October ’17 Spooky Staff Picks • Sample Libraries, Virtual Instruments and Plugins


With all hallows eve just around the corner, October Staff Picks feature the suspenseful and spooky libraries that our crew turn to when they need to conjure a good fright!

Each month we ask around the (virtual) office to see what VSTs and sample libraries our contributors are currently working with on their own projects so that we can share them with you.

See past months picks here

Don (listed as “db” throughout SLR) is a composer who creates music for commercials, television, film and interactive media. He started SLR in 2015 at his kitchen table.

Dark Matter 1&2 by String Audio
Since their release, I have turned to the Dark Matter libraries for Kontakt to score tense and suspenseful sound design more than any other library. With it’s controls to create evolving modern sound design and scoring textures, Dark Matter has made String Audio my favorite new developer.

► SLR Review of Dark Matter
► Link to Developers Site

Dronar Cinematic Atmospheres by Gothic Instruments
The latest from Gothic Instruments in their Dronar series is by far my favorite of the lot. The added “Noise” layers from Sound Designer Alessandro Camnasio really make this one special in my book.

► SLR Review of Dronar Cinematic Atmospheres
► Link to Product Page

True Strike 2 by Project Sam
I can’t score a suspense track without reaching for the “Bowed Cymbals” patch in this library. Sure, there are lots of newer libraries with bowed cymbals, but there is something about the sound of this sample set that always raises the hair on my arms.

► Link to Product Page

Editor Brian Brylow (Composer, Sound Designer, and Producer) creates music as part of the electronic duos Parallaxe and Gorgon Nebula as well as Arpegiator. Brian probably owns more VIs than anyone I know! His Staff Picks are below:

The Dark Zebra HZ by u-he
The perfect synthesizer to add those raw, dark, suspenseful timbre elements to your compositions. This collaboration between u-he, Hans Zimmer and Howard Scarr is a multi-purpose tool for all things Dark! Not restricted to the dark genres alone, Dark Zebra is a mainstay of my studio arsenal.

► Link to Product Page

Sinister Strings by Big Fish Audio
The perfect library for adding screeches, squeaks and tense string parts to horror or suspense compositions, While the library is niche, it is a ready made toolkit of sounds that just fit for those moments that you need to add a touch of evil to your work.

► SLR Review of Sinister Strings
► Link to Product Page

Sick Vols. 1-6 from Soundiron
There is nothing scary, suspenseful or downright evil that you can’t coax from these libraries. Everything from screams and steps to howls, moans, drones and ambient pads, the Sick series has it covered.

► Link to Sick Bundle Page

Shaun is a Canadian composer for film, TV and video games who studied at University of Southern California’s Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television graduate program. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his cat Bogie.

Sick 6 by Soundiron
With Halloween right around the corner, no composer could go wrong picking up Sick 6 (or any of the previous Halloween libraries from Soundiron for that matter.) Sick is a collection of over 1000 stingers, boomers, impacts, stabs, hits, swells, falls, risers, playable pads, drones and ambiences and more. Each sound is more terrifying than the next and designed with the modern cinematic composer in mind.

► Link to Product Page

Eclipse by Wide Blue Sound
Continuing with our Halloween theme for this month’s pick, we have Eclipse, the darker, more sinister brother to Wide Blue Sound’s Orbit. Packed full of wonderful and playable sounding pads, pulses and drones, Eclipse makes a powerful addition to the synth side of any composer’s template.

► SLR Review of Eclipse
► Link to Product Page

Impact Designer – Zero G
Though not strictly Halloween themed, no horror score would be complete without bold anxiety-inducing slams, boomers and hits. If you’ve ever seen a movie trailer then you’ve surely been… IMPACTED… by Impact designer as it has become a staple of the trailer sound.

► Link to Product Page

Sam’s a songwriter, producer, composer and educator based in the UK. A former BMG/Sony Records/Universal Publishing artist, Sam now creates music as part of the duo Border Scout and for trailer houses. It has been a pleasure having Sam contribute reviews for the site as they are always thorough and well thought out.

Aztec Death Whistle by Soundiron
A demonic device from the ancients. Does a shrill, raspy and atonal sound akin (apparently) to a dying breath – perfect for a Halloween night in the studio!

► Link to Product Page

Harmonics by Sampletraxx
Cuts to the chase and gets down and dirty into the otherworldly zone of moody textures, drones and hits with a character that can only be described as subtle intensity. Unbeatable layering tool to bring that tension dial to 11.

► SLR Review of Harmonics
► Link to Product Page

Scraped Percussion by Spitfire Audio
Like Freddy Krueger escaping a scrap yard. Cymbals, blades and many more sources all expertly abused and captured on a number of mics.

► Link to Product Page

Next up is contributor AMM (Alexandria M. Mueller). She is an award-winning composer and violist based in St. Paul, Minnesota and active contributor.

Symphonic Shadows by 8Dio
This is a specialty library that crosses between orchestral organic sound effects/extended techniques and pure sound design. This library is great to build suspenseful orchestral textures, augmented with extended techniques, clusters and hits, and has the capacity to build from suspense to pure terror.

► SLR Review of Symphonic Shadows
► Link to Product Page

Mysterium – Deconstructed Toy Piano by Origins of Audio:
While its origins are rooted in a toy piano, this library would receive a PG rating for “scary moments.” From spine-crawling ambient layers to truly sinister sound effects, this versatile instrument is one of my favorite recent releases for creating suspenseful atmospheres.

► SLR Review of Mysterium
► Link to Product Page


Steven McDonald is a composer and producer working in the Television, Games, and Trailer fields. Digging into virtual instruments and sample libraries to get the absolute most out of them has been a specialty of his since the beginning of his career.

Eclipse from Wide Blue Sound
Almost every preset in here sounds spooky right out of the box with its chugging, repetitive nature. Add some distortion and filtering, and it’s like a Lovecraftian Horror from beyond is slowly creeping up behind you.

► SLR Review of Eclipse
► Link to Product Page

Scary Strings by Spitfire Labs
I always go back to these. The ugly recordings that slowly evolve over time and develop scratchy and airy textures are perfect for building suspense.

► Link to Product Page

Next are the picks from contributor T.M.K Davis. Tim has been playing keyboards and drums for 20 years and composing orchestral music for about 10 years. He is currently working on his bachelor’s degree in music production with a focus on video game scoring and commercial music.

Kinetic Metal from Native Instruments
This library and features some great sounding metal hits, scrapes, sweeps, and ethereal textures. This is a great tool for capturing that Halloween creepiness.

► Link to Native Instruments

Gary Hiebner is a sound designer and composer based in South Africa. He works on music productions for Film, TV and Games, and is also an online course creator for music tutorials.

Both the Sonokinetic‘s Expressivo and NI’s Thrill are great libraries to use for more atonal sound elements. With the atonality of them they can easily fit over whatever scary chord progressions you’re using.

► SLR Review of Expressivo by Sonokinetic
► Link to Expressivo Product Page

► Link to Thrill Product Page

Imperfect Samples Steinway Grand piano is great for suspense and horror stuff as the piano has extra features like the sympathetic resonance and hamn fx controls which can really add some extra character to your eerie soundscapes.

► Link to Product Page



See all past Staff Picks Posts