Music & Entertainment

Danny Elfman’s Best Sample Library for Film Scoring

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 31, 2019 • 2 min read

MasterClass Video Lessons

Danny Elfman Teaches Music for Film

A full orchestra may be a luxury your production can’t afford. In that case, you may be limited to a small ensemble or strictly synthetic music production.

Synths and samples offer a whole range of sounds and rhythms—digital instrumentation, percussion, vocals, and orchestra—that could never be created or duplicated by an orchestra. You may even prefer the level of control you have on the overall sound of your score when you’re adjusting every fader and filter. Conversely, you may want to capture some of that sound with live players.

You’ll see a lot of synthetic music in the suspense and horror genres because of the way it can create piercing, atonal attacks or subtly menacing atmospheres. Achieving the warmth and beauty in a synthetic score is much more challenging. (Pro tip: If you’re limited by budget, grounding a synthesizer score with piano is a good way to create an emotional connection with the viewer while still exploring the experimental potential of synthetic sounds.)

For more than 30 years, Danny Elfman has established himself as one of the most versatile and accomplished film composers in the Hollywood industry. 2015’s The End of the Tour, directed by James Ponsoldt and composed by Danny Elfman is a great example of Danny’s use of his custom sampled arco acoustic bass sounds, piano harmonics, and overtones as well as his 1903 Marimbaphone.



Danny Elfman Teaches Music for FilmDanny Elfman Teaches Music for Film

Oscar-nominated composer Danny Elfman teaches you his eclectic creative process and his approach to elevating a story with sound.

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Danny Elfman’s List of Digital Samples and Plug-Ins

If you’re looking to experiment with digital samples, virtual instruments, and plug-ins for your own epic cinematic orchestrations, symphonic soundscapes, and digital sound design, here are a few Danny-approved libraries to kick things off:

  • Spitfire Audio: Woodwinds & Percussion
  • Spitfire Albion: Strings
  • Cinematic Strings: Short strings
  • Cinesamples: Brass
  • East West: General orchestral
  • Native Instruments: General orchestral & Kontakt Player (for making your own custom samples)
  • Heavyocity: Aeon, Evolve, Damage
  • Zebra: Synth
  • Spectrosonics Omnisphere: Synth
  • Alchemy: Synth
  • Absynth: Synth
  • Massive: Synth

Want to Learn More About Film Composition?

Whether you're an aspiring film composer or simply want to learn more about musical composition, navigating the complex world of music and film can be daunting. No one knows this better than versatile and accomplished film composer Danny Elfman. Danny has scored over 100 films ranging from The Nightmare Before Christmas to Good Will Hunting. In Danny Elfman's MasterClass on music for film, the four-time Oscar nominee shares his approach to writing feature scores, working with directors, and identifying themes and melodies.

Want to become a better composer? The MasterClass All-Access Pass provides exclusive video lessons from master composers, including, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Itzhak Perlman, Herbie Hancock, and more.

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