Opus 2

I’ve realised that expecting a good VST to do all the work in making my music sound good is like buying a fine instrument and waiting for it to play itself. Hollywood Orchestra is a high-quality VST, but an excellent VST is just a VST with potential. In the end, the sound I get from it will depend on how much time I put in to understanding it.

I think an important part of using a VST orchestra is remembering that it’s not a real orchestra. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s something I missed while I was making ‘Onwards‘. I looked at pictures of orchestras to make panning decisions. I only used realistic combinations of instruments. And then I got frustrated when my adherence to orchestral norms didn’t pay off.

A VST orchestra isn’t an orchestra; it’s software. So far, the only rule I’ve found in my VST orchestra is that the rules don’t match those of a real orchestra.

I found a tutorial while I was looking for a way to improve the sound of my strings. A good chunk of it was jargon to me, but one sentence stood out: ‘All that matters is what sounds good.’

It really is. I need to stop thinking about real orchestras and spend more time learning from musicians who have experience in using VSTs. I’ve heard their VST-composed orchestral music, and it sounds incredible. I know it can be done—I’ll get there eventually.

2 thoughts on “Opus 2

  1. VST orchestras and VST instruments in general can be both a blessing and a pain. They sound like an orchestra but aren’t an orchestra. The problem I’ve found using VSTs is they offer a huge range of instruments and techniques but lack the one thing that makes them sound real: a human being.
    While it is true that VST aren’t a real orchestra and that we need to think of them as digital instruments, I wouldn’t entirely discount thinking about a real orchestra and more specifically, the performers in it. In other words, a VST will play the notes you write in your program of choice, but they don’t perform them – that’s up to the composer sitting at the computer keyboard(s). A real player can take in a crazy number of factors in a performance that a computer just can’t emulate with 1’s and 0’s. Recreating realistic performances is the concept of humanization and, I won’t lie, it’s something I’ve struggled with. Humanizing a part means literally playing each part (usually on a midi keyboard) while using multiple controls to emulate the volume, dynamics, expression, and more (the performance) of particular instrument.
    Now, I won’t claim to be one of those people who can make a VST orchestra sound realistic. I have to admit and humanization is a skill that I’m still learning (or more likely procrastinating learning…) but is a key to making VST’s sound real.
    Anyway, just some thoughts! Have a good one!


    • Hello! Thank you for dropping by. And thank you for the wonderful feedback you sent me. I’d like to reciprocate by giving you feedback, but I don’t think I have enough musical experience to give constructive criticism. I’ll have a go when I’ve been composing longer (if you don’t mind getting feedback from someone less experienced than yourself).

      When I first realised that VST orchestras existed, I thought they sounded too good to be true, and in a way, they were. There’s a steep learning curve there that I haven’t yet overcome. I still haven’t figured out how to change expression (unless it’s the ADSR envelope), but I’m much more comfortable with my VST than I was two months ago. I’m getting there.

      Thank you again for your feedback and your comment. I’m looking forward to updates on your blog.


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