With prices down and the economy slowly coming back, I’m getting more and more questions about which to get, Hollywood Strings Gold or Diamond.
I decided to start first with Gold for five reasons.
Reason 1: HS Gold is an easy library to learn to work with (one articulation per track), but a deep library to learn from an orchestration perspective. For example, HS is the only string library where you can actually create lines in four specific string positions (1-4). And as a result of that, it’s the only string library where you can actually setup aspects of working with the Spectrotone Chart!
This is unprecedented, not only for those writing for fun or fulfillment, but also for those writing competitively who need and want a “leg up” amidst all the composer competition out there! Obviously, this latter point isn’t very artistic, but I’ve never met a landlord or a mortgage banker who was.
The bowings (articulations) in Hollywood Strings are a big deal, bigger in fact, then most other libraries. In one review I defined this as being the language of the bow. What you have with Hollywood Strings that’s different from other libraries are multiple types of bowings, for example, staccato. What you learn from live performance and score study is that there are many different ways of playing staccato on the strings. Each approach is its own color (sound).
Most other libraries don’t give you so many choices. So you pick and use the “one” staccato you’ve been given.
With Hollywood Strings, you have choices. You can try out each one to pre-determine the bowing/sound you’re capable of achieving, and then begin writing and doing your MIDI mock-up.
And understand this. These are subtle choices. But that’s the whole point. In my reviews, I think I lose a few people when I say that with Hollywood Strings you’re now the virtual concertmaster of your work, because you can, literally, plan and pick your bowings, similar to an orchestra concertmaster.
One note. You don’t have to work this way. You can create a quick template (HS gives you a start in this area) and just go from there. But if you want to do more, you’re empowered and enabled to do so.
I went with Gold because I just wanted to master this level of fluency before taking on the more ambitious task of trying to learn this and work with Diamond’s multiple positions, the divisi strings, and the bow change legatos.
In short, basic vocabulary first.
Reason 2: HS Gold works well with LASS and the Symphobias. If I want to mix libraries, I can do it here with relative ease. At this stage for film/TV/game production, Hollywood Strings, LASS, and the Symphobias are the must haves for strings. It’s not one or the other.
Reason 3: This falls into the technology and bucks factor. I got the 12-Core Mac Pro to reduce the number of older GigaStudio machines in my studio. No more black spaghetti! Yea! To this I also needed to add Vienna Ensemble PRO which is its own learning curve, along with the Vienna Instruments player. With so much to learn, I just didn’t want to work out a combo Mac/PC solution where I was needing to master both OS 10 plus Windows 7 all at once. With the Mac Pro, I can also expand my RAM to 64GB and add external drives as needed for now. Then there’s tying it altogether with Logic!
So staying with Gold fit my requirements and being 16bit, it works well on 7200RPM drives. There is, of course, the 16bit vs 24bit concerns that some have. I don’t. A few can tell. Not many can. But for me it was more an issue of my time/learning curve vs. an extra 8bits.
With this is the development path of the entire Hollywood Series. I also have Hollywood Brass on my system. It’s evident that based on where Macs are today, that the optimum system for the Hollywood series is the recommended spec on the Soundsonline web site.
So my course of action is to expand later to a PC dedicated to Hollywood Strings alone and possibly a second system for the balance of the Hollywood System.
A Happy Note. Plenty of composers are happily running HS on an independent quad core system with exceptional results. So you don’t have to get a 6-core system to get great production results (whew!).
Reason 4: Then there’s the template thing. I think I’m a pretty fair orchestrator/arranger. I’m able to write in a variety styles. For what I’m now writing and producing, I’m not really interested in a 4,262 track template! Instead, I’m more concerned about templates based on a genre of music or specific ensemble types. For example, why do I need a multi-hundred track template to write for a woodwind quintet? Or a brass quintet? Or a string quartet or quintet? How about a rock ensemble with horn section?
What I’m doing and what I’m teaching others is to build your string section template with all HS Gold. Then do some short test pieces of 4-12 bars to work through and learn the bowings.
There’s a good reason for my madness.
If you can build an entire, or a majority of your string template with HS and PLAY, then you eliminate system integration issues between Native Instrument’s Kontakt and the rest of the civilized world’s virtual instrument players.
I want to see Violins 1 and all the bowings for that section in one place. Then Violins 2, and so on.
Every section needs the same starting bowings: legato, detache, spiccato, staccato, pizzicato, (the big five), then trills and tremolo followed by specialty bowings like snap (Bartok) pizzicato, harmonics, sul ponticello, sul tasto, col legno, et al. Then, lest we forget, muted strings use the same bowings as do divisi strings.
To this we must adjust for the realities of sample libraries and add to our list programs that allow for repeated notes (round robins).
Applying this thinking to Hollywood Strings Gold only, for just the Big Five Bowings, that’s a minimum 25-30 track template allowing for 5-6 bowings per section. Just to get going, my starting point is:
- SUS X RR 4th Position (you pick the number of layers)
- Marcato Short
- Marcato Long
Once you’ve learned these bowings and have the sound in your ears, then you can expand by adding more bowings, and later with Hollywood Strings Diamond, more mic positions. If you haven’t decided yet, download the manual and go to page 36 which has the list of bowings to choose from. Here you’ll see choices for upbows, downbows, first-fourth positions, measured tremolos, tremolos, trills and a lot more!
You are clearly spoilt for choice which leads me to…
Reason 5: Odd as this may sound, I just wanted to settle back and enjoy the learning process while I developed my own electronic sound. ( If you need to learn Hollywood Strings quickly, I just saved you a bunch of time by describing how. Following either my method or Hollywood Strings starting template choices, you can be operating very quickly.) There is a bi-modal “commercial” (I hate that word) reason.
First, is for me to stand out from other writers. And let’s be honest, that’s a cold clear reality we all deal with. We all have the same libraries. So how do we stand out from each other? I know you’ll hate this next phrase, but that’s the sales issue for getting gigs.
Second is looking at myself as a composer through a different window, that as an artist. For the first time in the history of music, the composer stands independent of his dependency on a local symphony (or better!) of granting either a commission or the opportunity of having an original orchestral work performed. Now you can create the work, create your own electronic performance of it, market it as a work, and potentially market your score and parts for resale (or parts rental) to various ensembles.
The Independent Composer. A radical change, for sure, but one that you can avail yourself to with Hollywood Strings and the succeeding libraries of Brass (now shipping), woodwinds (in development at this writing) and, I believe, percussion.
Once you’ve mastered HS Gold, should you upgrade?
I’ll answer that question with a true story. A colleague of mine in London is good friends with the conductor of a well known orchestra in Europe. For fun, he sent the conductor a short piece he had done using Hollywood Strings Diamond. The conductor wrote back complimenting him on the work and wanted to know which orchestra had performed it.
Now that’s a story with my kind of happy ending!