Before you buy another sample library, listen to this podcast.


In this episode, Rich explains why having too many choices can get in the way of our creative process and how to take advantage of the tools we have.


Hey guys welcome to session number 26 of the trailer music composers podcast.

Let’s get started….

One man, with one microphone, and he still can’t decide whether he prefers white chocolate or dark chocolate. Welcome to the trailer music composers podcast.

Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the trailer music composers podcast.  And I’ve got quite an interesting topic for you today.  Again I think this isn’t the first time I’ve brought this stuff up, and I’m sure it’s not going to be the last either.  The topic here is sample libraries right, as a tool.  Now if you’re anything like me you’re constantly fighting with an acceptable addiction for buying sample libraries.  It’s kind of like you know, I probably need another piano, I’ve got 34 already, but this one sounds different to the other 34 pianos I have.  Same with all of them, you hear a demo and you blimey those drums sound much bigger than my drums, I’m going to have to buy this drum library, you buy it, you load it, you forget about it.  

But what it’s doing is, its creating a problem, and I don’t mean you know burning a hole in your wallet, which it is in itself a problem.  What I mean is it’s creating a problem for your flow.  And I mean your creativity when I talk about that.  So if you imagine this scenario right.  I always go back to a nice analogy, ok, if you think about your creative work like cooking, you go into a kitchen or your studio, and you go ok, well today I’m going to make a dish of epic proportions.  You open up the cupboards and you think ok, what have I got to start today.  And imagine you open the cupboards with tons and tons and tons of food.  You’ve got tons of options, tons of choices, tons of decisions to make.

Ok, flip that, you open up the cupboard and there’s three things in the cupboard.  there’s a red pepper, an onion, and a sweetcorn, and you go well I guess I’m making some peppery, onion, sweetcorn dish.  Decision done.  And you just got on with the job.

Now the same could be said for sample libraries, not that you’re going to make a pepper, sweetcorn, onion dish, your new trailer album, although I would be keen to see what that sounds like, I’m sure one of you is going to sample a sweetcorn for me now.  It’s the lack of options being a good thing.

Now I find myself in this situation at the moment, so for those of you who don’t know Vikram Goody and I have, are in the process of launching a music production school of epic proportions, which is career focused.  It’s called protege, so any of you don’t know any of it, I’m sure you can find links to it through mine and Vic’s social profiles, or you know just search protege on any of the platforms.  Anyway advert done, I’m recording courses for this, or we both are recording courses, but obviously mine is the composition side, Vic’s is the business side.

So we’re both recording out courses for our new productions school, so I’m in the process of recording 30 courses which ultimately means that I am producing not just a lot of tracks, but I’m having to make decisions constantly.  Now those of you who are anyway inclined to think about energy, not just on a spiritual level, but on the prana that you have that keeps your body functioning.  Your energy levels that keep you going through the day.  Any of you who are remotely interested in that notion should be considering the effects on your energy levels than making decisions takes.

So while I’m doing all these courses, recording all these courses, I’m realising ok so today I’m teaching how to do cinematic pop, rock.  So do a course on that for the students.  And I’m having to make decisions about the sample libraries I choose, about the way I write etc. etc.  But then you know the next day I will be recording a course on ambient piano and I have to make my decisions on what I’m doing there.  And I’m noticing something.  The less decision I make the more my energy remains constant.  And I’m pretty sure that there is a lot of documentation on this thing called decision fatigue which is, I’m going to have to get to less noisy ground, this ground is remarkably noisy, although it does make it sound like I’m walking on a bed of crisps.  Anyway maybe a bed of  Doritios or any other triangle shaped crisps for that matter.

Anyway, so let’s get back to this decision fatigue, because you know how much emphasis I place on letting your creativity flow freely, unhindered by whatever it is that you’re doing so you just let the music out and then release it to the world, as openly as possible.  And if you’ve got something at this stage in the process your workflow is sapping that energy, it needs to be addressed.

So I mean the quickest and easiest way to overcome this, which any of you who have done any of my courses will know is to do a template.  And you know any of you who follow Christian Henson, he’s a big fan of templates as well.  Templates solve the problem to an extent.  So imagine I’m doing an epic orchestral track, I will lay up my epic trailer template, which has about, I don’t know, 75 channels in it. And although I’m like check me out, I’ve got a massive template which is colour coded and awesome, I’m still having to make tons of decisions. Tons of decisions.  And it’s incredibly tiring.  So how do we overcome that even when we have a template?  And it’s all about restrictions.  

So going back to the pepper, sweetcorn, goodness and what I’m doing at the moment, I’m loading up this file and I’m very aware that I’m going to be creating this track in that style.  And I will have a template in mind or a template in use and I will have instruments in mind. Or instruments in use.  And I will say ok, well how’s about this, guys, hows about we go about getting the sound we want without loading up another sample?  Because one could argue, hold on aren’t you sure you’re making your decision then as to what creative effect you’re going to apply to your channel strip anyway?  And I would say, yeah that’s a fair point Jim.  But in this instance it’s a different type of decision, it’s a creative problem solving decision, it works in the rather than thinking which library am I choosing, loading up a load of libraries and listening, with a passive ear almost.  You know the one, when you’re loading up a library you just press the key, listen to it and go nope, lay up another library, press the key and go nope, and you’re just sat there like a robot going no, no, no.  The amount of hours I spend on Omnisphere doing that is outrageous.  

But when you’re sat there and you’ve got one patch of strings loaded, say it’s a legato strings from Albion One because that’s me, let’s face it that’s pretty much all I ever load up, I laid up Albion and I’m going ok, I’ve got this great patch, but I want to have a synth sound and I haven’t got a synth loaded into my template.  Now to solve my decision for tea problem, rather than then going ok, which synth do I load up, which synth, and then opening that can of worms, why don’t I just go like this, well ok, I’ve got strings, what can I do to make these strings sound the way I want them to?  So you’re essentially putting on your hat as sound designer at the same time.  And you’re thinking creatively still.  You’re not sitting there as like a gatekeeper to the best sound, you’re thinking with problem solving mind, your thinking creatively.  

And that’s the difference guys.  There are still decisions to be made, of course about what effects you have in the channel strip and what you do with your sunned track or whatever it is you’re going to be doing with it.  You know what type of cassette tape am I going to run it through to give it that old fashioned bite.  All those things. They’re creative thinking problems, they’re not passive.  And that’s a huge deal.

So we want to sort of get over this decision for tea by limiting the sample libraries you laid up, and as always with these podcasts, especially when I’m walking around, not so much the interviews, because I’m not exactly interviewing them to solve my own problems, although they often do when I’m interviewing them.  Anyway, I’m out of here kind of to remind myself what have I learned this week producing these courses, so I’m on course 10 today, and I’m getting faster and quicker at doing these courses because I’m realising this thing, that I’m relying too heavily on having a huge arsenal of sample libraries and not relying on my creativity to give me the results I need and want.  It’s like, this is the thing, the other thing I’ve found with interviewing other composers and speaking to them, I’ve found that these guys who are producing this sound that I am envious of, do you know what, they’re using the same libraries.  They’re not, they are using the same plugins.  They’re not sitting there with a magic red button that says awesome on it, although I would like that, someone should make that.  They are loading up Damage, they’re loading up whatever it is, Sound Toys, which lets face it we’re all doing those things.  And they’re producing amazing results, because they have an imposed limitation.  

And that’s the wonderful thing, is the limitations from our sounds that we have, have bred such incredible creativity.  You know, the students in the trailer music school when we do our monthly briefs, I think monthly briefs, they send in this track and they go oh that vocal sounds nice, and no it’s not actually a vocal, it’s a cello sample of mine that I’ve just messed with.  And you go wow that’s cool.  

That’s the wonderful thing, we can all just have a limitation of like one sample library and say right guys fire away, let’s see what we can produce.  And the creativity that would be brought to the table would be absolutely huge.  In comparison to loading all the string libraries you’ve got and being just like ok I guess I will chuck this one on because it sounds cool.  

So I challenge you, I challenge you to a dual sir.  Obviously I don’t have a sword and it would be a, I’m going off on one again aren’t I, right I challenge you to next time you sit down at your computer, you think about the track you’re going to write, plan to write or want to write.  Lets say it’s a hybrid orchestral track.  I challenge you to load up one synth and one string patch and one brass patch, or even just one string patch or one synth patch.  Just like bring your limitations to the table, don’t load up all of the drum libraries you have, just lay up one of them, and see what you can produce.  You will be blown away firstly by how awesome you are, but secondly how much more energy you have as a result of not having to constantly make these decisions.  And I’m speaking specifically to those of you who fall prey to the synth patch present pit of doom.  Ok, so I need a pad, let’s go through all the pads in alphabetical order and of course the pad you want is in W isn’t it.  You know and I fall prey to that quite regularly and that’s why I often fall back on creative effect use overloading the synth patches unless I already know which synth patch I’m going to be loading, because then that saves me a bunch of time as well.

So just try that out next time you sit down to write your track, just think ok what can I do to impose like a limitation on my own writing so that perhaps the creative, the creative person inside me will step up and bring their best game.  Because actually I’ve noticed that in myself it’s been a huge boost to my energy and traits that this podcast is all about.  I’m on the crisps again aren’t I.  for any of you just to add to the picture guys I’m walking in a giant forest with a bed of nachos and sort of giant vegetarian hot dog trees with blooms of lettuce leaves.  It’s immense.  Oh look at a Doritos dip pool.  Anyway I think all this lockdown has life changed my mind. It turned my brain sour in a good way, you know, like sour cream.

Anyway I’m wittering on, but the point is this, save yourself some energy, improve your creative problem solving and limit your sample libraries, you don’t need as many as you think.  And just, this is for me as well guys, you don’t need the next sample library you’re about to fork out $300 on.  You don’t need it.  For now, use what you’ve got because what you have at the moment is like a million times better than most of the recording studios that ever existed in the fact that we have a huge arsenal of stuff.  Yes, it’s not like vintage Abbey Road equipment, but at the end of the day very few people in the world can tell the difference between an Abbey Road compressor and the Logic compressor, very few people.  And most of them are probably listening to this thinking that Richard is a complete ‘beep’. 

Anyway do yourself a favour guys, save some money, save some energy, improve your creativity, I want to thank you so much for listening to me whittling on a usual, I love you guys, you are awesome and I’m eating so much from this podcast, so that’s probably why I’m going a bit hyper, so yeah enjoy yourself guys and I hope your all safe and well, although this is probably going out by the time the lockdown is finished, but currently lockdown is in full swing so take care chaps.