A Question Considered: L.A. Scoring Strings vs. Hollywood Strings

By • July 8, 2009

I was nailed – publicly and internationally with a question posed on my Facebook page which asked, “Hi Peter, LASS or EW Hollywood Strings.” No question mark was included.

This question came at a time when I was seriously involved with making the big decision for the July 4th weekend: which Memphis dry rub recipe was I going to use on the ribs? As a native Virginian, I can attest to the seriousness of this question. Pork is as important in the Old Dominion as bull is in Washington, DC and Hollywood.

And now a marketing observation filled with culinary opportunities and sales insight – the juices are stirring.

Or as one British general is reported to have written to his superiors in the 19th century – the natives are restless.

Oh how they are whenever a new orchestral library is introduced with another humming in the wings. Speculation abounds. Posts mount. Arguments ensue. Sides are drawn. A duel is declared. Pistols are selected! March ten paces, turn and fire.

It is the orchestral library version of Hamilton vs. Burr.

But who is the victor?

As ungrammatical as this may be expressed, you is.

That’s because working professionals will avoid the tastes great/less filling duel inspiring chatter and simply buy both.

It’s as boringly simple as that. And here’s why.

A working composer’s first loyalty is to his (or her!) career. If a new library moves you to a higher level to help you get more writing gigs, you buy it. If two new libraries come along that add to your edge, you buy both. Then you work with them and integrate them into your template to create what the late Shirley Walker called, your signature sound.

L.A. Scoring Strings and Hollywood Strings are, for the very first time, the first full string libraries released commercially that were actually recorded in Los Angeles in classic studio and scoring stage settings by people actively involved in various aspects of film/TV scoring.

It doesn’t get any better than that, unless either EastWest or Mr. Keresztes at L.A. Scoring Strings decides to include a $20 Gift Certificate for Domino’s Pizza. Given the late hours composers work away from their families, that kind of promotion could be a real deal closer!

The good news financially for composers is that the release of each library is separated by a few months, giving everyone time to save for the next one.

Whew! Hallelujah!

Now, some top-of-mind benefits from what’s been posted.

L.A. Scoring Strings uses the new Kontakt 3.5 player and operates within Kontakt 3.5. Hollywood Strings uses the PLAY software instrument player.

Having full sectionals and divisi at hand in one package is a time management blessing.

Both libraries are recorded in studio/scoring stage locales, so blendability with other string, brass, woodwind and percussion libraries should be quite high.

Mr. Keresztes has a number of varying sized ensembles to choose from: solo strings that enable the creation of both the string quartet and string quintet, full string sections, and smaller recorded ensembles within each section that allow for both chamber and divisi application.

With EastWest, there are the announced full sectional ensembles, divisi A/B breakdowns within each string section, and five mic position choices to create a custom sound.

All good!

If there’s a serious determinator for both companies it’s the economy and price.

Mr. Keresztes announcement that for about two-three weeks, the pre-release price was $999 met with wide appreciation. Not that everyone didn’t feel that the 34GB LASS was worth more, but that most figured they could come up with a $1000 or less. A higher price than that, as a number of working composers expressed to me privately, would have been a hardship in these rough financial times.

We must also consider the marketing sales reality that a large percentage of the buying professional market is in Los Angeles. At one time, Film Music Magazine estimated that there were 8,000 to 10,000 composers in Los Angeles looking to break in.

Now factor in that the state of California is in such bad shape with its $24.3 billion budget deficit that it began issuing on July 2, 2009, IOUs to citizens (including composers) who are due tax refunds. Tax refunds spur library and hardware purchases for composers.

Apple wants your credit card, not your California State IOU. I suspect that both EastWest and Mr. Keresztes will have the same monetary policy.

In California, the sales tax rate has gone up, as has the Tele/Productions tax break. It is not wholly unthinkable that the state of California could go bankrupt.

So price is a real factor.

And then there are the musical factors.

Both have muted string elements.

Both have divisi.

And let’s be compositionally honest, divisi strings are the Holy Grail of MIDI Mockups. Today it takes a lot of time to mock up divisi passages and make them sound right. The advertising says these two new libraries solve that problem, but each in different ways that expand musical voice and vocabulary.

Read for yourself:

L.A. Scoring Strings

EastWest Hollywood Strings

In fairness. LASS is completed and is going to duplication. Demos are posted and more coming. The recording for Hollywood Strings has been completed and programming is now in process. There are no demos available at this time. Pricing and release date have not been announced.

Despite taxing issues and other economic woes, it is a good time for composers, even if it’s a bad time, “out there.” One library is off to duplication with demos posted and another on the near horizon with programming having just begun.

What can be better for composers than to have great tools that enable us to create beautiful music to lift the human spirit, even our own, in ways and with vocabulary in this electronic medium that have not been readily available before.

Comments

By Torley on July 11th, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I appreciated this article, not just because it provided useful info, but because it was structured very punchily β€” short paragraphs helped me move from key point to key point. (And I’m lookin’ fer some strings!) Hats off to you, Peter. And thank-you.

By Peter Alexander on July 12th, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Thank you for the compliment, I appreciate it!

Peter

By Chris on July 14th, 2009 at 12:00 pm

peter,

good article and you are right price IS a factor and even if you are making good money composing there is a limit to what I will pay these days for sample libraries as I already have great resources which i have yet to mine completely so there has to be a great bang for the buck factor. keeping in mind that the sound developers have to make a buck too. just my 2 cents.

By Oliver F. Koelling on July 16th, 2009 at 4:49 am

Peter,
great article..very informative and well structured. Your right with your considerations about money and the cost of such good inventions like these new string librarys. We all.. also here in europe fighting with higher living cost and so on.. I have already great and a lot of actually fine resources regarding strings.. but I as professional composer looking always for some new strings libs. to create the maximum of realism for mockups demos from my scores.

By David on October 9th, 2009 at 12:33 am

Way to stay neutral.

By Alexander van Bubenheim on February 11th, 2010 at 8:12 am

Thank you Peter

i like your article.
I agree with the other comments, that given the Budget these days, cost is a factor.
On the other hand actually producing and conducting a good section for a film is not only much more expensive, but also a one shot deal.
My only concerns are
1. I heard rumors that LASS seems to have serious tuning issues in the divisi
2. Even though the “Art” feature in LASS seems like a fun tool, it does not seem to translate that into written score,
which in my case is not so great for transcribing the score later.
3. RAM Management seems to be an issue here to, any thoughts on which one has the better RAM Management?
And does anybody had any experience with the LASS (tuning issue) or is it just chat?
AvB

By Peter Alexander on February 11th, 2010 at 9:04 am

@Alexander van Bubenhiem

Thanks for your comments!

In regard to the “rumors” on Point 1 – BS! That is PURE BS from a rumor mill. PERIOD. Ignore it.

L.A. Scoring Strings was intentionally programmed to have a slight detuning so that when the ensemble plays, it has more of “real” string section feel.

Consider this comment from Kevin Kiner whom LucasFilm retained to score The Clone Wars:

β€œLA Scoring Strings are the main backbone of my scoring template. They especially get heavy use in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and these are the ONLY samples that can pull off those legit licks with stunning realism. This is what real strings sound like! No other library I own comes close to the realism and expressive emotion that the LA Scoring Strings give me.”

LASS has endorsements from John Debney, Danny Elfman, Danny Lux, and David Newman. You DON’T get endorsements from professionals of this caliber if the strings have tuning problems.

For management, I can only speak to LASS because it’s shipping. Overall, if you’re updating on a PC go at least for an i7, or on the Mac, a Mac Pro.

I’m running LASS on a Mac G5 dual 2.7Ghz with 4GB of RAM. It all depends on how intense your divisi writing is. So far, everything I’ve thrown at LASS works on my system.

For the ART question, I suggest you write info@audiobro.com. I personally work from a written score then record, so I’m not looking for what I’m sequencing to be printed out for a live score.

Thanks for writing.

Peter Alexander

By Alexander van Bubenheim on February 11th, 2010 at 9:27 am

Thank you Peter for clearing up that tuning rumor. i had a feeling it is nonsense.
And yes, i start from Paper my self with my trusted Grand, so i guess you are right it is a non issue.
Currently i run Logic on an Imac with 4 gig, and i have to say despite some huge sessions for some imax projects i had no problem yet except the occasional overload warning.
I probably dont need all the LASS loaded at the same time anyway and I guess i can always sub mix and bounce audio groups if it gets to haevy.
In light of that nad the fact that Hollywood strings is not out yet i will probably go for LASS since i need it now.
AvB

By Joel Goffin on February 22nd, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Pure poetry, my friend. Excellent article.

By Matthew Lien on April 26th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Thanks for this article. I do want to ask a question (at the risk of sounding like a neophite…):

“divisi strings are the Holy Grail of MIDI Mockups. Today it takes a lot of time to mock up divisi passages and make them sound right.”

Why is this? Why are divisi strings the holy grail for film score composers, and why is it do hard to manage?

I am not a film score composer in such, although I do soundtrack work and love to create string arrangements. I hope to make my arrangements better all the time, and to also apply them to my soundtrack work.

Thanks for the insight!

By Peter Alexander on April 26th, 2010 at 9:47 pm

“Why is this? Why are divisi strings the holy grail for film score composers and why is it do hard to manage?”

I answered this in an audio talk I did called What the Heck Is Divisi and Is It Contagious? Here’s the link:

http://www.alexanderpublishing.com/studyhall.aspx

There’s also a downloadable PDF.

This should answer your questions.

You also might want to see (Copy the entire link into a new browser):

http://www.alexanderpublishing.com/Products/Professional-Orchestration-Vol-2A–Orchestrating-the-Melody-Within-the-String-Section__978-0939067060.aspx

By Matthew Lien on April 29th, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Thanks for the reply and resources. πŸ™‚ Interesting and helpful.

By L. Collins on June 12th, 2010 at 2:36 am

Hi there Peter.

I know the article was originally published before Hollywood Strings had been released and I just wondered if you had a chance to play with it yet, made any other distinctions between the two libraries or formed any new opinions.

Thanks very much for your time in sharing any new insights you might have.

By Peter Alexander on June 25th, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Hi L. Collins!

I don’t have a copy of Hollywood Strings. I’m sorry.

Peter Alexander

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