Psychotic Strings and Haunting Horns, with Spitfire’s Bernard Herrmann Composer Toolkit

To kick off the reviews section I was keen to get something really juicy to feature, and well, it doesn’t get much more succulent than a new orchestral library inspired by the works of legendary composer Bernard Herrmann. Anyone with even a passing interest in films will have heard the iconic ‘stabbing’ strings in Hitchcock’s Psycho and that butt-clenchingly tense Vertigo score, or the moody and melodic saxophone in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.

Approaching the creation of a library weighted with such grand association, is not a menial task by stretch. Luckily, the sampling-obsessives behind London’s Spitfire Audio are not ones to do things by halves. The library has been created in close collaboration with the Bernard Herrmann estate and recorded at London’s legendary Air Studios by Simon Rhodes, Abbey Road Studio’s senior engineer.

I’ve reviewed Spitfire Audio products for other magazines in the past and they are usually fairly weighty in size, something you’d expect from a world-class recorded sample library. However, coming in at 225gb of uncompressed audio, this is definitely one of the bigger downloads I’ve had to make recently!

As this is a premium release, you only require the free NI Kontakt 5 player to run the library. Upon opening, the Kontakt instrument interface is clean and it’s  easy to read the various parameters, there is also a handy help popup to get you started with the controls. After a a short while I felt comfortable enough to dismiss the help bubble permanently.


In terms of instruments, as the name suggests, it is a complete toolkit designed for composing scores. However, there is so many useful sounds and interesting combinations of instruments, I could see myself using this library for many different musical applications. I like the way the toolkit is arranged into an accessible file structure, as opposed to hundreds of folders for different violin variations, which can be a bit tiresome.

So in the kit you get the following instruments and combinations: Studio Orchestra, High Strings, High Strings Octaves, High Strings Half Section, Low Strings, Low Strings and Horns, Low Strings and Trombones, Piccolo and Flutes, Concert Flutes, Mixed Flutes, Flutes and Clarinets, Cor Anglais, Clarinet and Trumpet, Oboes, Bassoons and Horns, Trumpes and Xylophone, Horns, Mid Brass, Trombones, Trombones and Timpani, Harp and Celeste, Harp and Vibraphone, Ondes Martenot, Percussion, Timpani, Synths.

Many of these combinations are based on Herrmann’s highly original approaches to different scores. From the strings-only score in Psycho, the harp and vibraphone sounds in Vertigo, to the eerie Ondes Martinot (a very early electronic instrument from the 1920’s) in The Day The Earth Stood Still.

The Toolkit

The interface is focused on controls which affect the sound in the most usable and musical ways, rather than cramping it with fine tuning parameters. Depending on the instrument you have loaded, different articulations are spread across the bottom as little buttons, for example the timpani drums have different buttons for soft/hard sticks and playing styles.


If you want to go deeper into editing your sound, the second page allows control over mic placement, transposition, round robin sampling and how the main page controls are setup.


The instruments are recorded dry in Air Studios (Studio 1) through some amazing microphones into large Neve console, so everything sounds super tight and upfront, great for re-creating those lively and emotional timbres.

You can hear a quick example of a piece I created with the toolkit here:

Overall I would recommend this to anyone considering an all-in-one package for scoring, as well as composers looking for a really well recorded and lively sounding spread of orchestral sounds. What sets this apart from all the other orchestral libraries out there, is the inventive combinations of instruments and as a result, the speed in which you can get a great sounding idea together.

BERNARD HERRMANN COMPOSER TOOLKIT can be purchased and digitally downloaded (as 225.0 GB of uncompressed .WAV files, featuring 186,742 samples) for  £429.00 GBP (inc. VAT)/$499.00 USD/€509.00 EUR (inc. VAT) — from HERE



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