At this year’s NAMM, Designing Music NOW sent Contributing Editor Lawson Madlener to be our eyes and ears at the show. He got tons of great photos, audio interviews, and video walkthroughs of some amazing new sample libraries such as Orchestral Tools’ “Metropolis Ark I”, Chocolate Audio’s “The Black Album Drums”, and Indiginous’ “Renegade” and “Solid State Symphony.”  He also got several great audio interviews with people such as Christian Henson from Spitfire, Hendrik Schwarzer from Orchestral Tools, Martin Tichy from VSL, and a hilarious sound bite from Mike Greene of Realitone, to name a few.  We cover this and more in this whirlwind tour of NAMM 2016!  Be sure to check out our previous reviews of “Metropolis Ark I”, “Flying Hand Percussion”, and “Signal”, and get ready for lots more reviews coming your way of some really amazing sound libraries such as “Albion One” from Spitfire, “Orchestral Brass” and others from Soundiron, “Sotto” from Sonokinetic, “WOTAN Choirs” from Strezov Sampling, “Bohemian Violin” from Virharmonic, and the “Rhapsody” series from Impact Soundworks, among many others!  

NAMM 2016: Adventures in Music Heaven

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend NAMM for the entire weekend.  It was absolutely fantastic.  It was my first time, and it totally blew my mind.  Guitars, synths, DAWs, mics, samples, I was a kid in a candy shop!  I walked the floor for a total of 20 hours, and I still wasn’t able to check out everything!  However, I was fortunate enough to get to talk to, interview, and take pictures, with some of the best sample library developers.


DAY 1 (Friday)

My goal for the day was to meet as many people in the sampling business as possible, and to see if I could schedule some interviews.  I succeeded!  My first stop was the Orchestral Tools booth, but I unfortunately forgot to take a picture that day.  I did get an interview for Sunday, though!

I wasn’t quite sure what developers were there, so I used Mike Greene’s list from Vi-Control of people who were attending.  I wanted to meet the man behind the list, so first, meet the man himself!

Mike Greene / Realitone!

Mike’s wife baked some blondie bars, but unfortunately they had nuts (and I’m allergic) so I wasn’t able to try any.  He did, however, point me in the direction of Spitfire Audio, as well as giving me an amazing soundbite of his new RealiDrums.


Christian Henson / Spitfire Audio

The Spitfire booth was the biggest of all the sample companies as far as I could tell.  Multiple laptops were loaded with a ton of Spitfire libraries, keyboards, and headphones all set up to let us test out their products.

I was able to get a first-look at Spitfire’s new fantastic sound design library, Phobos, and a short audio interview with Christian.


After wandering a bit, I found myself at the VSL booth!

Martin Tichy / VSL

I was able to get an audio interview with Martin on the new Vienna Suite Pro.


The VSL booth was in one of the main hallways, and was quite eye-catching.


Very nearby was Art Vista!

Hans Adamson / Art Vista

I got to get a first-look at Han’s new Virtual Grand Piano 3, as well as an audio and a video interview.


Finally, I stopped by the Fable Sounds booth.  The show closed before I could get an interview, but I did get to play around a bit with their new library, “Broadway Big Band: Gig.”  It was amazing…and I got a selfie!

Yuval Shrem / Fable Sounds

 Yuval Shrem from Fable Sound.  In the middle is Eitan Teomi, the head of HandHeldSound/Core Team Member at Designing Music NOW – be sure to check out the review of his Flying Hand Percussion on our site!



DAY 2 (Saturday)

I didn’t have any interviews scheduled for today, so I decided to wander down into the halls where most of the instruments were.  On my way, I checked out the Arena, where I found Tracy Collins from Indiginus Samples!

Tracy Collins / Indiginus Samples

Tracy gave me an in-depth look at his new guitar library, Renegade, as well as two of his other libraries, Solid State Symphony and Renaxxance.  Absolutely fantastic libraries!


I also got a chance to take a selfie with Hendrik Schwarzer from Orchestral Tools!

Hendrik Schwarzer / Orchestral Tools

I didn’t actually know contrabass flutes existed!

Or for that matter, hungry cello cases!

Eventually, I stumbled across Mark Wood’s booth.  If you haven’t heard of him, he’s an awesome electric violinist/composer who also creates his own custom instruments.  Wow, that’s impressive.

Mark Wood / Mark Wood Violins

Check out this 7-stringed beast!  I tried playing it, but the two extra strings were super awkward.  I kind of had to pretend the E, A, and D strings didn’t exist and just used the lower four.  Also, it had frets!  It was really interesting playing a fretted violin; I thought it would feel natural like guitar, but I did not have time to get accustomed to it.  I then started jamming with a fellow violinist at the booth, and we started playing Thunderstruck by AC/DC!  It was pretty awesome, and caught the attention of Mark Wood who said it was “amazing” and took a picture with me.  I unfortunately don’t have any pictures of me playing.

I continued to try out different stringed instruments (though mostly violins) throughout the rest of the day.  My fingers were so sore by the time 6pm rolled around!

Yes, that’s an upright bass!

I also saw some really cool Chinese instruments.

I discovered the Software room where a whole bunch of developers were hanging out.  I found it at the end of the day and was only able to get in a short interview with Simone Coen from Chocolate Audio, as well as a walkthrough of their new drum library, “The Black Album Drums”.  It was so awesome that I totally forgot to take a picture with him!

Simone Coen / Chocolate Audio

DAY 3 (Sunday)

I got to the convention center bright and early on Sunday, as I had a morning interview with Hendrik Schwarzer, the founder of Orchestral Tools.  I got a ton of great information (hint hint: Berlin Brass is on schedule for release this summer!), and a personal walkthrough of Metropolis Ark I!  Be sure to check out our in-depth review of Metropolis Ark here on Designing Music NOW.  Absolutely fantastic product!


It occurred to me that I hadn’t gone to check out two of the biggest booths in the whole show (in fact they had their own private rooms), Fender and Gibson! Off I went to the 3rd floor, eager to see what new gear these behemoth names in the guitar world had brought to the public.


Gibson had this crazy iron guitar throne that of course I had to take a selfie on.  Their room was pretty crowded and I wasn’t able to take any other good pictures, unfortunately.

On to Fender!


This was the first thing I saw upon walking in, followed by this side wall.

So many guitars.

So many beautiful guitars.

Oh my gosh there were so many amazing guitars.

Yes, the guitar on the left is stained glass.

I also checked out their new Paramount series of acoustic guitars, which was pretty exciting.

While I was in the acoustic section, I grabbed a mandolin and started playing.  A few minutes in, another guy on guitar joins in!  After a bit, I get approached by a Fender artist who asked if I wanted to do a demo with them!  Of course I said yes, and so I now have “Perform live at NAMM for Fender” checked off of my bucket list.  Next to do, “Perform live at NAMM for Fender and keep the instrument”!

After Fender, I went back to the Software section to talk to more developers, and to get my missing selfie with Simone Coen!  When I walked in, though, Simone was busy talking, so I went over to Straight Ahead Samples.  I got quite a special interview, as he is one of the only jazz sample library developers, and as far as I know, the only one at NAMM.

Trey Pollard / Straight Ahead Samples


Then, I went over to the Best Service booth where I lucked out and got to meet some more of the awesome talent at the show.

Eduardo Tarilontes / Sampling Arts/Best Service

Some very talented people hanging out at the Best Service booth.

From left to right: Eduardo Tarilontes (Sampling Arts), myself, Henri Vartio (composer), Alex Davis (Embertone)


I headed back downstairs for the final Orchestral Tools raffle to see if I won (I hadn’t, unfortunately).  Then I realized I didn’t get a picture of their booth or of them!

From left to right: Tom, Hendrik, Stan, Sacha, and Jan (sorry for forgetting your last names, guys!)

I totally forgot to take a picture with Simone, AGAIN.  I had to run upstairs at the last minute as the show was shutting down.  They actually were making the closing announcements when we were taking this pictures!  Simone’s eyes were closed on the first picture, so on the next one he made sure to keep them wide open.  It kind of feels like he’s staring deep into your soul, but that could just be me.  Simone was a really good sport about it.

Simone Coen / Chocolate Audio

I had a fantastic time at NAMM.  Each day was a new adventure full of music and and audio, and the tools and people that create them.  I can’t wait for next year!


I would like to give a special thanks to Orchestral Tools for getting me a last-minute pass and allowing me to experience this amazing event.

Playlist of all of the above Audio Interviews and Sound Bites



Steve Horowitz at NAMM

I also caught up with Steve Horowitz, Designing Music NOW’s Core team member and official Marathon Man of Game Audio. As we mentioned in this post, he gave multiple lectures at the show, and here are some photos from three of them (I unfortunately wasn’t able to get a picture with them):

Steve talkin’ bout Game Audio (if the camera was moved just a tiny bit to the right, you’d see me!)


Steve in the Mix

About the Author

Designing Music NOW’s Contributing Editor Lawson Madlener is a multi-award winning composer/musician/music-consultant/college-student. He plays many instruments ranging from violin to ukulele to drums to electric bass to viola, and many genres from classical to jazz to bluegrass to rock.

Lawson has been composing for longer than he can remember. He entered and won his first composition competition (boy, that’s a mouthful) at the ripe old age of 9! As with his playing, he can compose in pretty much any style, but his favorite is orchestral/cinematic. However, he’s been developing a taste for jazz bands!

In his spare time, you can find Lawson passionately researching new sample libraries. Sometimes he also spends hours and hours delving into older sample libraries too! Actually, you can just find him enjoying any and every sample library ever and whispering under his breath “so many sample libraries so little time so many sample libraries so little money.”



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