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Beginners Guide to Orchestral Libraries

Sometimes composers need an easy way to get ideas down or churn out scores quickly if they're strapped for time. Sketching or "quick scoring" libraries offer a great solution, empowering composers with unique, stripped-down versions of flagship products. But don't let that fool you, often these libraries are recorded from scratch as developers like to offer useful instruments and textures suited for a specific style of music. They're often not as system intensive, don't use as many samples per patch (compared to flagship products) and more user-friendly. You'll find most professional composers will own most, if not all, of the following libraries I'm about to mention as they are full of character and offer some great sounds. So, in no particular order, let's take a brief look at some of my favourite sample libraries. 

Orchestral Tools

Inspire - Based on acclaimed "Berlin Series" this is a well-rounded, gorgeous sounding library offers all the essentials for composing orchestral music. What makes this library a real catch, is the fact it includes patches for ensemble percussion, timpani, muted brass, harp and keys, which most libraries tend to miss out. Tie that in with all the other patches on offer for Brass, String & Woodwinds, the flexible Capsule 3 engine and very low memory footprint, you'll soon start to see why Inspire is quickly becoming the go-to for film composers on the move.

Metropolis ARK 1-  It's big, it's bold and loud! If you're looking for something more geared towards epic music then I'd suggest you check out Metropolis ARK 1. It comes with a wide selection of patches which include Brass, Strings, Percussion, Woodwinds, Choir, Electric guitars, Electric bass, and even a Drumset all of which sound fantastic straight out of the box.

Sonuscore

The Orchestra - When it comes to scoring quickly using an 80 piece orchestra, I don't think there's anything else currently out there quite like The Orchestra by Sonuscore.  Creating complex scores has never been so easy with The Orchestra, it's groundbreaking Ensemble-Engine allows you to create rhythms and full orchestral arrangements without using prerecorded phrases. This takes a lot of the groundwork out of programming individual MIDI sections to achieve the same result. Definitely, one for every composer to have in their tool-set.

Spitfire Audio

Albion One - Albion One is one of the more popular sketch libraries that offers an impressive set of colours. Unlike Orchestral Tools Inspire, Albion One is aimed more towards the modern cinematic composer offering a range of percussion loops, percussion ensembles, pads, synths, effects in addition to the orchestral patches covering strings, brass and woodwinds.

Project Sam

Symphobia 2 - Project Same makes some really nice all-in-one libraries. Although a little expensive, they really do sound nice and offer a good range of useable sounds. Perfect for composers who like to create scores for film, games or TV.  Symphobia 2 is just one of those libraries which will work great in any context. Simple to use, great sounding patches and some of the orchestral effects are so creepy, the sound like they like they belong in Dead Space game or a Ridley Scott movie.

Lumina - If you're looking for something a little more subtle, and like scoring fantasy style music then Lumina is going to be a good option. It features a full orchestra with a range of unique instruments, choir and a great selection of textures achieving that mythical, dreamlike sound you'd expect to hear on a Lord of The Rings film. 

Recommended Developers

So now we've had a brief look and listen to some sample libraries, why not go off on your own listening adventure and check out my table of developers below. Trust me, this will save you hours of searching on the internet and if you're a beginner this is a goldmine of information. I've also linked the developers, so click on the names and it'll open up in your browser, ready for you to bookmark!

 Developer Percussion Libraies String Libries Brass Libraries  Woodwind Libries Choir Librires

Piano Libries

Sound Design Libries Quick Scoring Libraries / All-in-One Libraries
Audio Bro YES YES NO NO NO NO NO NO
Audio Imperia YES NO NO NO NO YES YES NO
CineSamples YES YES YES YES YES YES YES NO
Cinematic Studio Series TBA YES TBA TBA NO YES NO NO
East West YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES
Heavyocity YES YES YES NO NO NO YES NO
Keep Forest YES YES NO NO NO YES YES NO
Impact Soundworks YES YES YES NO YES YES YES YES
Native Instruments YES YES YES YES NO YES YES YES
Orchestral Tools YES YES YES YES NO NO YES YES
ProjectSam YES NO YES NO NO NO NO YES
Spitfire Audio YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES
Soundiron YES YES YES YES YES YES YES NO
Sample Modeling NO YES YES YES NO NO NO NO
VSL YES YES YES YES YES YES NO NO
8DIO YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES