In case you’re suitably inspired by Nordsund to write your own Nordic Noir soundtrack, I thought I’d put together some ideas on what sample libraries can help get you there, that features Spitfire Audio, Cinematique Instruments, Precisionsound, Imperfect Samples and Sound Dust – to use alongside my synth sounds and drum samples, obviously!
The most obvious place to start is Spitfire Audio’s Scandi Collection; their four Nordic inspired sample libraries. Alongside Albion V Tundra, there are the three libraries made in conjunction with Icelandic composer, Olafur Arnalds: Composer Toolkit, Evolutions and Chamber Evolutions.
This collection will get you a long way, as it features incredibly detailed and fragile strings (as well as brass and woodwinds in Tundra), plus a fabulous piano and even some more synth sounds, sampled at Olafur’s studio with his analogue gear.
Spitfire Audio offer a lot of great samples to inspire a Nordic vibe. If you want a fuller string sound, either their comprehensive Chamber Strings or the more esoteric London Contemporary Orchestra libraries can give you that. They’re really beautiful sounds.
On the smaller side of things, the Sacconi Quartet library offers some gorgeous sounding solo strings for when you want add a little definition to your string melodies.
There’s also some really cool string “freebies” in Spitfire’s LABS collection. These are very small and quirky sampled instruments that can be purchased for a £3 charitable donation and include a number of sounds that are useful for Scandinavian flavour. On the strings side of things there are Frozen Strings, Permafrost Strings and also Scary Strings: single patch libraries that add a lot of simple, intimate colour and movement.
Also in the LABS collection are some great plucked instruments: a Fingered Dulcimer, Hammered Dulcimer and a Toy Dulcimer; and also the Peel Guitar, a very simple but gorgeous sounding, subtle electric guitar. In fact, there isn’t much in the LABS collection that isn’t useful for Nordic Noir… especially some of the weirder noises!
Although by the time you read this, Spitfire may have removed them from their site – so hurry!
Plucked instruments offer lovely icy tones and also crisp, percussive instruments to aid melodic writing. Two great European developers for this are Cinematique Instruments and Precisionsound. CI have a German Monochord, Hammered Dulcimer and Kantele (the national instrument of Finland) that have all been meticulously sampled and offer a variety of plucked tones, ranging from the Monochord’s warmth to the Kantele’s resonance.
Precisionsound also have a very nice Concert Kantele. It sounds different to CI’s, a little brighter and more delicate. Precisounsound are Swedish developers and so also have a native Naeshult Table Piano and Nordic Psalmodikon library, for a genuinely folky Scandi sound.
Cinematique Instruments also offer a more affordable alternative to some of Spitfire’s stings in their Zilhouette. It’s a pretty basic library, just long and staccato samples of a string quartet. But it has a very lovely sound that’s very Nordic.
We touched briefly on piano libraries earlier, when mentioning the Olafur Arnalds Composer Toolkit. Spitfire has another one I like very much for a Scandi sound and that’s their LABS Soft Piano. Although it’s cheaper and simpler than the more expensive Gwilym Simcock Felt Piano, I prefer its tone.
Cinematique Instruments have some nice pianos too, amongst their libraries, in the Charakter Piano Collection. My favourite is the Intimate Piano which, as you can imagine from the name, has a warm and close feel to it. No histrionics, just a pleasant, lyrical tone.
Another favourite piano library developer of mine is Imperfect Samples. They’re a (ironically) perfectly named company as their pianos are full of character, and occasional quirks, and have a somewhat sporadic support process.
My go to libraries from the piano collection are the Braunschweig Upright and the Ebony Fazioli Concert Grand. They are both full and rich sounding but with a delicate, warm tone that lends itself well to emotional and sparse writing.
A few other useful libraries include Spitfire’s Ricotti Mallets (which include a glockenspiel and marimba, amongst other goodies), Sound Dust’s 1884 and 1900 Dulcitone libraries and Cinematique Instruments’ Bowed Guitars and Bowed Psaltery libraries.