Movie scores: synth or real instruments more common these days?

I remember Ray Kurzweil’s in his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines saying that almost all movie music was synth–but you couldn’t tell, it was all so good! I’m not sure if that was really the case then, and what is the case now? What is the trend?

Surely someone has the dish?!

I don’t know how common synths are for movies these days but I would not be suprised at all if they are using them all the time. I have a synth called Sample Tank for my recording studio. It is impressive. It does a ton of instruments, from piano to cello to timpani and more. It didn’t cost all that much and sounds great. It is easy to use and has a bunch of variables you can adjust. When I use it I pick an instrument, record the piece using a keyboard controller. Once the basic track is down you can go back and fix the timing/attack, duration and volume etc. That is good for me because I can’t play the piano to save my life. The controller is touch sensitive and the program responds to that so you get different responses depending on how you hit the key.

The Sample Tank folks came out with Miroslav Philharmonic which sounds pretty dang good. If I had a reason to use this I’d buy it in a heart beat. They went and sampled the instruments at Dvorák Symphony Hall and those are the sounds you get.

On a side note, I am really interested in how they manage the attack/resonance issues within the program. Touch sensitive keyboards react to how hard you hit the note as I mentioned above. You can also change the attack within the Protools program. That must have been interesting to build…

Anyway, the sampling tech has improved a ton in recent years and the stuff is cheap. The learning curve isn’t all the steep and the sounds are amazing.


You mean music that sounds orchestral but is really just samples? Does he give any examples? I’ve seen enough credits and ‘behind the scenes’ on DVDs and whatnot to convince me that real orchestral scoring is preferred if the budget allows.

I’m sure they use synthesizers for some instruments, for electronic sounds and various effects, but I doubt that synthesizers are common, when it comes to the basic symphonic score or a featured solo instrument. Like mack, I’ve seen footage of soundtrack recording, with the conductor watching the movie, on several DVDs.

I’ve never knowingly heard a synthesizer that could make a convincing portrayal of a symphony orchestra. Each instrument is very complex, with many aspects to its sound, such as the attack, vibrato and all that. If you’re gonna adjust that for 100 instruments and do it well, why not just have the people who really play them do it?

I would think that with the spread of the DVD and now newer formats, and the popularity of fancy home-theater systems, they would be less and less able to get away with it. I doubt a person with really good speakers could be fooled. sleestak, have you ever listened to that syntheziser on a pair of audiophile speakers that costs more than, say $1,000? (or maybe more)

it all depends on the movie and the budget…more money = really players with really musicality, articulations and feeling. Small budget and you get some really nice sounding synth programs with little to no feeling

Christophe Beck uses a lot of syth stuff in his work. He does, in fact, take samples of actual orchestras and manipulate them. He talks more about it in this interview.