I hope you’re well and looking forward to a bit of a read. In this post, I’ll be talking about virtual instruments and in my next post I’ll talk about sample libraries. These are a media composer’s best friend and also nemesis – I’ll explain about that in the next post.
Virtual instruments (VIs) are also called software instruments or software synthesisers (softsynths for short). They generate digital audio and can be standalone programmes or plug-ins that are opened within a digital audio workstation (I use Pro Tools). They can be an emulation of an existing instrument (like a Moog or Roland synthesiser), designed to create new sounds, or a piece of software designed to host other sounds (like sample libraries).
One of the industry’s leading (and one of my favourite) VI makers is Native Instruments. I use their Komplete bundle on almost everything I do. Kontakt, Absynth, Massive, and FM8 are absolute go-to instruments for me. I own and use many VIs and sample libraries but there is one that I use above all others, and that’s Kontakt. It’s a sampler that hosts sample libraries so that you can play anything from a drum to a piano to a full orchestra.
My other favourite VI is Keyscape by Spectrasonics. I used it exclusively on my album Cypher. Unlike Kontakt it is a standalone product – a VI and sample library in one.
Omnisphere by Spectrasonics is an example of a VI that allows you to play with waveforms and all sorts of settings to make your own sounds. You can do this in VIs like Massive and Absynth, too. They also come with premade patches that you can use as-is or tweak to make your own version of the sound. (In fact, Absynth has a “Mutate” button you press to randomly modify the patch you’ve loaded – it’s a lot of fun and a feature I use often). Sometimes it is necessary to use the sounds that come with a VI, but I prefer to make my own (or at least tweak them) if time allows.
Many sample library companies are now starting to make their own VIs – which is great, because they can be adapted to work perfectly for the sample library they’re hosting. However, sometimes it backfires; the VI can be clunky or drain too many resources from the computer. Spitfire Audio have made their own and it’s pretty good. It works especially well for their Evo Grid concept. An Evo Grid is a collection of samples that have subtle movement in them. They’re great for creating atmosphere and giving your music a sense of realism. You can also select different parts of the grid to change the sound so it makes it sound a little more unique.
Hopefully this has been interesting or useful or at least not entirely boring. If you have any questions or comments please do use the comment section below. I’ll be back tomorrow with a follow-up post about sample libraries.
Until then, TTFN.
*delete as applicable