Real Orchestra vs Synth Mockup – Part 6/6


This is the sixth part in a small series of blog posts I’ll make about the real-world differences between orchestral mockups (or synth orchestras) versus real orchestras. As a composer who is fortunate to work regularly with live orchestras, I’ll try to help show the difference from a decent demo recording, to a mixed and mastered finished recording. For this example, I’ve chosen an exciting track from my album “Resonance Theory” called “Forever Lost”. The synth version was my demo – with live cello (my instrument) and lots of synth work.

For this, I don’t think the samples sound too bad. Sure, they aren’t in isolation, but the slower writing lends itself well to samples. However, the differences, for me, are in the emotion. Sometimes, even if the tone of the sound is the same – you can be fooled into thinking it’s a real orchestra. But with the same notes, and the same instruction, a real orchestra will breathe emotion into your piece where you didn’t expect it.

If you listen to the full piece (link below), it starts with a quartet – the first players on each desk – then as the piece grows – the full orchestra softly comes in for effect. I wanted to go from this black and white painting, to a widescreen colour picture. All you need is contrast & colour.

That’s it for now – but if you’re interested I will keep on putting up posts about the differences, my learnings, and any tips I may have on working with orchestras. I’m still learning and never expect to stop, and these collaborations and their learnings, I’m convinced will make you a better composer. Try to get out there and help your musician friends breathe some life into your music.

Live Orchestra 6 – Synth Orchestra 0. Live orchestra WINS!


Tom Player

3 thoughts on “Real Orchestra vs Synth Mockup – Part 6/6

  1. – Well, this track is just awesome,first – I think we will all agree in the end that live is better but maybe the point is relevance? Like, in 24Hours action scenes, who will tell a really good fake from a live one ? And does it matter ? of course it does matter in the middle of a journey sequence from Lord of the Rings, And with the growing use of hybrid (to give sub to the basses, punch to the drums,…), in the end, some kind of new orchestral sound seems to be coming up, that synth alone can’t reproduce, but that live orch alone can’t reproduce either.

  2. I appreciate your efforts in this series, and I believe that a live orchestra will usually sound better than a sample-based mockup, especially with the players and locations you have the great fortune to record with. However, your mockups really never had a chance in this competition. This could be due to the sample libraries you used, or maybe the amount of time you were able to spend on the mockups. Today’s orchestral sample libraries are truly amazing in their realism and depth. They are also like any musical instrument, and require a great deal of practice and experience to make them sound excellent. This applies to the DAW software as well.

    To get a taste of what can really be done with a mockup, just listen to the demos provided by the orchestral sample library companies. Many, if not most, are simply stunning in their realism. Many of these demos are done by composers outside of the companies as well. You mentioned Spitfire Audio in your Part 1 comment. Their libraries are recorded at AIR Lyndhurst, most likely with some of the same musicians you use on your recordings. They all have the wonderful acoustics of that hall baked in, and on their own have no need for additional reverb and processing (which can be an art in itself with mockups). Have a listen to their demos, and other libraries as well, and you will have a real appreciation of what a good mockup can sound like. Also, Spitfire and several other companies pay royalties to the musicians with the sales of their libraries.

    By the way, I really enjoyed your music in this series.

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