I have a huge passion for dark folk music inspired by medieval instruments and sounds, historic cultures and ancient worlds.
These old instruments are often forgotten and rarely used in modern genres of music, but they fit incredibly well in viking music, medieval music, celtic music and overall medieval and historic inspired styles of music.
I recently got ERA II – Medieval Legends, which is a collection of instruments and samples of medieval instruments.
It runs in the Bestservice Engine, and includes: 10 flutes, 8 reed instruments, 4 war horns, 3 brass instruments, 9 bowed strings instruments, 13 plucked strings instruments, 3 keyboards, 20 percussion instruments & 1 singing voice. All in all you get 25 Gigabytes of samples that will take you to a distant forgotten world in the past.
For some reason there are not that many sample libraries or VST plugins available in this style. One that stand out though, is ERA II – Medieval Legends.
I really love using it for fantasy folk style music with some medieval colors, but also for darker folk music styles like viking music, pagan music, battle music etc.
What makes these instruments stand out is that they have that old rustic and soulful character, sounds that are far from perfect, but more human, genuine and one might even call them “gritty”.
The nordic tagelharpa or the ancient hurdy gurdy are like the “heavy metal” instruments of the ancient world. The frame drums and hand drums get that folksy simplicity vibe, and the old brass instruments like natural trumpet and cornetto feels like listening to the welcoming fanfare of an ancient kingdom.
Of course nothing will ever beat a real instrument recording if you own these instruments yourself (and can play them well). But I doubt that you will have access to all of them, and I say that as a multi-instrumentalist composer with a great collection of acoustic instruments.
So having access to a medieval instrument collection like this is perfect in my case for adding more layers to my own performances and recordings.
My favorites category is the plucked strings, which is indeed the biggest collection of instruments as well. The trossingen lyre feels like a nordic viking playing sweet arpeggios, and the lute feels like a bard playing soft music in a medieval tavern.
The winds category is also great, with my favorites being the wooden flutes as well as the crumshorns and shawms, and even the bagpipes.
The bowed strings are a mixed category, especially the hurdy gurdy and tagelharpa are super difficult to capture well in recordings since they are drone instruments with a lot of “chaotic” character from how they are bowed (or wheeled) in terms of pressure etc.
I did also found the nyckelharpa to be really nice, and currently it has become my go to (until I get a real one some day). I also enjoyed experimenting with the viola da gamba for low harmonic lines with lots of medieval character instead of the more “polished” cello.
Overall this is one of the best collections of instruments and sounds for medieval music, viking music, and old fantasy folk styles of music (even celtic).
I would not use it 100% on any track, since these styles of music really feels so much more authentic if you at least use 1-2 real instruments that you record yourself. But I will certainly use them as extra layers to add more variation, depth and character to my own nordic viking music and fantasy medieval style tracks.