Fig. 1. Instant Orchestra installs as a library in ARIA, Garritan’s virtual instrument sample player.
Creating orchestral cues can be a time-consuming task. Even with templates loaded into your DAW or scoring program, it still takes time just to get a sound out of the machine. Such deliberation is tolerable when working without a pressing deadline, but what about film scoring and video game work, where speed is essential? And how about spit-balling with a group of creative types, where the goal is to get ideas out fast and rough? During such times, the plodding work of orchestration can cause inspiration to flag, and collaborators to become antsy.
Enter Garritan Instant Orchestra, whose name says it all and without exaggeration. This library is to orchestrators what loop collections are to DJ, dance, and groove arrangers: a way to create instant music that get you well more than halfway to your goal. Packed into this package is a complete collection of orchestral instruments, mixed ensembles, layers, blends (with morphing functionality between component instruments), and special effects. Every patch is finished-sounding and designed to save you time and effort.
Instant Install Instant Orchestra is a library that plays through ARIA, Garritan’s virtual instrument sample player that installs both as a DAW plug-in (VST, RTAS, and AU) and a standalone application. ARIA’s well-designed interface includes an onscreen keyboard (complete with three pedals!), a multichannel mixer, ambient effects, a controller section (with EQ, CC, ADSR, and more), a MIDI file player, and a wave file generator (see Figure 1). In standalone mode, you can use ARIA’s MIDI file player and a collection of user-created MIDI files to audition various textures, if launching a DAW and hooking up a keyboard are not feasible (such as on an airplane). As a plug-in, mapping DAW controllers allows you to record controller moves in smoother ways than the standalone’s controls provide, which is essential for the blended textures. ARIA has many virtues, but we’ll stick with discussing Instant Orchestra.
In addition to a complete arsenal of collections for the four main orchestra families (winds, brass, percussion, and strings), Instant Orchestra also includes an extensive collection of keyboards, choirs, and harps. People familiar with Garritan’s other instrument libraries will not be disappointed, as the quality of the core sounds here is excellent and highly useful for conventional scoring. The aspect that’s so unique about Instant Orchestra, though, is the way the programmers have “taken the next step” in arranging, and cannily grouped instruments together in a variety of sections, or imbued them with idiomatic characteristics. The harps, for example, have several different glissando approaches and strummed chords, and can be easily fashioned to a given harmonic setting.
Fig. 2. Instant Orchestra includes conventional orchestral families (winds, brass, percussion, strings), additional instruments (choirs, harps, and keyboards), and specialty patches (Blending Textures, Effects Patches, and Mixtures).
Orchestral Oddities The really fun stuff is found in the categories of Blending Textures, Effects Patches, and Mixtures (Figure 2). This is where the “Instant” in Instant Orchestra becomes operable. A patch creates a full-orchestra major, minor, diminished, augmented, or suspended chord with one note. It’s a great timesaver for block chord or pad writing. A patch called Easy Strings-Brass-Winds is set up so that the mod wheel morphs smoothly between the instrument families—a highly effective transition that’s impossible to achieve quickly any other way. Choirs blend (and morph) majestically with orchestras, and many of the same family layers (i.e., all brass) just sound amazing. Wagner Brass is one favorite example.
And just because we’re dealing with an orchestra doesn’t mean we can’t get weird. Instant Orchestra includes some delightfully sci-fi and otherworldly effects where simply holding down one or two notes creates moods that range from hypnotic to anxious to sinister. As bizarre as the sounds can get here, they retain an acoustically organic sound. There are power hits, portamento effects, and textures that evolve over time. Playing through the patches is a journey in inspiration.
Finished-Sounding Work a Breeze In Instant Orchestra, Garritan has produced a library of orchestral combinations and effects that is particularly suited for scoring film, video, and games, because it allows you to create quickly finished-sounding work—like 90 percent there. But you know how it goes: That 90 percent becomes 100 percent when someone in your midst suddenly declares, “We can’t improve on the demo. Print it!” And with Garritan Instant Orchestra, that will happen a lot.
STRENGTHS: Great core sounds, useful orchestral combinations, striking effects; integrates well with ARIA Player, making good use of the EQ, ADSR, and filter controls.
LIMITATIONS: None, especially considering the price.
Jon Chappell is a frequent contributor to Electronic Musician.