String Quartet with ‘Realistic’ Virtual Instruments

I recently revised a string quartet I wrote at the very beginning of my career, 18 years ago! It is a 3 movements quartet that was inspired by impressionism, when I was studying Debussy, Ravel, etc. It’s simple, nothing innovative, but I like some of its harmonic ideas and it has a nice coherence/flow. The revision fixed many mistakes and added a bit more depth to it. Currently, I have no opportunities for having my music performed, but still, I wanted to be able to listen to this quartet. I was dead curious to know how it really sounded and to get as close to the experience of listening to a quartet as possible. I have no financial means for paying musicians to record, so could technology help me?

Luckily I had the chance to try out the sample libraries of Berlin String’s First Chairs and Cinematic Studio’s Solo Strings. Both present samples and control of the 4 string instruments (violin I, violin II, viola and cello), with a variety of techniques (like tremolo, staccato, harmonics, etc.). They can be used with Kontakt and run straight from Finale (and probably Sibelius too), so you can listen to what you are composing. Don’t expect you can explore too many techniques though, and for this reason, many contemporary composers will not be able to fully express themselves through these instruments. But if you play with them first, understand their limitations and then decide to compose, they can be brilliant tools.

They are both great quality and quite similar, but the variety of techniques is different. Yet, be aware that they do not always articulate realistically, and we can still hear that “MIDI” robotized sound. But sometimes, they do produce a realistic performance.

I made a comparison video between these two libraries:

For my quartet, I only used the Berlin String’s First Chairs:

1st movement – PDF score

2nd movement – PDF score

3rd movement – PDF score

Audio only:

1st movement
2nd movement
3rd movement

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