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Making ready-made ensembles with normal libraries


Senior Member

Since some time, there has been a lot of what I call "ready-made ensemble" libraries (elsewhere called "instant orchestra"), like Action Strings, Albion One, or the recent The Orchestra. These instruments allow to choose a type of ensemble, a rhythm, a "mood", and with just a keyswitch and a sequence of root notes allow for creating a full, credible orchestral mockup.

I wonder if one can create something similar with a "normal" library, that is, a sample library without any prerecorded phrase or arrangement. The idea would be to use either any included automatism, or a normal sequencer.

Take for example the instruments based on Kontakt. This sampler has a powerful scripting engine, and several arpeggiator-like scripts have been developed. Take the ability of all the sequencers to build regions, libraries of them, and how easy it is to copy and paste them on any new creation.

Or, take the VSL full libraries, including the APP Sequencer, with which one can build phrases and ensembles. I know there are some building materials already supplied, but I've not yet any idea of how this can compare with what is supplied with Albion One or The Orchestra.

Do we lazy people need dedicated "ensemble instruments", or can we do with more ordinary tools?

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Light and Sound

One suggestion, which is free, easy and fully customizable, is to use your DAW. Have a midi track and call it "vln, flute8va+bsn)" or something, which will send midi data not just to the main instrument (ie a vln1) but also send it to a flute, you can use a transformer to push it up an octave and maybe a bassoon down one octave (just as a random example). You can create many types of combinations like this, I do this with brass especially for minor/major triads between 3 different instruments for quick and accurate sketching, doesn't require any other mixing and if you want to tweak the balances you already have the midi data lines out for everything.

Just a suggestion :)


Senior Member
I've spent quite a lot of time on making "for purpose" patches with the libraries I own. By "for purpose" I mean that, rather than having a bunch of articulation-based patches, or a keyswitch patch, I have patches (usually, a track with several patches layered and configured in a particular way) which can then be played (i.e., notes, velocity, CC1, and maybe another CC) to create a convincing line of a particular style. For example, this was done entirely with a single monophonic keyboard line (V1, V2, and Va on different tracks with a set transposition) plus CC1:

That was one pass on the keyboard, no MIDI editing, no effects. For me, it sounds okay! I'm sure one might get better results, qua realism, other ways—but, this is quite a lot of fun to use, and fast too. I've also built patches/tracks that specialise in various different "run" sounds, as well as for arpeggios, rhythmic stuff, etc.

One thing that I would like to do eventually, which links to @Light and Sound's suggestion, is to build MIDI tracks which output to multiple instruments (e.g., especially of my most "playable" patches), but have those instruments set up so that they respond to distinct CCs for balance (or, have a single CC which triggers switching between different balance arrangements) so that just a couple of MIDI tracks could let you access a wide variety of textures (e.g., one track for strings-and-woodwinds, but with a variety of different instrument balances; another for rhythmic low strings, brass and woodwinds, with different balances available at the turn of a knob).

Of course, this stuff takes time to set up, but it does have the benefit of sounding "how you want it" rather than how the developer envisioned any particular texture ought to sound.

Edit: playlist with various of my raw tests of this kind of patch...

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Ruffian Price

Active Member
I've got a Kontakt multi set up that layers Jasper Blunk's 2016 string freebie, horns from Angry Brass and ML Brass from this thread and gives me a nice tutti marcato to layer under solo lines. Add multiscripts to that (Poly Step, maybe?) and you've got your own freeware orchestral arpeggiator.


Senior Member
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Modal, you example sounds very good indeed!

I'm thinking that one could, in Logic, create transposing chords adapting to the selected scale, thanks to the Transposer MIDI plugin. I don't know how flexible it is, but it may be worth trying it.



Winter <3
In Logic you can use temporary Track Stacks... I do this all the time...

There are two kinds, Summing Stacks and Folder Stacks. The Summing Stacks are like a submix bus. The Folder Stacks are more useful. Anything you put in a Folder Stack will still send audio to whatever bus or output you've chosen. But, the Folder Stack has a MIDI track that controls all the instruments inside. You can use this track to record actual notes, or keyswitches, or CC data (or any combination of these).

Here's an example of how to use this... let's say you have a viola part playing tremolo and then it splits into divisi tremolos. To make the divisi work, I create two viola tracks, put the MIDI on each track, then drag them into a Folder. Then I record my keyswitch and CC1 data on the Folder's midi track. This means the two sections are crescendoing and decrescendoing in the exact same way. It also means if I want to change the CC1 curve and try out something else, it's half the work: I change the Folder, instead of changing each viola section and having to flip back and forth to make sure they match. When I'm done, I drag the region with the CC data onto both tracks and get rid of the folder.

Logic has a very nice workflow for temporarily and nondestructively "merging control" of multiple tracks at the same time, this way.

Another use of this is to put two different instruments inside a folder, and then record yourself playing on the Folder track. So you can have a flute and bassoon in octaves for instance; just put an instance of MIDI Transposer on the bassoon track and set it to -12.

The sky's the limit for this kind of stuff. I remember back in Symphobia 1 there was a preset called "Jeep Chase" or something like that, and it was copying John Williams' orchestrations from the Indiana Jones movies. You play one note, a C3 for instance, and it triggers the following notes:

C3 Trumpet staccato
Eb3 Trumpet staccato (by adding a transposer and setting it to +3)
G3 Trumpet staccato (+7)
C4 Woodwinds stacc (+12)
C4 Xylophone hit
Eb4 Woodwind stacc (+15)
Eb4 Xylophone hit
G4 Woodwind stacc (+19)
G4 Xylophone hit

The result is by just playing a few notes in sequence you have parallel minor chords with trumpets, woodwinds and xylophone in octaves. Tada! Instant Williams! ;)

All of this was handled smoothly inside of one Kontakt multi, but there's no reason you can't replicate the same thing with track stacks.


Winter <3
You can also take the opposite approach, btw.

Instead of merging tracks, you can create presets that load inside a single instance of Kontakt to create "pseudo ensembles."

I have done this with Mural Vol 1. I have a preset list of "Mural Trems," "Mural Flautandos," "Mural Harmonics," etc. And by loading one of these instruments, it loads a single instance of Kontakt that has Vln1, Vln2, Vla, Cello and Bass all playing (in their respective ranges).

Is this good orchestration? NOPE! But it gets the job done when I just need to load up some quick string harmonics or tremolos - Mural sounds great for this.


Senior Member
Modal, really nice sound. What library is that? I guess there are only a couple of libaries that could handle this in one pass.

Thanks. It's Berlin Strings (Main Library). The CAPSULE interface makes the kind of custom-building I describe particularly easy, but I've also made a similar setup with Hollywood Strings.


Active Member
Ptram - check out scripter, chord triger , etc in Logic X . You can stack these with the Arp as well and create your own ideas - save them as an instrument/performance. and what Noam has suggested.
I recently revisited this stuff after hearing The Orchestra and others and you can go along way towards making your own " presets " with what you already have.
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