Orchestral advice for beginners

Hi. I’ve been reading up on the other posts about this and my head is now spinning with all the different orchestral libraries out there. It looks to me that the experts on this have a few different libraries that they use. I would like to start adding strings to some of my projects to support acoustic guitar and piano compositions, then eventually I would like to write some full orchestral pieces once I’ve learned the basics.
So I have 3 questions.

Question 1- Can you suggest a good basic library for a beginner that won’t break the bank (£100-£200) and some good demos to try?

Question 2- How do you process your strings to get a full warm sound?

Question 3- Can you suggest any good learning resources for orchestral mixing/recording?

I am using a Roland FA-06 workstation that has some ok sounding strings but I can’t seem to get them to sound full enough yet.
I hope this can be helpful for everyone who would like to learn about Orchestral Arrangement.



Hi there, successful orchestral arrangements can be the most rewarding albeit complicated genre to create an authentic sound. Sample library will be so crucial in terms of depth of sound and a whole host of articulations. Now I am not an expert at all in this field but here’s how I work:

String section always written in 5 parts: Basses, Cellos, Violas, 1st Violins and 2nd Violins. For sounds I use Symphobia 1 & 2, 8DIO Black Edition and to thicken the sound Omnisphere 2 Adagio Warm & Bright Transparent Strings and for string runs Cinematic Strings 2.

Brass section: Tubas, Trombones, Horns and Trumpets. I use Symphobia 1 & 2, 8DIO Black Edition and double each part with Soundiron Brass Ensemble.

Woodwind: still learning this so I use Sonokinetic Minimal woodwind

For the orchestral nuances I use 8DIO Cage which is absolutely phenomenal.

Percussion: depends on what kind of thing you are trying to do but I normally have about 25 - 30 tracks of drums. Painful on the hard drives but I use HZ Percussion, Storm Drums 2 Pro

Track count on these arrangements are huge - I normally run upwards of 50 tracks and each tracks is compressed lightly and reverb is used very sparingly if at all.

I cut the bass end during mastering at around 75 - 85 hz and run at about -10db RMS. If I want to be brave I may go to -8 db.

Hope that helps.


Hi Graham. Thanks for that. It’s very helpful indeed :slight_smile: Here’s a question for you. Given all you know about orchestral music now. If you had to start from the beginning again, which library would you buy first?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm - As bizarre as this may sound I would probably use Omnisphere 2 as the strings sounds are really good and reduce or eliminate the attack time and just practice doing 5 part string arrangements. Personally I think get the arrangement sorted first and then worry about the sound afterwards.

Cool. That one seems to be less expensive too. One thing I don’t like about the strings on my FA-06 is the attack time seems really slow. Do you find that you have to move the start of your midi notes forward much, to get it sounding right? Sorry for all the questions…

I always render midi tracks so that I have audio stems of each track and then I can push or pull the audio to tighten the arrangement. Also running midi live for recording purposes eposes limitations in CPU and Hard drive issues.

Ah. That makes sense considering a high track count. Thanks for your help mate :slight_smile:

I like and own almost all libraris that @gballx mentioned but I think he missed that your budget is around 100-200 £ so I think the best choice for you is getting Composer Cloud.
Best option to give your track a proper orchestral mood is by using a good reverb and being careful of not using it too much and also do some EQ here and there and finally add a very subtle glue compressor.

What do you think of Garritan PO5? Much cheaper and has great sounds.
Or the instant orchestra (combined and separate instruments).

i second the Composer Cloud, nowadays the East West Hollywood are really great and quite affordable (30usd/month). EW Symphonic orchestra I would not recommend, they are pretty old.
Listened to Garritan Personal orchestra — lol, its kinda “bring me back to my 2007” sounds.
Actually the secret of big warm orchestra sound is deeply understanding of harmony, counterpoint and orchestration and the question of libraries and mixing is the second. Personal I’ve made a small orchestral template, where I use Cinesamples, EW Hollywood and Orchestral Tools Berlin altogether. Here is the track I’ve made in this very template:


Hi there :slight_smile:
I would suggest:

  • libraries like 8dio (adagio, adagietto, but they have all superb ones); and Cinesamples (very easy to manipulate, and useful libraries like Runs and Fx) for strings, percussions, horns and woodwinds. (i love new epic toms, taiko drums, the timpani etc) and download a fx pack (risers, transitions and so).
  • As others suggest: yes divide your strings and record them separately instead of using Ensemble patches; this will allow you to process (eq, comp, fx) them one by one most of all frequency-wise, panning, and so on…and glue them together.
    I like to use reverb from Valhalla on send, and group strings together on a separate bus where i can add some more multi band compression, eq and a wider (i love the Ozone bundle for that), and sometimes a touch of Reel plugins or Soft vintage warming.
    Hope it helps

Forget about compression and sophisticated processing of orchestral samples. All of them are descently recorded and usually don’t need any processing. Strings may require a small bell cut at 2,5 khz and a tiny high shelf. Some small percussion like glock or chimes can be cleand at low end, as well as all orchestral groups up to 50 hz (except percussion, where are the bass drum and timpani).
The less you know - the more you process.
Again, the main point is clear arrangement, then - correct panning and balance of instruments. And the space, of course. I like EW Spaces, they work perfect. Also you need to clean the reverb tail to avoid mud in the low end.
And then - slightly eq-ing of overall mix and very accurate compression sith soft knee.


Hey, Thanks for the reply. Composer Cloud looks amazing! I’m seriously considering going with that till I can afford to buy some more orchestral libraries that don’t require a subscription. At roughly £6 a week, it’s nothing really. I’m off to get the demo! :smile:

Thanks for all of this great info guys! Thanks to the recommendations from ArkAudio and gvsmusichouse, I’m going to try Composer Cloud for a while. Do you have any favourite instruments from Composer Cloud?

I haven’t had time to read all the responses, but I read your first post, and for $100-$200 price range you really should just get 8dio Adagietto which is currently on sale for $119, it’s worth 3 times that and it will be just perfect for the uses you described.


Waaaw! Thanks man. I might give it a go :smile:

EW Hollywood is great, except the Hollywood Percussion, its dreadful.
I would not also recommend EW Symphonic Orchestra and EW Symphonic Choirs, these are old products in new shell.

Hey. I got Adagietto today! Sounds Amazing. Way better than the strings on my roland synth. Thanks again :smile: :smile: :smile:

I’m so pleased! As soon as I read your first post I knew this would be the perfect fit for your needs and budget :slight_smile:

Make you sure you check out the Sordino patches, they are a real highlight, and will definitely suit the kind of music you described.

I can’t seem to find the Sordino patches…any idea where I should be looking?