Does anyone actually like or use phrase based orchestral libraries?


Thinking of stuff like Action Strings (NI), Spiritoso (Zero-g), Solo Cello Designer(8Dio), etc can list some others that I have forgotten.

First thing is that I would think they are difficult to use if they aren't tempo sync.
Then there is the quality of the samples themselves....yes its an entire phrase sampled so you won't have transitional issues within that phrase....but are they the same quality sound as a really good library (ie….CSS)?

With that said, which of these types of libraries are worth using....preferably ones that are tempo sync.


Big NKS Fan !
I have Woodwinds I got for free from Sonokinetic, but I rarely use them. I've played around with them, but lost interest fairly fast. I find phrase-based libraries a bit limiting. Or maybe I just don't know how to use them properly.
Seriously doubt your abilities to use Sonokinetic Libs 'properly'.... really !
Have almost all Sono libs and now a bit unsettled about going forward ……. i.e. Largo, Indie.
If Sono has missed the mark, then maybe time to move elsewhere ……


Senior Member
I have Woodwinds I got for free from Sonokinetic, but I rarely use them. I've played around with them, but lost interest fairly fast. I find phrase-based libraries a bit limiting. Or maybe I just don't know how to use them properly.
That's why I never buy vocal ones.


New Member
I have Action Strikes and Action Strings ,I rarely use them. But they can be useful - for example you can chop them and play with the audio or if you need some fast ideas.

Guy Rowland

Senior Member
They are a seductive idea but ultimately useless. You have to put so much effort into programming them to get a usable piece that its actually easier to just learn how to write properly.
Broadly I agree. I admire all the pioneering work Sonokinetic has done to make loops more musical and give you more control, but it just gives me a headache. Grosso is probably my least used library I’ve paid money for.

I sort of came to the bizarre conclusion that the older simpler phrase libraries are better - just simple phrase players that you can use in a second and not start having to dig out the manual to achieve a what should be a simple result. Vivace loops still get occasional use here, almost entirely for their atonal Hermannesque phrases that are simply better than faffing with multisamples if you need a bit of that in a chase sequence or whatever.

But these cases are rarities. Action Strings I never use, just can’t see the point (though again IIRC there are a few loops that I should keep in mind as they are very effecty and tough to reproduce with multisamples.)


I love Sonokinetic's Minimal, because the simplicity of the phrases makes them really easy to incorporate in a piece. They are incredible useful acting as background elements giving the piece a more believable sound.

You should look at Sonokinetic as something you sparkle carefully over a work.


I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.
Sure! Sometimes they can be inspiring. But I always break down the phrase and do my own thing with it...I can't just leave a phrase sample in my compositions, because I get a niggly feeling when I do.


Senior Member
I have Action Strikes and Action Strings ,I rarely use them. But they can be useful - for example you can chop them and play with the audio or if you need some fast ideas.
I don't think Action Strikes even counts as phrase based, because in the phrases it just triggers the single-hit samples via midi. It's like a regular library bundled with some built in midi rythms as a bonus imho. I rarely use them, but I do use the single hits.

The loops in Damage have the more traditional phrase based issues where you can't change the tempo without messing with the tail length of all the hits. I still find them usable, but everything I make with them feels like "not my own", so I very rarely use them.

And Action Strings imho sounds pretty bad in every case where the sample phrases get stretched or transposed, and since they have relatively few samples there are very few notes even if you're using the right tempo, that don't sound "off". I had much higher expectations of that library based on the demo tracks and was quite disappointed. It was one of the major reasons for me to buy that particular Komplete update.

The last that I can think of is 8dio Cait, which I want to use somewhere (because it just covers things that are impossible to do with non-phrase based vocal libraries), but haven't managed to do so yet. I find it very hard to work with that kind of loop based materials. I even exported them to waves to get a waveform preview of the phrases to make selecting easier.


... i am a robot ...
I have a few of the Sonokinetic ones and right at the start of this journey they might have been useful to spark a few ideas about styles of ostinati and traditional orchestration, but they never get used now and it was an expensive bit of education. They appeal to a short-cut mentality that ultimately is a dead end. I've used some of the Heavyocity canned phrases - but in a cautionary tale I remember doing a cue that used some HO heavy Cello phrases that sounded really excellent and the client loved - except they needed to 'cut 3 secs from that middle bit'. Oh shit. I had to re-create the phrases from scratch and then re-write them to fit musically - nightmare and never again.


Senior Member
I usually have no interest in phrase libraries. There are only a few times I would use phrases (ethnic vocal/wind/strings fragments, a few perc phrases here and there. Still using Percussive Adventures here and there.).
The problem is of course the lack of connection to what I'm working on. It's a game of chance that you find something that fits. Hard to justify spending a lot of money for this IMO.
Sometimes magic happens and you find a phrase that fits like and glove and that's wonderful!
But many other times it just feels disconnected and there is little you can do about without a crazy amount of effort.
And for the orchestra I'd basically never want to use phrases. With few exceptions.
Often it feels like I'd have to start with the phrase/s, puzzle them together and then write around them. That's not my idea of composing.


Senior Member
I haven’t found most phrase-based orchestral libraries to be useful, and using them also doesn’t hold much appeal for me as it feels like they take part of the composition process out of my hands. I have on a couple of occasions used percussion loops, but even then I gravitate toward the type that allow one to tweak and rearrange the individual elements of the loop, something which I will usually do to make it more original.

The one looming exception to this rule is solo vocal libraries, where I’ve used recorded phrases quite regularly, as otherwise it is quite difficult to get human-sounding solo vocal performances out of a sample library. But even there I will often do tricks with cropping, pitch bend and/or auto-tune to alter the sampled vocal phrases at least a little, both to better fit my needs and to have them be a little more unique and specific to my use thereof.

Sarah Mancuso

Rhythm loops are pretty useful to layer with other percussion programming for extra detail, but even then I don't find myself using them all that often.

Vocal phrases can be a lot of fun to stretch around and play with in a pitch and timing editor. At that point it's functioning less as a predefined phrase and more as a sound source from which to build your own melody and rhythm. When doing vaporwave projects I've found that you can transform generic vocal phrases pretty effectively, far past the point of any recognizability, as long as you're not looking for a perfectly natural unprocessed sound.


Senior Member
I think they can only really be used effectively as a bed, or inspiration. Not as the melodic writing, or the thematic writing. So more subtle phrase based libraries are probably more desirable. Sotto is a good example of a subtle phrase based library.
Many of the phrases in Sotto are closer to a texture library and can be used much like EVOs and such. I also have Largo and it is far less useful to me in general because its phrases have too much motivic definition to be used effectively that way.


New Member
I find OT's Orchestral String Runs and Cinesample's Hollywoodwinds useful as well as the atonal and run stiff in Vivace. I must admit I have been sucked in more than once thinking I was going to get a useful tool to speed things up but it rarely does. I do find phrases useful in certain circumstances. Some of the stuff in Action Strings add some nice spice and percussion loops can be good but more often than not these libs end up in the category of regret purchases and I would say rarely justify the cost for the amount of use. It's funny though because my 3 year old was watching some kid show recently and all the music was just some guy hitting a key and playing phrases from Vivace! I just shook my head.