Tech Tip:How Can I Use My Sampled Orchestral Sounds To Sound More Like An Orchestra?

Orchestral instrument samples can't sound exactly like the real thing, but they can sound fairly close. Be sure to play the sample within the range of the acoustic instrument. Use phrasing and dynamics appropriate to the instrument. MIDI volume can add expression to phrasing. Don't sustain wind instrument samples beyond a performer's breath capacity. Avoid playing anything on a sample that can't be played on the actual instrument. Ranges and idiomatic instrument usage can be found in orchestration books, which are tremendously helpful. Books on MIDI orchestration are even more to the point.


When an instrument is sampled with vibrato and played more than a half-step above or below the note at which it was sampled, the speed of the vibrato might be noticeably faster or slower. This is especially evident on woodwind samples. In such instances, use samples recorded without vibrato, and add the vibrato with a LFO or pitch-bend wheel.


Stereo samples are unrealistic; use mono samples, and pan them to simulate a stage setup. Reverb can simulate front-to-back placement, and add hall ambience. Examples of orchestral seatings can be found in orchestration books.


If some samples were recorded close-mic, and others were recorded overhead, the difference will be noticeable. Similarly, samples recorded with effects processing will sound unlike samples recorded dry. Use effects processing to make them compatible. Orchestras perform with a very wide dynamic range, so dynamic compression is unstylistic.