a creative commons-licensed orchestral sample library
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Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra is a free orchestral sample library. While not as advanced or ambitious in scope as commercial offerings, SSO contains all the basic building blocks for creating real virtual orchestrations. It's primarily aimed at beginners, but also more experienced composers looking for something lightweight and/or portable might find it useful.

SSO comes in sfz format, which is a powerful, open, non-monolithic sample format. It consists of a plain text file with an sfz extension that holds all sample playback parameters, and a set of sound samples in wave format which are referenced by the sfz file. This means that sfz files can be edited with any plain text editor, and the samples can be edited with any audio editor that loads wave files.

Many samplers allow you to load sfz files, but few support all the format's features. SSO works properly on Cakewalk Dimension Pro/LE, ARIA Engine, and the free SFZ Player. The library has also been tested on Shorcircuit 1, discoDSP HighLife and WusikStation 6, all of which appear to have very poor sfz support and are not recommended.

The SSO samples are stereo, 16 bit, 44kHz. Melodic instruments and chromatic percussion are sampled in minor 3rds. Staccato/pizzicato patches have 2x round-robin. All samples have varying amounts of stage ambience, depending on their front-to-back placement, but in addition to that a good hall reverb is a must.

SSO is a free (as in speech, and beer) library released under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 license.

sections and instruments
Below is the instrument selection in SSO 1.0. Samples marked with an * are considered sub-par and will be replaced in future revisions (if possible).

strings articulations
16 violins (1st) sustain, staccato, pizzicato
12 violins (2nd) sustain, staccato, pizzicato
11 violas sustain*, pizzicato
10 celli sustain, staccato, pizzicato
8 basses sustain, staccato, pizzicato
1 concert harp pluck
1 solo violin sustain
1 solo cello sustain*
brass articulations
3 trumpets sustain, staccato
4 horns sustain, staccato
3 trombones sustain, staccato
1 tuba sustain, staccato
1 solo trumpet sustain
1 solo horn sustain
1 solo tenor trombone sustain
1 solo bass trombone sustain
woodwinds articulations
3 flutes sustain, staccato
3 clarinets sustain
3 oboes sustain
3 bassoons sustain
1 piccolo flute sustain*
1 solo flute sustain
1 solo alto flute sustain
1 solo clarinet sustain
1 solo bass clarinet sustain
1 solo oboe sustain
1 solo cor anglais sustain
1 solo bassoon sustain
1 solo contrabassoon sustain
keys articulations
grand piano -
chorus articulations
male chorus sustain
female chorus sustain
chromatic percussion articulations
timpani left hand/right hand hits, rolls
glockenspiel -
xylophone -
chimes -
percussion articulations
bass drum soft/hard hit
snare drum left hand/right hand hits, roll
cymbals 4 rolls, 1 hit
conga muffled, open, slap
bar chimes 3 variations
tamtam 3 variations
triangle mute, half-open, open, roll
tambourine soft/hard hit, shake, roll
wood blocks high, low
cabasa 2 variations
shaker 3 variations
sleigh bells soft/hard hit
castanets 2 variations
ratchet -
vibraslap -
bell tree -

SSO was created from the following free/CC-licensed/public domain instrument samples: The University of Iowa MIS, MSLP, Philharmonia samples, OLPC project, The Complete K2000ldk1609 violinstamperadam Kelon Xylophone, Corsica_S Cello Pizzicatodavidjwoll cymbal rolls, Satoration Castanets, Thores Triangle, Mystified timpani, Eddie's English Horn and a variety of classic soundfonts by Campbell Barton, Nando Florestan and Ethan Winer.

In the case of a few very old soundfonts I have no idea who the original authors were or what licensing might apply. But as these files have been modified by different people and included in countless GM banks and other soundfont compilations over the last decade, I'm assuming that they are to be considered public domain or at least free to use for sampling projects.

I have done my very best to avoid samples of questionable legality, but as it is impossible for me to know the exact origin of everything (i.e. I have no way of knowing if a soundfont labeled as "public domain" isn't actually sampled from a proprietary source), I would appreciate if you let me know if you find anything fishy.

faq (fully anticipated questions)

How was the library created?

As I don't have a real orchestra to sample, I settled for building virtual sections from solo instruments. For this I used the sfz+ soundfont player. Some sections were subtly layered with synths (ZebraCM, Synth1) for added lushness. The sections were then placed in an artificial space using LiquidSonics Reverberate and a scoring stage IR from Samplicity's Bricasti M7 library. The instrument ranges were rendered at highest possible quality, split up into individual notes, normalized and then mapped as sfz files. The programs used were Cockos REAPER, Steinberg Wavelab 4, sfZed and Metapad.

Why no chromatic multisamples?

While it would certainly be possible to render and map all sections chromatically, it would mean a marginal increase in quality at the price of a tripled file size. I simply didn't think it was worth it, as any good sampler will be able to stretch a sample one semitone up and down without any significant sound degradation. Also, many of the instruments were not chromatically sampled to begin with.

Why no velocity layers/additional articulations?

Very few free samples come in different velocities, and I deemed it better to forego velocity layers completely than to have it on a few sections and not the others. As for articulations, I have done what I could with the samples I had to work with. Some section staccatos were possible to fake with truncated sustain samples and some layering/doubling voodoo, others were not.

Why 16 bit and not 24?

First of all, SSO has no ultra-soft velocity layers that might require a lower noise floor so the benefits of distributing the samples as 24 bits are debatable. Secondly, SFZ Player doesn't like 24 bit samples so it's a question of compatibility as well. Having said that, all samples were of course rendered and edited in 24 bits and if there's interest I might release a 24 bit version later on.

Why loops on some sections and not others?

Only sections that can sustain indefinitely have loops, i.e. strings. Sustained brass and winds have a a set duration, just like in reality.

Why are some solo samples so short?

An aesthetic choice, plain and simple. In my opinion, nothing ruins the expressiveness and realism of a solo instrument more than a looped vibrato. A short note with a natural decay is much preferable to a looped one, even though it does limit the usefulness of the solo instruments somewhat.

Why are some solo instruments missing?

Because I have not been able to find any samples of good enough quality in the free realm.

What about different sample formats?

Other formats (e.g. Kontakt, Gigastudio) might be made available later on, provided that someone offers to convert/test/tweak everything, as I have no way of doing this myself.

If you would like to contribute to this project, there are several things you could do. 1) Make sure to report any bugs you may find so that they can be fixed. 2) Http mirrors of the download would be very welcome, so that's something to consider if you have web space and bandwidth to spare. 3) If you make any cool custom patches, please submit them! 4) More demos for showcasing the library are needed, so if you compose something nice with SSO I'd love to hear it. 5)

If you have any samples that you think would be a good addition to the project, please bear in mind that I can only accept material released under a compatible license, i.e. free for reuse/modification/distribution. So, "I found these files on the net" isn't going to cut it. I will need some hard facts on where the samples are from and how they may be used.

bug reports and feedback
If you want to report bugs, ask questions or simply discuss the project in general, please join the SSO User Forum.

A big thanks to Lender, crisis-at-music, Sheppola, MusicMan74, Third Son, keys, bystrano, Serenitynow, chip mcdonald, rosleck and  richie43 for beta testing. Thanks also to marce and Matthias King for providing samples and valuable feedback. Finally a tip of the hat to zakk for looping the section strings and saving me some gray hairs.