A Guide to Virtual Orchestral Libraries

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Selecting a virtual orchestral library can be daunting if you're new to it. There are so many options, sometimes even from a single vendor. Where do you start? What should you buy?

Where Was the Library Recorded?

It's easy to assume that one high-quality strings library is just as good as the next one, and it doesn't really matter which one you pick. But even for libraries of comparable quality, they can sound substantially different based on where they were recorded.

Much of the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra line, for example, is recorded in a very dry studio environment. This is great for achieving high-fidelity, detailed samples of the instruments, but on the other hand, it's not very characteristic of how you usually hear orchestral instruments, either live or on recordings. In order to turn such dry samples into the big scoring stage sounds you may be desiring, you need to spend more time and effort mixing the sampled tracks... and even then, it may not sound as real as something sampled in a more typical space.

Most other big orchestral libraries — such as those from Orchestral Tools, Cinesamples, and Spitfire Audio — are sampled in bigger studio spaces ......

What Instruments Do You Need?

Typical orchestral arrangements have string sections (violins, violas, cellos, basses), woodwind sections (flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons), brass sections (trumpets, horns, trombones, tubas), and some assortment of percussion (various drums and tuned percussion such as xylophone and celeste). You might want all of these elements. Or you might just want a subset. Perhaps you want to get into virtual orchestral libraries so you can add string parts to pop songs, and you don't need woodwinds or brass.

Start Inexpensive

You might know for certain that you want to pursue building orchestral music in your home studio, in which case you could skip starting with something inexpensive and jump straight in to higher-quality selections.

Copyright © 2020 Trevis J. Rothwell