I forgot to answer your question...

If I am composing in the DAW, I use ensembles just like "writing pads", where I can sketch ideas. I often do this on a Strings Hi or Strings Lo track or Cellos, beacuse they have quite an extended range that works to me for this type of task. Sometimes, I use an instrument like this when I am sketching on paper, as a sort of "reference". It depends on the style.

I also like to use ensemble tracks for woodwinds, for certain styles of music or for an orchestral section in which woodwinds play a role in the orchetration as a whole, like accompaniment, accents, runs.
In this case I like the speed at which I can get to the sound I need, which most of the time remain in the final mix as it is.

Otherwise, I use ensembles to give what I mentioned above, some richness to the mid range, some "warmth" with moderation.


New Member
Thank you very much for the explanations, guys!
It helps a lot to hear about different point of views :)


Hopefully this will be helpful to you. A while ago I watched a great series of three videos from Spitfire Audio on orchestral programming. Christian went from a piano sketch, through using an ensemble library to splitting it up into individual instrument sections. I found it very insightful.