Orchestration, Spitfire Libraries and alternatives

Obviously not the number one thing around here but I was wondering if there are people here who are interested in orchestration? In particular, anyone who writes arrangements with orchestral libraries? Sure, if you write for real orchestras, feel free to chime in! :grinning:

I’ve been thinking of getting one of the Spitfire Audio libraries in the near future and would like to hear from people who have experiences with them (or libraries from other companies).

My orchestral ambitions (mostly strings) are in line with the more subtle side of things, so I was thinking which library would best suit my needs. I love Olafur Arnalds so his signature libraries would be tempting but also expensive.

Most likely I’ll start with Labs Strings or the BBC Symphonic Orchestra Discover and go from there. Just feel it’s time to dive into orchestration because that’s what I often try to do with synth sounds anyway.

Would love to hear people’s work and experiences in this field here!

Just gonna leave this here since it’s so awesome even though it’s not made with an orchestral library.

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For the subtle side of things, I recommend Vienna Symphonic Library’s SYNCHRON-ized SPECIAL EDITION bundles 1 and 1 Plus. Volumes 3 and 5 if you really need that much variety of strings. I like these better than the corresponding Native Instruments stuff, if for no other reason than VSL has a more streamlined interface into the various articulations.


AFAIK Spitfire has changed their marketing strategy recently, offer some packages for small money (€ 29,-) and even some free stuff:

A couple of days ago I read a comparison between Spitfire and Vieanna libraries. The conclusion was that Spitfire seems more balanced to get the “feeling” right easily and Vienna tends more to be very detailed and precise.

I would recommend to check out some reviews …


The other site worth looking at is Pianobook https://www.pianobook.co.uk/

Created by Spitfire Audio co-founder Christian Henson.

Not just pianos. :slight_smile:

It does need Kontact player, but that’s free and I’ve got some cracking samples from it.


Cheers, definitely going to check out Pianobook!

I’m getting more into this side of things these days. While not orchestral per se, my favorite libraries are Swing/Swing More by Project Sam.

I have my eye on Spitfire’s Bernard Herrmann Composer Toolkit as well, although it’s a bit of an odd library.

I’m also interested in some of the stuff from 8Dio, mainly their Studio series and the Fire Trumpet/Saxophone.

I lean toward smaller spaces/dry sounds (studio/session-type stuff) rather than big, classical sounding stuff.

Another library I love that is very niche and not deeply sampled, but very cool is Grindhouse by Funk Soul Productions/Big Fish Audio. I have their Vintage Horns 2 as well, and would like the Vintage Bundle if it ever goes on sale for cheap.

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Any standouts that you recommend?

I really like the Orchestral Tools libraries. Quite a polished sound, but beautifully emotive. Plus all their stuff is recorded at the Funkhaus in Berlin, so different libraries just go together.

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Not really. I tend to listen to the latest ones on Saturday morning. Then download the ones I’m interested in. Makes some loops or sample chains in Ableton and then dump on to OT.

Finally I delete them from Ableton to keep it clean.

Sometimes Christian will preview some on his YT.

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This topic is good timing, I just got my download code for this yesterday, having filled out the questionnaire and waited the 14 days. Have only played with the violins so far but they sounds rich and detailed (no other serious string libraries to compare them to though).
I was looking into how to arrange strings and string sample libraries in general, when I found this interesting old article:

It is a walk-through of what makes a good sample library (features which most orchestral libraries now seem to have) as well as tips on arranging.
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Project SAM orchestrial essentials 1 and 2 are also great libraries to get you going with full orchestra. Sound great and are easy to handle


Just got my new MacBook Pro yesterday to replace a mid-2009 MBP, bought Logic Pro X and already downloaded some Spitfire Audio Labs VSTs (Amplified Cello Quartet FTW!). Sounds fantastic to my ears, just LOVING IT! Don’t see any reason to upgrade to the expensive actual libraries for a looooong time. Will post some music at some point and would love to hear other Elektronauts’ orchestrated cookings as well!

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I’m really looking forward to checking it out. I’ve sort of gone down the rabbit hole rabbit with virtual instruments lately, still haven’t surfaced yet. Haha. :rabbit2: :hole:

I’ll hopefully be recording some stuff again soon. I’ve been sidetracked a bit by life.

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One reason to upgrade would be if a library doesn’t include a full range of basic articulations. For strings, to really sound like an orchestral instrument (not a packaged patch or preset) that’s at least: staccato, détaché, sustained, legato, portamento, sforzato, tremolo, and pizzicato. But to really make them sing, you need: shorter détaché, snap pizzicato, col legno, sul ponticello, and con sordino, with half of all that in their staccato, sustained, and tremolo variations. Whatever sound works for you is of course fine, but to apply the existing palette or expand your palette if you’re just learning what an orchestra can do, well, it’s not cheap, and more expensive if you want all these string voices always in memory, just a keyswitch away, with a uniform interface across all instruments so you can just play in real time, not track programming and patching.

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The fun thing about orchestral composition is that you are working with tried and true instrumentation and you can spend more time on the actual composition and less worrying about fiddling with sounds… I too am looking into getting the huge BBC library… some great videos and tutorials shout their stuff too…

You’re absolutely right, of course. For the time being, however - learning, practising, demoing ideas etc. - the free libraries are ok for me. I would argue, however, that you could record some orchestral arrangements on free VSTs and get away with it, except for the most learned listener/ear. I also feel the Spitfire LABS instruments are of varying quality, for example LABS Strings (the name of the library) doesn’t sound too good to me. That one to me sounds like a lifeless preset. Scary Strings, Amplified Cello Quartet and Frozen Strings are a lot better though, I would say.

I’m currently writing music for an album which combines elements from acoustic, electronic and the subtle side of orchestral music. The idea is to demo the orchestral arrangements with the VSTs, then record and overdub with a live string quartet and maybe some brass. Maybe leave some of the VST sounds in the final thing if the orchestra needs to sound bigger. Most importantly, I’m just having fun with this stuff as is the case with the rest of my gear.


That’s awesome man! I’d love to hear it when it all comes together!

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Thanks! Might take some time but I think I’m getting there. Getting sidetracked by life is something I know all too well…

Just came across this in rbeny’s newest video. This is not your ordinary orchestral library but might be of interest to people following this thread: https://feltinstruments.com/

The strings bundle isn’t cheap by any means, £219 but then again this might be the answer to what I’m looking for and was hoping I’d get in the Olafur Arnalds libraries (two separate ones, price close to 600€…) - a strings library that feels alive and naturally lends itself to the more subtle, evocative side of orchestration.

This is obviously not it yet but something I cooked up during the first week of having the new MacBook Pro and some free Spitfire Audio Labs instruments. Two tracks, I’d say both pretty ‘Nordic’ and cinematic in feel - think Olafur Arnalds, maybe also Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ soundtrack work.