I was pretty excited when I’ve read that Spitfire Audio was launching a new library based on Bernard Herrmann orchestration techniques and combinations. Why? Well, pretty easy, Spitfire is one of the world’s best and most creative samples and virtual instruments companies out there and Bernard Herrmann is definitely one of the most important and creative composers of the 20th century.
Even though you don’t know who Bernard Herrmann was, for sure you know some of his music: he was the composer of the scores of titles like Psycho, Vertigo and Taxi Driver. He used very innovative orchestral techniques and combinations of instruments for his scores and this Spitfire Library definitely reflects on that.
First things first
You should be aware that this is a huge library, and I mean, 136Gb, so, it’s gonna take a while to download, I mean, a couple of days in the best case scenario. Also, this is a Kontakt library and works with Kontakt version 5.5 and above, both the full Kontakt version and the Free Kontakt Player. So, if you are using an older version, well, the time has come for you to update!
The GUI, is beautiful, like every Spitfire instrument out there. I mean, these guys, have a really good taste and it reflects even before you play a note. You’ll find 24 different patches and combis as well as an advanced folder with extended techniques, individual articulations, legato techniques, other patches, and synths. Plus, a Stereo mixes folder with somehow lighter patches that don’t have the multi-mic mixer option.
Speaking of multi-mic options, there are two ways of mixing and matching. An Easy mix which shows up by default, that has a slider to balance between close and ambiance mics. If you click on the advanced view, you’ll find a mixer with much more control over the mics.
You’ll find two different closed mics (different balance of the instruments), two Decca-Tree arrays, an ambient stereo pair and a stereo pair of outriggers. So, in this mixer, you can select the mics you wanna use and balance them as you wish.
Every patch also has multiple articulations like legato, long, shorts, tremolos, pizzicatos, chords and special effects. As you would expect, there are controls for dynamics, vibrato, release time, artificial reverb and expression. You can map this using MIDI CC with MIDI learn function.
However, by default, dynamics are mapped to Mod wheel and expression is mapped to CC# 11 (expression pedal), and in my particular workflow, this is how I work best, so I’m not planning on changing any of those. You can also change articulations on the fly using notes or CC#.
Well, I must say, these patches are just amazing! They sound incredible without tweaking anything. You won’t find any solo instruments (except for the Ondes Martenot and the synth patches, of course). These are all about ensembles and unique instruments combinations like trumpet and xylophone or harp and celeste, which instantly reminds you of the Bernard Herrmann music.
You get ensembles for the entire orchestra, high strings, low strings, low strings and horns (instant favorite of mine), low strings and trombone, piccolos and flutes, concert flutes, mixed flutes, flutes and clarinets, low winds, Cor Anglais clarinet and trumpet, oboes bassoons and horns (another unique combination), trumpet and xylophone, horns, mid brass, trombones, trombones and timpani, harp and celeste, harp and vibraphone, ondes Martenot, percussion and timpani.
On the synth side of things, these are sampled out of classic vintage synths and re-amped, so, you’ve got the straight DI signal, different amps (Marshall, Leslie) and room mics. Of course, you also get all the usual synth stuff like LPF, HPF, Envelope, LFOs, portamento/glide plus an FX section.
One really cool feature is the Ostinatum view. This works with short articulations, and it’s basically a mix between an arpeggiator and a sequencer. You choose the length and the musical values and then, when you play a note or chord it will work as an arpeggiator, cool, right?
Of course, you get to choose the mode in which notes will be played, that’s ascending, descending or as played.
Needless to say, you can route every mic to separate channels and bring back to your bus, let’s say all the ambiance mics in a separate bus.
Well, this library sounds great and those unexpected instruments combinations are really inspiring! After a couple of hours experimenting with this I came up with a pretty decent 40 seconds track inspired by Bernard Herrmann music, but, of course, you don’t need to make suspense music with this!
All ensembles would work great in any kind of score, and as a matter of fact, I’m already using the Studio Orchestra patch in a production I was working on! I just changed the VSL strings patch I was using with this one and it immediately sounded better. Besides, we are talking about very expressive patches and indeed very flexible.
This doesn’t sound like a 60s orchestra, not at all, it sounds modern, and besides, it was recorded in Air studios with world class musicians, so, quality is assured! Despite the unexpected combis, you can still pretty much balance that using the close mics.
Anyway, it’s not like this is gonna be your only Kontakt library, it’s not meant for that, but, you can come up with awesome things just by using this.
You can listen to the demo I’ve made. It took me about an hour and used only 8 patches. No external processing at all, not even reverb or limiter in the master, nothing! Just the raw Bernard Herrmann Composer Toolkit sounds. I’ve used the High Strings patch with the 2nd minor Trill and spiccato articulations, the Low Strings and Horns using long and short articulations, Piccolo and Flutes, just using the Legato articulation, Percussion, Studio Orchestra with Long and the exp cluster Fx articulations, Low Strings using the Pizzicato Bartok in conjunction with the Ostinatum, Harp and Celeste with the Common chords articulation and Timpani using the soft stick Roll.
There’s no mix involved, just raw sound!
This Kontakt library by no means will be your only orchestral library. It is very flexible and very complete, but, we are talking about ensembles and are combis. It sounds amazing, and it is very inspiring and easy to use. So, you get all those wonderful orchestral ensembles and combis, plus a selection of vintage synths and an Ondes Martenot, with all the articulations you’d expect and more, multi-mic routable setup for an amazing price.
If you work as a composer for media, you should not think about it for a second, Go ahead and get this beautiful library and you’ll end up using it more than you can imagine. Trust me!