Anyone use BBCSO for orchestral sketches?

Does anyone use BBCSO to create rough orchestral sketches of your musical ideas? If so, do you create ensembles of instruments to use for melodies, other ensembles for accompaniment/accents, and others for bass, etc.? What ensembles would you recommend for sketching? BBCSO Core is the only high quality sample library I own, so any suggestions or advice is very much appreciated -- thanks!



  • Retro, London, great tips -- thank you!

    Retro, I like your "3 piano" tip. I'm assuming each piano could play melody, accompaniment, or accents/ostinatos and that these roles are switched at the composer's will, correct? I like the "5 finger" max tip too when setting up the strings (sounds like I will have to check out Spitfire's Originals). Maybe use 4 fingers max for winds and 5-6 max for brass (maybe more if you use more horns?)?

    London, your "racks" idea is what I was looking for. Thanks very much for posting that image -- very helpful. With my DAW (Cakewalk) I can setup racks and then use the MIDI ECHO button on each track to enable or disable any instrument within a rack, so I can reduce the issue with a rack taking up too much of the frequency space. Breaking up the sections into "high" and "low" would also likely help (I'll try this out too). Have you ever combined instruments from different sections to create a rack? For example, I like the instruments Strauss combined to play the main melody of the Blue Danube (bassoon, horn, violins, celli). Do you think it would be useful to put those instruments in their own rack to use for softer melodies in sketches?


  • Yes - that's the idea. A piano doesn't have to just play chords, it can do counterpoint with three or four voices split equally or unequally between the hands, have chords in the right and ostinati in the left, or chords in the left and decoration in the right, or decorative figures in both.

    I think my point was more that, rather than worry about voicing "the whole orchestra", if your winds "piano" sounds ok, and your strings "piano" sounds ok and your brass "piano" sounds ok (of course by reference to the underlying harmony), then they'll probably (not always) be good to go when played together. You can also sketch "a hand at a time" - i.e. do the left hand of the strings first, then record the right hand strings over that. Same thing with woods (LH = bassoon and clarinet, RH = oboe and flute).

    I think, with brass, there's possibly a case to be made that it is two pianos in its own right. So one piano = French Horns doing one thing, and the other piano = trombones in the left hand and trumpets in the right, doing a different thing (that's how it sits in my head anyway). Or maybe you could see it as bones in the left, French horns in the right, with trumpets doing their own thing.

    None of this is meant to stand up to intense scrutiny or be treated as gospel - it's just a heuristic idea that hopefully makes "the orchestra" a bit less intimidating by reducing it to three (or four) pianos made up of six (or eight) hands.

    PS - The slight note of caution I would sound over "racks" is that you'll end up with one midi "performance" triggering all the instruments in the rack and that can sound a bit artificial and synthy (not always, but there is a risk). It might be the case that (for example) what you are doing in your left hand for strings (i.e. bass and cello) is doubled by your left hand for brass (trombones), but I would take the extra time to record another midi track for the brass just to add a bit of unpredictability (and therefore realism). This will also prompt you to stop and think about whether you actually do want to double - e.g. you might have a repeated 4 note rhythm going in the celli and consider doubling on the trombones, but actually the best musical answer might be to have the trombones play only the first note of each four note group.

    PPS - I have ignored the tuba and piccolo (and other "extended" instuments) as they are a bit like table salt - bad for the blood pressure if added unthinkingly; )

  • I left a lengthy post here, but it is now gone. Not sure why it was deleted.

  • Yes, so combining racks does have a problem of sounding synthy, so I recommend using it for sketch only, and then record them separately if you have time/if it does sound synthy.

    As for specific instrument combining, however combination you want to put, whether it be by range or style or timbre, it's up to you if you want to do so! The biggest reason why I used a rack by range most often is because it makes mixing so much easier. But experiment with other types of racks as well, BBCSO core sometimes sounds great out of the box, so mixing is only a thing you should worry about if it is for a much more... professional(ish)? track

  • Jonathan, would you be able to just reiterate the "bottom line" of your post that was lost? Thanks!

  • Unify is a great tool for building ensemble patches out of BBCSO. Plugin Guru's CoreStation has some interesting content as well.

  • Or Kushview Element could also build ensemble patches. It's currently on sale for $2.99, normally $5.00.