If I have the option, I’ll always do it this way, but it’s costly and time-consuming, and the mics need to be really good if you want a nice punch to the sound.
Particularly for orchestral percussion, having it played ‘live’ makes a MASSIVE difference because you’re capturing the energy in the performance. It’s so so important. This is why the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack - which makes heavy use of percussion - sounds so incredible, even though for the 1st season it was produced on a shoestring budget.
When I have my own studio, which will happen sometime early next year, I’ll be recording as much percussion as possible myself. A notable composer who always does this is Brian Tyler.
VIRTUAL ORCHESTRAL / CINEMATIC DRUMS
I like and have:
The one part of the library that they pretty much nailed. Timpani in particular is excellent.
True Strike 1 - Great quality orchestral percussion samples, all your standard orchestral percussion is here. Eastwest is good, but there’s always something ‘nice’ about ProjectSAM’s stuff. It just ‘works’.
True Strike 2 - A decent set of world percussion instruments, but I have to say that this is the one Project SAM release that disappoints me. The selection of instruments is relatively small, and while they sound good, I’m likely to go to other world percussion libraries before this one.
An EXCELLENT library full of sounds that are really useful for any ethnic/world music composition.
Drums of War 1 is a good library, but it is quite niche. Drums of War 2 is simply astonishing. Right now, they have the best recorded Taiko Drums on the market. That is…until Tonehammer release their upcoming Taiko library! The person who recorded all the samples for Drums Of War 2 is MB Gordy, who was the percussionist on Battlestar Galactica. If you want that tight, hard sound, then you should look no further.
Tonehammer’s untuned percussion, is not STRICTLY orchestral, but I need to put it here anyway. It’s amazing. The stuff is recorded SO well, that it really fits and blends into a mix nicely.
Tonehammer Tuned Percussion
Essential library for me. Tonehammer’s tuned percussion is simply of astonishing quality.
Two libraries that I want and like, but DON’T have yet:
I’ve heard GREAT things about this library, and that it might be good enough to replace True Strike 1, but at £500, it’s quite pricey. Mark Isham says it’s the best orchestral percussion library ever, and he knows what he’s doing… I think…
Again, I’ve heard great things about this library, but at 220 GB large, I can’t help but feel that it’s overkill.
Those are the main players (in my humble opinion). Of course, you have to be a good percussion composer/programmer to get the best use out of them!
A lot of users here on AJ, use at least some of the above libraries (I can easily recognise them), there are plenty of tracks here on AJ that make great use of them.
VIRTUAL ELECTRONIC / PROCESSED CINEMATIC DRUMS
These guys are incredible, they make really really really useful stuff. Stingers, percussion transitions, hits, percussion effects. And they sound SO good. The price is amazing for what you get. Some great prepared piano stuff too.
LOVE Samplelogic, incredibly useful stuff. Some of it is a little cheesy, but… a lot of is really useful. Check out their other stuff too. Morphestra also has some great drum sounds and so does Waterharp.
In addition, there are some overlaps here. Stormdrum 2 also has electronic cinematic drums (some great patches), and so does a lot of the Tonehammer stuff. Same with True Strike 2. I’ve probably overlooked some stuff here (Spectrasonics Omnisphere / Stylus has some great Cinematic stuff…), but these are definitely the main players in my opinion.
VIRTUAL DRUM KITS / GROOVES
An obvious choice, but it’s still so good, and there are so many add-on libraries (probably in the thousands) that it probably is in almost every composers’ studio. With the Time Designer being able to manipulate the grooves into any time signature, it is a really fun tool. Obviously it’s primarily loop-based, but there are some good one-shots in there too.
It just sounds so PHAT. This library is great fun to play. You can use grooves, or you can program all the drums yourself. Fantastic library, beautifully priced.
Love Battery, has a great selection of kits. Doesn’t kill the computer, and has a great great sound. Very very usable. You might as well pick up Komplete 7 to get this (cheaper, good value).
Amazing library, and SOOOOOOOO cheap. I can’t believe how cheap it is. A great purchase. Comes with pre-programmed grooves if you need them, and also comes with an amazing library of sounds. Has a lot of add-on packs.
Ministry of Rock by Eastwest also has some fantastic drum sounds in there. Problem is, I always go to Superior Drummer first. However, MOR is great too, very usable.
I hope this was useful. This is stuff that I have experience with. I’m sure other users have their own recommendations as well, but this is what I would use and can wholeheartedly recommend