Best virtual instruments for wind band?


I’m writing primarily for wind band and am searching for a library to enhance the result.

I don’t need any strings, pianos, church organ or choir - instead I need decent saxophones (not jazzy), clarinets you want to listen to, and trumpets that have enough punch to stand out when playing a march. If it inluded flugelhorn (or cornet) and euphonium, it would be a big plus.
Percussion is somewhat optional.

The libraries I have looked at are either quite expensive (most of them provide more instruments than I need) or do sound well when in a full orchester piece but yield bad results when put into a polka or march without any strings, or are missing some instruments that are important for this kind of music. I hope you get the picture.

Any ideas?

Thanks for your help! :slight_smile:

Noteperformer is the standard answer here. Affordable, has classical saxophones, works well with Dorico, etc. The VSL Synchon-ized SE bundles sound great, and have what you need too, including saxophones and Dorico expression maps, but are quite a bit more expensive. VSL usually has a Black Friday sale on vouchers where you can buy €400 worth of vouchers for €300, so they may be more affordable in a week, but Noteperformer really should be your first purchase to see if it meets your needs. NP has a 30 day trial too.

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I have now downloaded and installed the trial version of Note Performer, but I have to admit I’m quite lost. While the AI really does a great job of interpreting my notes, the sounds of some instruments are, well, not too impressive, to say the least.

For example, saxophones, again. How can I alter the sounds of those alto saxophones? I have not yet found a way to turn some (or any) nobs within NP, and since the whole NP instance is one single instrument within Dorico, I can’t simple throw an EQ at them without (a|e)ffecting all instruments on this instance.

What am I missing? Is there really no way to twiddle with how instruments sound? I mean, the play back AI is great, but every single Halion instrument has more nobs regarding its behaviour than what I’ve found so far in NP.

Is there any in-detail documentation that I have not found yet, let alone some kind of online forums like these here?

Any help or direction is very appreciated. :slight_smile:

Note there’s a fantastic playback template from @David_Tee , which loads one instance of NP for each instrument. This way you can use dedicated effects on each instrument. Of course, it has a bigger fingerprint on the system…
Anyway, NotePerformer is not the kind of virtual instrument you modify with knobs and whistles. What it does, it does it good. If you want better, spend a lot more of money and time, or wait for NP4 (as we all do)


Hi, Marc.

Thanks, I just read this very thread about 2 minutes ago :wink:

Yeah, I thought so. I am just a bit disappointed: after all the praise that NP got here lately, I was really upset by the sound of the saxophones - with no obvious way anywhere to change it. (And since the very sounds of the Halion saxophones got me to search for alternatives, this was the very first section I had to check out. Well…)

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The truth is that NP is more geared to symphonic orchestral ensembles than to jazz.

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It seems that almost all “big” providers are. They all sound great when the string orchestra is playing, and the few woodwinds and brass players don’t do any harm beneath them. (I’m exaggerating, of course.)

I’m living in (and writing for) the wind orchestra world, where there are no strings, no piano, no guitars. Only wood winds, brass and percussion, so the wood winds need to sound great. No jazzy saxes, no excentric french horns.
(In fact I’d go so far as to question what genre those NP saxophones are designed for. They seem to not blend in with any type of genre I can think of.)

I sorta hate all VI saxes too, but I’m mostly in the jazz world. If you have a brief sample you’d like to hear with the VSL Synchonized SE winds, just post a file, I’ll load the VSL playback template, export audio, and post it back.

May be the collection from Chris Hein is a solution for you, have you looked at that?

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I’ve long wondered why, in this age of amazing sample libraries, it seems so hard to find good saxophone samples. Those of us who play the instrument certainly don’t see what makes it so difficukt😉

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I think one of the issues is that there’s not really a strong agreement of what constitutes an “ideal” saxophone sound, in a way that doesn’t come into play with other instruments such as a flute or violin. Sure, every high level artist is going to have their own sound on their instrument, but if you compare Sigurd Raschèr, Cannonball Adderley, and David Sanborn, there’s not anything close to a “universal” alto sound between them. It’s almost as if they aren’t even all playing the same instrument! I think a lot of VI instruments end up trying to split the difference and end up completely devoid of any character, or they go too far in one direction or another and end up with an instrument that can only be used in specific circumstances. I’m glad the VI makers haven’t put me out of work anyway!

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Thanks for all your answers!

Now can I have the sounds of Chris Hein with the play back AI of Noteperformer? :smiley:
Pretty please? :smiley:

Yes, that’s a good point. One of the reasons we can tell who’s playing just by hearing their ‘sound.’ Even sax sections within different big bands sound different (for the reason you explained). One isn’t likely to mistake a Billy May sax section with a Stan Kenton one.:slightly_smiling_face:

Lots of scoops and bends to manually adjust in MIDI if you’re trying to replicate Billy May with VI, LOL! I’ve played a bunch of Billy May charts before and it is tricky to get those unison scoops tight across the section.

Indeed it is.

Hi Fred. Question, if I may. You have a lot of experience writing Jazz charts in Dorico. I just finished (except for lyrics) my first Big Band chart in Dorico. Note performer with Dorico’s medium swing eighths, scoops and falls in Noteperformer is quite acceptable, if not all it could be. My question is:
I have 2 bars in the coda that are straight eights; is there a way to get Dorico to ‘unswing’ for just those 2 bars?

Sure, you can modify the swing with the Tempo popover. Just type swing or straight and choose one of the options. It will appear as a signpost, so you’ll likely need to add Text or System Text too.

Thanks! You made my day. Im quite happy with my Big Band chart- even slipped in a couple measures of quasi Billy May sax scoops. The text for straight eighths is there as ut should be; it’ll be great to have them play that way. Thanks so much for taking time to help me!:slightly_smiling_face:

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