Two sides of a coin and some stars…
You’ll notice that Pianobook doesn’t have a “report abuse” button. This is because we don’t abuse each other in this community. We are a supportive environment of sound nerds who hear music in everything. Samplists is the term we use for people who submit packs to this community to use FOR FREE so we must be thankful for their efforts. We have Samplists at different stages in their development from Christian Henson who has a degree of commercial success in this field to people just starting out. We are incredibly proud when people decide to start their sampling journey with us here.
It is therefore in everyone’s interests to help samplists make their sounds as good as they can be!
So the key is to make sure our reviews are as constructive as possible. Often with sample packs, a few minor tweaks here and there can take the instrument from unusable to sublime. If you feel you have advice to give then do give it. Or maybe even reach out to help yourself?
Not only are we a community of samplists and sound enthusiasts, we’re also a community of composers. This means we don’t always have time to crate dig, download, and tinker. It is vital for the future of Pianobook that the most brilliant packs rise to the top. So your help here is absolutely fundamental to the longevity of this supportive community.
Therefore, don’t be too gushing, or sycophantic, if you think Christian’s tunnel drum is a bit rubbish say so…. well not exactly like that but maybe “can’t imagine many uses for this” would be helpful to other composers.
As consumers we like to scan reviews to get the general gist so short reviews are fine, but also feel free to get in there and create something constructive and detailed if you’re inspired to really get stuck in.
We have also created a star rating system to give people an “at a glance” measure of the usefulness of the pack. These are made by aggregating your scores from 5 different categories.
We don’t care about round robins, about dynamic layers, about numbers of presets, or mics, because we know it is simply about the sound. A great sound can be a single sample stretched across an entire keyboard and still inspire…. It doesn’t have to be feature rich to be the pack that you use the most on your next composition(s).
For us 1 star should really mean there’s something really wrong in this category that severely limits its use. This bit of the category could be broken or indeed just so poor that it renders the pack not fit for professional composing or indeed broadcast.
Conversely 5 stars should really be reserved for extraordinary and rare excellence in this category. One of the most inspiring, most characterful or say best recorded sample packs you’ve ever heard.
We have increments in between and are certain that you will be able to calibrate these according to the reviews you have already made. So you need to make your first review(s) as considered as possible so you can confidently ask yourself “well compared to the X pack, is Y in this category better or worse than that?”. If you go too harsh or too generous you’ll severely restrict your ability to give nuanced opinions that will be useful to the community. Remember, our ability to navigate to the most useful and inspiring sounds will be reliant on this star system!
Always remember that you can edit your review. So if you’ve had a beer and then have been a bit snarky, don’t worry, you can always go back and re-temper your opinions!
Thank you so much for considering reviewing. Below is a slightly more detailed explanation of every category (which should also be the way you beta test your samples).
The Categories and What They Mean
Sound – Recording quality / Noise reduction – Where it all begins. Does it sound tinny, too bright, too muddy or middy. Or is it rich, deep in acoustic depth. But most importantly how does it make you feel? Do you feel that this is a luxurious recording? Or does it leave you cold?
Alongside this noise reduction is one of the biggest banes of a Samplist’s life. You don’t need to know how noise reduction works but observe simply if you play a lot of notes, either together or in series with the sustain pedal down do you get a massive build up of white noise, hiss, background noise, or rumble?
Character – Is it “vanilla” or “artisan” like a boring factory made grand piano in a dry space with modern digital mics or does it sound like an old mouldy upright with the ivory missing in an interesting sounding stairwell with some beautiful ribbon mics. It is not about being the best, it’s about being different. The romance of this community is that we’re not just playing other people’s instruments and ideas, we’re playing them playing them. Does the pack give you a sense of history and love, or space and age. Do you feel transported by the unique nature of these recordings?
Playability – Don’t mistake this for samples cut really tight. We are firm believers in keeping the quality of the sound, ALL of the sound! What we’re looking for here is consistency. So even if it is a big laggy, it should be all laggy. If it’s really tight it should all be tight. So start times should be the same for each note. How do you test this?
Well, create a repeating rhythmic phrase in your DAW and then hard quantise it. If it still sounds out of time (no offence) then it means the samples haven’t been cut the same. The other key thing that makes things playable is consistency in dynamics of each individual sample. Again if notes are suddenly disappearing like you didn’t play them when you know you did, or indeed notes jump out as if an annoying younger sibling is banging on the piano you’re playing, then it means that the dynamics are uneven. Other things to look out for are smooth transitions when moving the mod wheel, so it doesn’t suddenly jump up in amplitude or timbre. Conversely, when playing quietly and then slowly louder, you shouldn’t hear a sudden shift in dynamic.
Inspiration – Pianobook was set up by a motley crew of like-minded composers who understand that ABOVE ALL the true value of a great sound is when it makes new music gush out of your fingers, or win that pitch or indeed get a cue across the line. Whilst we respect many developers of VI’s (virtual instruments) out there, you will see there is no category for “realism”. Why? – BECAUSE WE DON’T CARE!!! We love musicians, we love getting out of the box so have no interest in tricking our listeners nor indeed doing away with the honorable opportunity of working with the real thing and real people. This is all about tools for composers and producers that make the experience of making music as joyous, spontaneous and romantic as possible. Inspiration is the spark that lights the furnace that warms us and lights up our dark moments. NO SPARK, NO FURNACE.
Graphic User Interface (GUI) – You can’t judge a book by its cover, but we want to recognise the efforts people put into making our work environments a pleasure to be in. Does the GUI give you a good sense of what sounds you expect to hear? Does the GUI unlock greater potential of the pack? Does the GUI look original and unique, like something you’d like to frame… or… is it a bit broken and unusable?
If the Samplist has used EXS24/ Logic Sampler, Ableton Sampler, or has not created a User Interface, give this 1 Star. This will hopefully encourage the Samplist to develop the pack for another plugin so it is more accessible on a greater number of operating systems and DAWs, or to improve the GUI.
Try The Sample Pack Before Leaving a Review – Believe it or not, not everyone does.
Don’t Be Hasty – Sample pack not working for you? Have a think before leaving a bad review. Are there positive reviews already? Are there community demos? Chances are the fault may not lie with the sample pack.
Use the Reviews Section For Reviews Only – It is not the place for reporting errors, requesting conversions or anything other than reviews. Do this on our Forum.
Be Kind – Remember that these sample packs were created by members of the community, not professional developers.
Happy reviewing, happy beta testing, happy sample buddying.
The Pianobook Volunteers. x