This - comment - has stuck with me, because it described an unintuitive property of oboes. I wouldn't have thought oboes in parallel thirds sounds out of tune. Then I wondered if it would be the same if using digital sample. When I think of high quality samples I have in mind something like Garritan Personal Orchestra or EastWest products.

I don't know much about orchestration. I have a copy of Piston's Orchestration, but no practical experience. I wonder if acoustical properties of other instruments would be heard with digital samples.

I know that some issue that are more about technical execution - like breaks on woodwind ranges, or the difficult fingers - won't exist with digital samples.

Also, I'm aware of some properties of open strings - like you can't use vbtrato on them.

But, those aren't the kinds of characteristics I'm asking about. I suppose I'm asking about overtones and harmonics. Would those characteristics be the same with digital samples.

2 Answers 2


In general, yes - a high quality sample is essentially a high-quality recording, and will capture the overtones/harmonics, as well as other 'unstable' noises, that would be heard when simply listening to the instrument.

One situation where you might not hear these characteristics reproduced faithfully might be where the sample in question has a small number of cycles of the waveform between the loop points used for sustained notes. This would have the effect of altering the spectrum (and in any case would make the spectrum more static than a that of a played instrument, which tends to vary with time.) There are other issues with poorly-implemented crossfading or badly-chosen loop points that might also distort the spectrum.

Of course if using a sample library, you are likely to have more ability to tweak intonation after the fact than there would be if you were recording an orchestra - so if you are using a high quality sample library, there is arguably the potential to be more adventurous in your arrangements.

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    Here's a neat article about doing this at an extreme level of fidelity.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 20:20
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    Another area where most samples won’t sound right is when you play chords that are composed of individual note samples that were recorded separately. Some instruments have interactions between the notes of chords such that a chord in that instrument sounds different from the simultaneous playing of the individual notes. It’s subtle but that’s one big reason why guitar samples don’t usually sound good playing chords but can be very convincing on single notes. Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 0:58
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    @ToddWilcox definitely. (I was seeing that kind of thing as belonging alongside the issues with technical execution mentioned by the OP). Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 1:19

It should also be added that real oboists in an orchestra are likely to not play in pure 12TET, but might well adjust their intonation (more or less depending on taste and circumstance) to get closer to just thirds or sixths.

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