Today we’ll have a little special as I had the pleasure to exclusively test a pre-release version of an upcoming SONUSCORE library called SUSTAINED STRING CHORDS. In fact, this review is not only about one but two libraries since I’m also reviewing another one of Sonuscore’s free products: ORCHESTRA CHORDS. So without further ado, let’s get into it and see what we’re dealing with!
Both libraries, Orchestra Chords (which is already available) and the brand-new Sustained String Chords are FREE libraries, Sonuscore is giving away in return for a newsletter subscription. Both instruments are rather lightweight, occupying not more than 400MB together. These two neat little sample libraries serve a very particular purpose: to spice up your compositions with some orchestral realism and warmth. As both names suggest, Orchestra Chords lets you play chords performed by a full-blown symphonic orchestra, while Sustained String Chords offers something similar using a symphonic string section only. On top of providing full tutti chords, both products also let you play just certain sections or rather ranges of the orchestra. Read more on that in the IN USE section below.
Both Orchestra Chords and Sustained String Chords are quite simplistic in design and use and work pretty much the same, which is why I’ll explain their use in one go. The libraries’ interfaces are very straightforward, each providing just one control for the amount of reverb you want to dial in and a display showing you whether you’re triggering a major or minor chord.
Using just one key in the keyrange from C1 to B1, you’re able to trigger fully arranged and voiced orchestral chords in both major and minor. The chord’s nature is defined by the velocity you’re hitting a given key with. Velocities from 1 to 79 will trigger a major chord while anything above triggers a minor chord. Both instruments provide you with full-range chords as well as their symphonic ranges broken up among three octaves from C2 to B4. For Sustained String Chords, you get three different string sections: Low, Mid and High Strings. Orchestra Strings works a little bit different but still quite similar. On the keyrange between C3-B3, you’ll get full orchestral chords including strings, woodwinds and brasses, to which you can add a low Celli and Basses layer (C2-B2) as well as a High Strings Layer (C4-B4). As mentioned before, using the keys between C1 and B1 triggers all three sections of either library in combination.
Using Orchestra Chords and Sustained String Chords is super easy since you just need to know very few controls and functions to master the instruments. This makes them a really helpful tool if you want to quickly sketch a chord progression or flesh out an existing composition with a rich and powerful chordal bed.
The sounds for Sonuscore’s free libraries were recorded with the renowned Brandenburg State Orchestra in cooperation with award-winning audio engineers at GENUIN. This top-class combination of orchestral forces turns out to be a good match when listening to the sound of the instruments. The chords of both libraries have a very cohesive and well-balanced sound to them. They are mindfully orchestrated and voiced-out to let every instrument in the orchestra shine through nicely. The overall sound of both libraries is more on the natural and warm side without being too hyped and in-your-face. It still feels very rich and cinematic though and reminds me of the amazing orchestral soundscapes of Hollywood composers like Howard Shore (Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Spotlight) and Harry Gregson-Williams (Chronicles Of Narnia, Shrek, Metal Gear Solid).
Using the modwheel, you can control the dynamics and expression of the libraries in order to play beautiful arcs and transitions. While we’re not talking about multiple sampled dynamic layers and round robins (the libraries are for free after all), you can perform quite realistic sounding accompaniments with them.
Sonuscore – Free Orchestra Chords Audio Demos
While we’re on the modwheel: Sonuscore‘s upcoming library, Sustained String Chords, offers a little extra. When holding a note, you can turn the modwheel up from its base position to about halfway up to get a normal, sustained string chord. Pushing the wheel up further towards its maximum position, a second tremolo layer is introduced and mixed in gradually. This results in a beautifully vivid and animated string sound. While the layered tremolo version can get quite powerful, the plain sustain portion of the strings is a bit on the low-level side. It would have been great to get the sustains to grow a bit louder before the tremolos kick in but I guess I’m getting a bit nit-picking here. Plus you get straight low and high string sustains with the other free library, so everything is alright.
One last thing might be worth noting though: both libraries are missing a super-loud fff dynamic at the top of their ranges. However, since they are designed to work mostly as tonal beds and lush backgrounds it’s not that big of a deal.
Both libraries, Orchestra Chords and the new Sustained String Chords are very easy to use and offer a rich, cinematic orchestral sound which blends well with existing arrangements. The instruments serve a focused purpose of enriching and warming up your orchestral compositions and they are doing very well at it. While not being the most elaborate and deeply sampled libraries on the market, both tools are able to provide you with quite a realistic and authentic sound, given the fact that you can ride the expression and dynamics using your modwheel. The orchestra’s amazing tonal balance can be hard to achieve with sampled instruments and is definitely one of these libraries’ big advantages.
Oh – and did I mention you get them both for free? What you’re waiting for? Sign up for that newsletter already 🙂