Is This the End of the Road for Sampling?

Sampling Kontakt 8dio Spitfire

Is this the end of the road for sampling?

So how would you feel if I said all the sampled instruments you’re ever going to own, exist already? There will be no more. That’s it. Have fun.

It’s not completely true, but it is probably largely true. The essential problem is obvious if you think about it. Every new library has to do something better than it’s predecessor and that means more money and more time to develop. However as most people already have the earlier libraries they are saying, is this so much better that I need to spend another load of money on another string library? While for some people the answer will be yes, for a growing proportion the answer is no.

So sample developers spend more and more satisfying the needs of a smaller and smaller section of the market. There must come a point where it is clear that there is no point in going on. 8Dio, Spitfire, Cinesamples, East West – they’re all in the same boat.

This is pretty evident in the market. The big releases have slowed down dramatically and with the exception of 8Dio’s century brass and strings, and some new solo strings libraries, there are no big new orchestral libraries on the horizon that I know of.

There’s no really new technology to propel a new generation of samples forward. Computers don’t realistically offer any barrier in terms of memory or CPU any more. My 14 core PC with 64gbs of ram and 3Tbs of SSDs can run pretty much anything East West can throw at it. But the basic design of sampled instruments using streaming technology, legato transitions, keyswitches etc remain more or less the same. 8Dio is combining sample modelling and conventional sampling and we will see if that yields a major leap forward.

Control is definitely an area that could be improved. Nobody loves keyswitches. Velocity control is a pretty blunt instrument. The VSL way of stacking instruments both across keyswitches and over the mod-wheel is very difficult to use accurately in real time as well. So finding better ways of switching intuitively between articulations is still something almost all libraries can improve on. I listen to a lot of student’s work and the number of composers who load one articulation and stick to it through thick and thin, is surprising.

What is growing are the quirky libraries which add something really new. Spitfire’s Evo series is a great example. 8Dio have always been big into small strange libraries. In their early days that’s how they made their name. Maybe that’s the point.

Remember all these libraries, without exception, have their origins in composers feeling the need to create better samples for themselves. Nic Phoenix, Thomas Bergerson, Troels Folmann, Christian Henson, Mike Patti – they were looking for something they couldn’t find and so created it themselves.

So the question is what as composers do we want next? It’s not going to be yet another big orchestral library. Maybe it’s time to go back to our roots and make our own sounds. Sound design – mangling audio and using found sounds to create new music. Programming our own samples so we have unique libraries.

Maybe even, the only thing that consistently trumps a sampled instrument.
Live players…… Bring it on.

About the Author
Guy Michelmore

Guy Michelmore

Guy Michelmore is the company director of ThinkSpace Education. He is also an Emmy nominated composer, specializing in music for television and film.


If you enjoyed this, why not check out Cinematic Orchestration?

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