Over the last few years, trailer scoring has become an art form in itself. A quick glance of trailer genre re-edits demonstrates just how important music is to creating the right atmosphere and building a sense of anticipation. Like movie music itself, fashions in trailer scoring come and go. From the ubiquitous Hall Of The Mountain King to the powerful horn brams of Inception, the styles of movie trailer music are many and varied. What you may not know is that trailers are usually scored by a different composer than the movie itself. In fact, there are several production music houses that only ever write for trailers. These scoring teams have access to the latest cutting-edge samples and sounds, but you can grab yourself a piece of the action without spending a penny. All of the libraries below run in the full version of Native Instruments’ dedicated sampler KONTAKT, but several of them also have WAV files that you can simply drag into your favorite music production software. So grab your popcorn and let’s start scoring.
Oddly labelled on their website as “try for free”, this is actually a completely standalone version of Mammoth Audio’s flagship trailer FX library, only with a more frugal selection of sounds to audition. The full-fat version of Density contains over 7GB of booms, brams, downers, drones, hits, reverse FX, risers, stutters and transitions. Even though the Lite version of the library is considerably slimmed down, with just 85 samples to audition, the engine is fully functional and features tasty looking Nixie tube designs and plenty of parameters to tweak. The basic concept combines two channels of audio, each with separate volume, pitch, panning and ADSR controls. Push each channel through a six-stage effects rack and then use the large Distort and Mangle knobs for aggressive processing before sending the audio to the master FX rack. The sample browser temptingly displays the types of sounds that you can access with the full version of Density, including playable multi-sampled cello, tuba and throat singing! However, you can always use the included WAV files in your DAW to swerve the marketing pop-ups.
RAW Power Metallic Percussion
Part of an increasingly large catalogue of free libraries from discount distributor VST Buzz, this explosive collection of metallic percussion runs the gamut from traditional instruments to hardware that would be more at home in a builder’s merchants than a recording studio. So that means plenty of cymbals, bells, chimes, pipes, doors and metal sheeting. There’s even a bowed vibraphone and cymbals patch which lends itself to horror and suspense scoring. The library’s interface is straightforward with sounds laid out across the keys and six different effects with adjustable parameters. Particularly useful for trailer composers are the versatile One-Shot and FX patches, which contain bright strikes that really cut through a busy mix. Try layering a number of these samples together, pitching them down and applying some distortion and reverb for an epic metals ‘drum kit’ to beef up your own trailer percussion sections.
Epic Trailer Sounds
Audio Imperia are in the top tier of sound designers for big and brash samples. Their perfectly-curated packs such as Scenes From The Multiverse can be heard in many triple-A movies and games. The 60 samples within this particular freebie have been created and compiled by Australian sound designer Joshua Crispin, better known by his pseudonym Generdyn. With credits such as EA’s Battlefield 1 he uses an extensive range of plugins to achieve his distinctive sound, including NI’s very own Driver distortion powerhouse. This freebie effects library couldn’t be more simple to use, with a bare-bones interface and the samples roughly categorized into key groups of atmospheres, hits, tonal loops, risers and more. The WAV files are also available in their own folder. In fact, that’s probably the easiest way to use the loops as they don’t come with any kind of tempo information. So just drag the samples into your DAW and stretch them to perfect them.
Umlaut's free Products bundle
Umlaut Audio’s taster pack includes cut-down versions of some of their most popular Kontakt instruments. The nicely sampled uBeat drum machines will be of interest to hip-hop heads, but we’re really here for the collection of Trailer Hits. Although the number of samples is small at just 25, all of the sounds are production-ready for modern trailer scoring. Much of the fun comes when you start to program the volume, pan and pitch sequencer with up to 32 steps of automation. This makes it easy to conjure Transformers-style gated swipes and stuttering risers. 7 key switches trigger effects such as distortion, filters, lo-fi, transient shaping, compression, delay and modulation. This processing really makes the most of the meagre selection of samples and layering effects with a little bit of ingenuity can push these decent samples into brain-bending realms of greatness.
Cinematic Synthetic Drums
Blockbuster action trailers feature a wide selection of acoustic and electronic sounds to ramp up the excitement. Taking inspiration from Pacific Rim and Battleship, this library from Impact Soundworks brings the digital sizzle, with a wide selection of synthesized drum sounds, textures, bass drops, stabs and more. There’s a patch for KONTAKT and also raw WAV samples that you can drag and drop into your DAW of choice. The selection of sounds here is eclectic from sub-rumbling toms to fizzy white-noise cymbals, but they all have one thing in common; that they’ve been created from scratch using software and hardware synths, rather than sampled from specific drum machines. The interface maps the range of samples to key s and also includes 5 upper key switches for triggering distortion and phase processing on the fly. The ensemble mode layers up the drums with variable spread and tightness controls, making it easy to build huge sounding drum parts. Throw in up to 10 round robins per drum and this adds up to a comprehensive collection of twisted percussion, perfect for sci-fi and hybrid trailer scoring. Whilst visiting the site, don’t forget to check out the other freebies, including guitar and chiptune instruments.