I'm an amateur composer interested in purchasing a high quality orchestral sample library like Garritan Personal Orchestra. The problem is that I plan on composing a piece for my schools concert band, and I can't decide between Garritan's "Personal Orchestral" or the "Concert & Marching Band" sample libraries: https://www.garritan.com/

I am in the process of reading Rimsky Korsakov's "Principles of orchestration", so it would be ideal to have a high quality virtual orchestra. I would still use the concert band library for other projects, but I plan on pursuing film/video game composing as a career, and these typically use orchestral sounds. I also just enjoy orchestral music more in general.

Advice from composers/musicians who have experience in both the orchestra and concert band would be greatly appreciated. Do most of the orchestration principles apply to both groups? Would writing one concert band piece while learning orchestration for the orchestra be confusing. Thanks in advance!

I also play the clarinet and alto saxophone.

2 Answers 2


Samples can be dangerous. First and foremost you need to remember that you’re writing for real people, and that should always be your end goal. If you have limited experience, samples can distort your perception of balance, texture, and response throughout register. There are also many things that can’t be played back, for example, if I specify a passage on violin to be written played “sul G”, it won’t make a difference for playback.

It often seems like every young person wants to be a film composer, and it makes sense because what other access would they have to what composers do? The film market is quite crowded and chances are it’s not actually what you think it is. Same thing with being hung up writing for Orchestra. They’re big and political and bloated and often too afraid to program new things. Writing for orchestra is an incredible and rewarding experience, but don’t do the classic amateur thing and romanticize film scoring and orchestra sound. I have more to say on this but I don’t want to digress too far here.

Samples can be great, but if you don’t have the real world sounds in your ear they can mess you up. Use whatever you have. The only real difference between the libraries you mention is strings, which sound okay even with terrible MIDI and saxes which always sound terrible without exception.

Regarding orchestration texts, there are much, much more current things you should be reading such as the Adler and the Blatter texts. Also do yourself a huge favor and get the Solomon book on percussion.

  • Thanks for the advice. Maybe, once I finish my first decent score for a full orchestra I'll have it recorded by the "$99 Dollar Orchestra".
    – user33976
    Dec 28, 2017 at 2:17
  • Also, when I said "pursuing film/video game composing as a career" I wasn't implying getting a degree and going all out on it; I'll probably end up working a day job while composing in my free time with the hope of one day composing for high profile media.
    – user33976
    Dec 28, 2017 at 2:24
  • Well, unless you dedicate your life to the pursuit of creation, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find yourself in a high-profile situation. Few musicians ever have the luxury of being so derelict and creating so much with so little effort. Dec 28, 2017 at 4:42
  • I wan't implying that "composing in my free time" meant composing frivolously; I'll just be incorporating my dream into a reasonable lifestyle. Hans Zimmer started out in a rock band, John Williams didn't score a movie until he was 26, and Beethoven started out as an assistant organist. Hell, the Brandenburg Concertos sold for $24 dollars after Bach's death. There are two types of composers: the realists who go to music school and spend their days pointing out your counterpoint errors and the ones who compose for hours on end into the late night until they are satisfied with their work.
    – user33976
    Dec 28, 2017 at 16:52
  • And btw, I knew the difference between an orchestra and concert band... What I was wondering was whether arranging music for band while studying orchestration would be confusing.
    – user33976
    Dec 28, 2017 at 17:18

I have both libraries and have used both. The same principles apply with two big exceptions: first, the lack of strings in the band, and second, the difference in percussion instruments. There are minor differences: the band has things like alto clarinets and the whole family of saxes but usually lacks bassoons or oboes.

Allocation of lines to instruments is the big difference. No basses or celli or bassoons to carry the bass lines (although some bands have bassoonists and oboists.)


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