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Live Instruments vs. Sample Libraries

Hey Friends!

So, as the digital age expands, VSTs (Virtual Studio Technology or virtual instrument sample libraries) have been on the rise and have been featured in almost innumerable media productions over the past decade. Among composers and producers, I’ve heard the opinions of those who favor orchestral VSTs over live musicians and those who consider themselves “purists” and reject the use of VSTs all together. Personally, I believe that virtual instrument libraries are a great tool for composing for media productions (movies, TV, Commercials, etc.), but will neither replace the skill of a musician nor the beauty of the instrument being played live.

In my humble opinion, there are pros and cons to both approaches. For example to hire a live orchestra can be very expensive, often costing thousands of dollars per session between paying the recording studio, engineers, musicians and an orchestrator or arranger should the need arise. The benefits however, are wonderful since you are able to have a professional orchestra play and record a piece of music you have written with pristine quality. On the other hand, virtual instrument libraries provide a way for composers to have the sound quality of a live orchestra at a fraction of the cost from the comfort of their own home. The downside however, is that since VSTs are sample-based virtual instrument libraries, they rely heavily on musicians and live instruments to play and record each note and articulation. While virtual instrument libraries can in many cases come close (if used correctly), they cannot fully imitate live musicians because they’re triggered samples and most times lack a human element. As composer who primarily uses VSTs simply due to convenience, I feel that one should use what is available to achieve the greatest quality instead of choosing one over another.

~ Joshua ~

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